SAN ANTONIO – As a flurry of bills were being discussed at the Texas Legislature last week, even state representatives were forced to acknowledge Texas’ current foster care quandary — how do you continue to streamline and privatize the system while also increasing oversight of it?
A proposed bill in the state senate, which was discussed at length during a hearing before the House Human Services Committee last week, would create a new office focused on transitioning the state to a community-based care system.
An ironic development, when you consider that state foster care officials last week confirmed Family Tapestry, the Bexar County agency under contract to provide this style of care, had terminated its contract.
In an April 29 letter sent to the head of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, The Children’s Shelter President and CEO Annette Rodriguez said the contract could only survive if the state amended the contract to account for an increase in costs for supporting children in their care as well as account for the ongoing capacity crisis, a shortage of beds for children in foster care.
Family Tapestry is the wing of the shelter tasked with carrying out the community-based care contract.
State officials told area providers last week they were in the process of resuming all services that Family Tapestry had been providing, essentially reverting back to the foster care system that the area moved away from in 2018, when the contract with Family Tapestry was first signed.
“The community of foster parents have seen that Family Tapestry just doesn’t run smoothly,” said San Antonio foster parent Cheryl Freidberg. “The concern in the foster parent community is that this is the organization responsible for those children who are in a really tumultuous time in their life.”
The Children’s Shelter and its facilities have come under increased scrutiny in recent weeks after DFPS issued a placement hold on its emergency shelter, citing “unacceptable” conditions.
The hold required the agency to place children in its care somewhere else, creating more upheaval for an already vulnerable population.
Rodriguez submitted a 16-point action plan to state officials April 26 in an effort to keep the contract from being terminated, then had an apparent change of heart by providing notice to end the same contract just 72 hours later.
A federal court monitor’s report, submitted earlier this month as part of an ongoing class action lawsuit against the state, revealed a list of troubling allegations and founded complaints against the shelter’s facilities, including the now-shuttered Whataburger Center, which relinquished its state license in early January.
Last week the Texas Tribune reported that state officials were aware Family Tapestry continued to illegally place children in the Whataburger Center and its own office for months, even after the center had surrendered its license.
Rodriguez declined requests to be interviewed for this story, and instead released the following statement through a shelter spokeswoman:
“I am disappointed to say that Family Tapestry is terminating our Single Source Continuum Contractor (SSCC) contract with DFPS. We will continue to work with DFPS to ensure a seamless transition. We remain committed to serving the children and families in our community.”
Rodriguez also did not address allegations put forth by a former shelter employee, who said a child in their care last year was forced to walk around with a broken cast, after shelter officials failed to follow up on his medical care for a fractured ankle.
Pictures of the child’s foot show the cast tearing apart and the walking boot beneath it falling apart in several places.
A shelter spokeswoman said the agency is unable to confirm the identity of any child in photos or whether that child was in their care at any point.
“The only people that are getting hurt right now are the kids. And we are all here to help these kids. So let’s move forward together,” said Freidberg.