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Federal Judge Finds Texas Foster Care System Unconstitutional

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A federal judge in Corpus Christi has ordered the state to make sweeping changes to its foster care system. The judge’s ruling comes two years after finding the state’s system to be unconstitutional.

Corpus Chiristi U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack allowed Texas lawmakers two years to make changes to the state’s long-term foster system. According to the Dallas Morning News, in 2016 at least 202 children died while in the state’s care. And evidence showed, in some cases, children were made to sleep in state offices while awaiting long-term placement.

“Two years and one legislative session later, the foster care system of Texas remains broken,” said Jack in his decision.

The Texas Legislature in 2017 did make sweeping changes to that system, including an across the board raise for caseworkers, while increasing the number of caseworkers in the state’s arsenal, which allowed for more visits to foster homes but Jack’s final order issued on Friday stated the Texas did not make improvements in record keeping, effort to increase caseworker visits and placement of children in homes that would prevent further abuse from occurring.

The ruling follows a 2015 court opinion in which Jack wrote that those labeled permanent wards of the state ``almost uniformly leave state custody more damaged than when they entered.''

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says he will appeal the judge’s decision.  

Ryan Poppe can be reached at rpoppe@tpr.org or on Twitter @RyanPoppe1