Amid Rise in Unplaced Children, Community-Based Foster Care Launches in South Texas Following Collapse in Bexar County

After the model folded in San Antonio, sending 1,200 kids back to the old system, the state expanded community-based care in south Texas.
November 5, 2021
A new foster care model launched in South Texas on October 27: community-based care (CBC), in which a private contractor gradually takes over the duties of state caseworkers in a given region of Texas, known as a “catchment.” The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), which runs the foster care system, lauded the shift from what’s called the “legacy” system to community-based care.

However, the new South Texas catchment is joining the system on the heels of a neighboring catchment’s collapse — a short-lived experiment that ultimately sent about 1,200 kids back into the legacy system.

Furthermore, despite this influx of new kids into the old model, fewer children in the legacy system are receiving above-basic care and more kids are living on their own. Both trends have developed alongside the rise of children without placement.

Community-Based Care

CBC is a relatively young model. Authorized by the Texas legislature in 2017, it is only operational in four catchments across the state. Each catchment is vast, with Region 8B belting from Val Verde County to Lavaca Bay. The smallest, Region 3B, includes six counties: Tarrant, Erath, Hood, Johnson, Palo Pinto, Parker, and Somervell. Each catchment is overseen by a single contractor.

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DFPS attributes great success to CBC when fully implemented, saying it helps keep children in their local area and stop the cycle of “placement breakdowns.” One caseworker said she had a child who needed placement in a residential treatment center, but the local area didn’t have one. According to her testimony, the catchment contractor was able to quickly identify this need and build a residential treatment center in the area.

A report on CBC released in late September shows mixed results in metrics of safety and care for where the contractors place children. All but one contractor, Saint Francis Community Services in the Panhandle, showed declines in the percentage of sibling groups placed together. Three of the four contractors also showed declines in placing children within 50 miles of their removal address.

The only contractor that showed improvement in this metric, a group called Family Tapestry formed by San Antonio-based group The Children’s Shelter, decided to fold just three months after it began accepting placement referrals for children.

The Impact of Family Tapestry’s Contract Ending

Family Tapestry’s catchment was the smallest in the state, only consisting of Bexar County. After taking the helm of the Bexar County catchment on February 1 this year, the group gave formal notice to terminate its contract, known as the Single Source Continuum Contract, on April 29. CBC in Bexar County ended on July 1, when all subcontracts for foster care placements and services were returned to DFPS. According to the agency, restoring CBC to Bexar County is under discussion.

A report the DFPS released last Friday shows that over a thousand children entered the legacy system after Family Tapestry’s short tenure came to an end.

The report also details how many children are in each different service level of care. The 10 service levels include a range from Basic to Intense to Emergency along with more specific settings, such as Supervised Independent Living, where youth on the edge of exiting the system learn to live on their own. The number of children in each service level from September 2020 to August 2021 may be viewed here.

According to Friday’s report, the end of CBC in Bexar County created a spike in the number of children with Basic care needs. Youth with Moderate and Intense needs saw a modest bump of growth as well, but about a thousand of the 1,200 kids that entered paid foster care from CBC were categorized as having Basic needs.

The report also shows a trend that extends well beyond the departure of Family Tapestry. Since at least September 2020, more and more children have been categorized in the Basic service level. Concurrently, in a mostly steady downward trend, fewer and fewer children have been categorized in Moderate, Intense, Intense Plus, or Specialized levels of care. The same goes for children in Psychiatric Transition.

The only service levels that have grown in number are Basic care, Treatment Foster Care, and Supervised Independent Living. In other words, more children are receiving the lowest level of care, undergoing specific treatment, or learning to live on their own. Fewer children are receiving specialized or intense care.

The Intense-Plus level was excluded from this chart due to the relatively low number of youth in this category, peaking at a total of 8 in September 2020 and declining to 0 in August 2021.

These trends have developed alongside a growing number of children that caseworkers fail to place quickly, meaning they spend the night in last-minute hotel arrangements or even caseworkers’ offices. Known as children without placement (CWOP), the number of these youth sleeping in government offices has skyrocketed in the past year.

Most, according to the DFPS, are older children ages 13 through 17 that require intense or special care.

The same report also shows that the number of youth in CWOP has “substantially increased” as the foster care system sheds facilities and beds, particularly residential treatment centers.

Region 8

The newly minted Region 8B catchment includes a swath of 27 South Texas counties stretching from the border to the Gulf of Mexico, south of San Antonio and north of the Rio Grande Valley. The catchment is overseen by the group Belong, created by SJRC Texas.

Family Tapestry declined to elaborate on why it requested a termination of its contract over the Bexar County catchment, Region 8A.

By publishing time, DFPS had not responded to inquiries regarding why growth of children in the legacy care system would not change the overall downward trend of children in above-Basic levels of care.


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Isaiah Mitchell

Isaiah Mitchell is a reporter for The Texan, a Texas native, and a huge Allman Brothers fan. He graduated cum laude from Trinity University in 2020 with a degree in English. Isaiah loves playing music and football with his family.

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