Texas takes lead helping kids in foster care

A recent report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows how states can make sure children living in foster care have the same opportunities as their peers, and Texas is ahead of the curve.

In the last session, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 1407, a law that makes it easier for children to do things others take for granted, such as playing sports or having an after school job.

Andy Homer, director of public affairs with the Texas Court Appointed Special Advocates, says the goal is to level the playing field by removing unnecessary restrictions.

“It continues to create additional barriers to healthy emotional and mental health development,” he states. “We want all these kids in the system to participate in the same activities that every other child is able to do.”

Homer says foster parents were required to do background checks on families before children could attend a sleepover.

When fully implemented, SB 1407 will put Texas in compliance with the Strengthening Families Act, a measure passed by Congress in 2014 to improve the experiences of children in foster care.

The Casey Foundation report, “What Young People Need to Thrive,” compiles recommendations from people across the nation who experienced foster care directly. They say children need connections to family and the ability to make more decisions for themselves.

The report found because children frequently have a history of trauma, foster parents also need additional training.

Todd Lloyd, a senior policy associate with the Casey Foundation, says because the state acts as legal guardian, concerns about liability have often kept young people in foster care from activities that help children feel like they belong.

“Because it has been a system oriented toward safety, protecting children, that it’s very easy to create policies that are overly restrictive out of concern for safety and also the liability,” he points out.

Author: Eric Galatas, Public News Service