AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A federal audit released Tuesday heaped more criticism onto Texas’ troubled child welfare system and warned of foster kids potentially put in jeopardy over missed deadlines during abuse and neglect investigations.
The report was published a day after the Texas Legislature ended a session in which lawmakers approved an extra $500 million for a beleaguered system that a federal judge called unconstitutional and has worsened despite major shake-ups.
The findings by the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are far from the scathing newspaper investigations or a ruling by U.S. District Janis Graham Jack in December 2015 that ordered an independent overhaul of Texas’ foster care agency. But the 18-page report still points to bureaucratic lapses that could put children in danger.
Of 100 Texas child welfare cases reviewed by federal auditors, they said 46 did not comply with federal state requirements, including investigators not discussing findings with supervisors in a timely manner.
Those failures “undermines the State agency’s internal controls for providing oversight of the investigation and could place foster care children at risk,” the report read.
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Commissioner Henry Whitman Jr. called the title of the audit — which says that Texas didn’t always ensure that allegations of abuse and neglect were investigated in accordance with state and federal statures — “inflammatory” and sensationalized, while defending the thoroughness of his agency’s investigations.
“There is no suggestion that there were any actual problems in the investigations caused by delay in obtaining supervisory approval,” Whitman wrote.
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott had declared additional child welfare spending and reforms a priority for the Texas Legislature. State data last year showed the state was failing to check on thousands of children who are at the highest risk of abuse or neglect.
More recently, the number of Texas foster children staying in agency offices or alternate sites due to lack of placement more than doubled from February to March, according to state figures.
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