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Why Doesn’t Texas Protect All Its Children?

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There are more than 28,000 children in Texas’ foster care system. Some are living in shocking, inhumane conditions and it’s not a new problem. Texas has neglected its foster children for over a decade. 1

In 2015, Judge Janis Graham Jack, a President Bill Clinton appointee to the federal bench, charged Texas with violating foster children’s “constitutional rights” to protection.

In September 2021, “court appointed watchdogs” 2 gave the judge new evidence that foster children were spending the night on mats on office floors or in hotels. Some were given the wrong medicine or the wrong dose. Some were exposed to sexual abuse. Others tried to hurt themselves, by drinking cleaning fluids, cutting themselves with sharp objects, and hanging themselves “to the point of losing consciousness.”

Judge Jack abruptly stopped the meeting.

“Your days of looking the other way while children are warehoused, raped, abused, and fed psychotropic drugs are over,” she said, addressing representatives of the state, according to the San Antonio Express News. 3 The paper reported the judge has resolved to ask Governor Abbott what he plans to do about it. So far, my research hasn’t turned up a reply.

Texas State Representative Carl O. Sherman, a Democrat elected from District 109 in Dallas County, introduced House Bill 261 to increase funding for the foster care system during the regular session of the legislature. The African American lawmaker is also an esteemed pastor and the only legislator to try and help foster children in 2021 as far as I can determine.

Texas has had three special legislative sessions this year to pass laws that Governor Abbott deemed essential – allowing virtually anyone to buy and openly carry a gun, restricting voting rights to avoid nonexistent fraud in Texas and the most restrictive abortion bill in U.S. history. My research did not turn up any new laws to improve conditions for the 28,000 children in foster care. I hope I am wrong.

According to the Texas nonprofit, Pathways Youth and Family Services, 4 2020 demographics show that 38.9% of the foster children in Texas are Hispanic and 23.8 percent are African American. Asian, Native American and other ethnicities add another 11 percent. Only 30.8 percent are White. Clearly, at 73.7 percent, minority children in foster care far outnumber White children.

Foster portends a miserable future for these children based on national statistics: “Almost 80% of those incarcerated in our prisons have spent time in traditional foster care. 40-50% of former foster youth become homeless within 18 months. 60% earn incomes below the poverty line. Only 1-3% graduate from college and 25% will be in prison within two years” after leaving foster care.

Taking care of foster children is not a partisan issue. Every Texas legislator should put care for these innocents at the top of their agendas. Until then, those who don’t, should hang their heads in shame for ignoring a system that traumatizes helpless children.

1.texastribune. org/2021/09/20/texas-fostercare-judge-janis-jack/

2.houstonpublicmedia. org/articles/news/politics/2021/09/16/408609/ texas-foster-care-children-exposed-to-sexual-abuse-givenwrong-medication-and-neglected-in-unlicensed-placements-new-report-says/