The latest report on community-based care (CBC), released twice a year by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), shows the state’s active providers making progress on placing children in safe, stable residences.
However, the same report shows declines in preparing children for adult life and retaining staff.
The “legacy” model of foster care, which is still in place across most of Texas, tasks DFPS with placing children, managing their cases, and generating the network of foster homes and other living arrangements that make up the “capacity” of the state’s foster care system.
In 2017, the Texas legislature authorized community-based care, a new model meant to gradually replace the legacy system. Under CBC, a single contractor for a region of the state creates capacity, places children, and provides case management for them. The model is active so far in four regions of the state, each managed by a different nonprofit group.
DFPS uses several metrics to gauge how well these contractors, known as single source continuum contractors (SSCC), manage their regions. Most of these criteria measure how well the SSCC places children in new living arrangements.
Improvements From September 2021
The SSCC that manages the Hill Country region, a nonprofit called Belong, launched in October of 2021 and therefore lacks adequate data for comparison.
Since the last report was issued in September, the other three SSCCs have all shown improvements in the safety of their child placements. Our Community, Our Kids (OCOK), the contractor for the Metroplex West area, improved by 1.8 percent, having placed 98 percent of children in safe living arrangements according to the September report and 99.8 percent in the most recent report. Saint Francis, which serves the Panhandle area, also improved. 2INgage, which serves the Texoma area, was the only SSCC to place 100 percent of children in safe living arrangements in the most recent period.
All three SSCCs also showed improvement in the stability of their placements. Ideally, a child should thrive in a single living arrangement and avoid repeated moves, so the DFPS measures placement stability by the number of placements per child. OCOK, 2INgage, and Saint Francis all reduced the number of placements for child, averaging 1.4 placements per child in the September report and 1.2 placements in the recent report.
The three groups also increased the percentage of sibling groups placed together, averaging about 63 percent of siblings landing in the same living arrangements, according to the 2022 report.
Declines from September 2021
Not all metrics of foster care performance saw improvement in the state’s growing CBC model. Caseworker turnover spiked for both OCOK and 2INgage.
Saint Francis and OCOK also saw declines in the percentage of children prepared for adulthood in their care. In this metric, however, 2INgage achieved 100 percent in the September and March reports. In other words, according to data from the last two quarters, all children in 2INgage placements completed courses for adult life.
The DFPS also tracks SSCCs’ ability to place children close to their original homes and in family settings. In both of these metrics, OCOK was the only contractor to worsen since the last report. 71 percent of foster children in the Metroplex West area were placed within 50 miles of their removal address in the first quarter of 2022, a decrease from 2021.
Comparison to the Legacy System
As the report suggests, a closer look at the data demonstrates wide variance between the SSCCs. This breadth of difference can make it difficult to compare the legacy system to community-based care.
According to more specific data released on March 31, the SSCCs lag behind the legacy system in most metrics. For 2022, the non-CBC model outpaces the CBC model in the percentage of children placed near their original homes, the number of days in family settings, and the share of children who do not experience abuse or neglect while in foster care, among other metrics.
However, in some of these cases, it is possible that certain SSCCs may drag down the overall CBC average, hiding the high performance of other SSCCs that sometimes do better than the legacy system. For example, children in paid foster care managed by Belong, the Hill Country SSCC, spent about 90 percent of their days in family settings. The statewide non-CBC average for this metric was just 83 percent.
Additionally, there are far more children in the legacy system than in the community-based care model. Out of the 16,757 children placed in the Texas foster care system in the first quarter of this year, just 4,388 were placed in a community-based care arrangement. This also makes direct comparison difficult.
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