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Senate Committee Scrutinizes Foster Care System

Ryan E. Poppe
Judge John Specia

The term “crisis” has been used in recent years to describe the state of Texas’ foster care system and state lawmakers are examining what can be done to fix it.

There were 65,000 cases of confirmed child abuse that were investigated by the Texas Department of Family Protective Services in 2015. That’s down by 14 percent, according to state’s Child Protective Services Division.  

But Judge John Specia, the head of the state agency, told lawmakers while those numbers have decreased, 50 percent of case workers are leaving the job because of low pay and high caseloads.

He said the state is also seeing an increasing number of foster children age out of the system with serious mental illness because of the type of care they received.

“People that age out of foster care are over-represented in people that are incarcerated, people with serious mental illness and people that are homeless," Specia explained.

Credit Ryan E Poppe
Tyrone Obaseki, former Texas foster care youth.

Tyrone Obaseki is a former foster care youth.  He was removed from his Houston home when he was two months old.  He’s now a licensed professional counselor who works with foster children.

“After spending 18 years in the system, I endured acute psychological distress due to sexual molestation, psychiatric drugging, physical abuse, emotional abuse and taunting," Obaseki said.

Some on the Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee would like to commission a study of the issue, but San Antonio Democratic Sen. Carlos Uresti said the legislature has conducted enough studies and it’s time to take action.

Credit Ryan E Poppe
State Sen. Carlos Uresti

Uresti said that the number of foster children that have been institutionalized at one of the state’s mental hospitals is three times higher than a year ago, many of them fed handfuls of psychotropic drugs until the age of 18.

The foster care system is an issue that lawmakers will be closely examining during the 2017 legislative session. 

Ryan started his radio career in 2002 working for Austin’s News Radio KLBJ-AM as a show producer for the station's organic gardening shows. This slowly evolved into a role as the morning show producer and later as the group’s executive producer.