FORT WORTH, Texas, April 28, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As state lawmakers meet this week to discuss funding for Foster Care Redesign efforts, early results demonstrate the new approach to foster care in Texas is producing enhanced quality of life and increased safety for children, according to an analysis of recent outcomes.
Our Community Our Kids, a newly formed division of ACH Child and Family Services, is responsible for the oversight and accountability of foster care for seven North Texas counties, including Tarrant. After six months, higher percentages of children experienced benefits in key accountability areas. The initiative placed more children in care close to home, kept greater numbers of siblings together and ensured the safety of all children in need of foster care.
"These results are extremely encouraging, particularly because problems have plagued the foster care system in Texas for decades," said Dr. Wayne Carson, CEO of ACH Child and Family Services. "It is wonderful to see the lives of children change in tangible ways in such a short period of time."
The analysis is based on outcomes for new children referred to the foster care system in the Our Community Our Kids region between September 1, 2014, and February 28, 2015. According to the state's 180-day results, a greater percentage of children were placed within 50 miles of their home communities, more siblings were kept together and 100 percent of children were kept safe under the leadership of Our Community Our Kids.
Our Community Our Kids has implemented a structure that enables more decisions to be made locally, provides for performance accountability and allows for flexibility and innovations. Specific efforts include a quality parenting initiative, safety training, targeted recruitment, innovative child-placing software, secure information exchange and a streamlined adoption process.
Sustaining these improvements will require additional state funding, Carson said. The Texas Senate has included $6.9 million in additional funds to help sustain the current project and launch one new project in another part of the state. However, no new funding is currently included in the base budget for the House. A conference committee made up of five senators and five representatives has been appointed to resolve budget differences and develop a final budget to be voted on by both the House and Senate. Carson said that maintaining the funding recommendation already approved by the Senate will be critical for continued success of Foster Care Redesign.
Scott Lundy, president of the board for the Texas Alliance of Child and Family Services, added: "Our Community Our Kids is an example of the strong outcomes we can hope to achieve through Foster Care Redesign in Texas, but this initiative is severely underfunded. State lawmakers must take steps to ensure that Foster Care Redesign can continue and expand. The children of our state are counting on us to get this right."
Research shows that children who have suffered abuse or neglect have a strong ability to heal when they receive timely, high-quality care. When appropriate interventions are missing, these children are more likely to struggle throughout life, with disproportionate numbers of former foster children in the homeless population, the criminal justice system and as recipients of long-term mental health services.
About Our Community Our Kids In 2013, as part of a statewide Foster Care Redesign effort, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services selected ACH Child and Family Services in Fort Worth as a Single Source Continuum Contractor (SSCC) to oversee the delivery of foster care services in Texas Region 3b, which includes Tarrant, Palo Pinto, Parker, Johnson, Hood, Somervell and Erath counties. Oversight and accountability for foster care providers in that network is now managed by Our Community Our Kids, a newly formed division of ACH. For more information, go to www.oc-ok.org.