By Marrisa Evans
Health and Human Services Reporter
A federal judge has ruled Texas will continue to need oversight of how it cares for vulnerable children, even after sweeping legislative changes last year.
In a 116-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Janis Jack ruled on Friday afternoon that Texas leaders will remain under the watchful eye of appointed special masters for three years as they implement more policies for how abused and neglected children are protected. She wrote in her ruling that “the system remains broken and DFPS has demonstrated an unwillingness to take tangible steps to fix the broken system.”
“Because the State of Texas has failed to rectify long-standing problems with its foster-care system despite decades of awareness and extensive reports and recommendations by internal and external authorities, this Court concludes that unless directed otherwise by some authority, the studies and testing will continue, no remediation will occur and the dangerous condition[s] will continue to exist,” Jack wrote.
The news comes more than two years after Jack ruled in 2015 that the state’s foster care system violated children’s civil rights. Texas Department of Family and Protective Services officials have been working with federal appointed special masters to evaluate how the state does with overseeing the child welfare system.
The ruling is a major blow to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and legislators who rallied to come up with numerous child welfare bills during the 2017 Legislative session. Abbott, Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and state lawmakers have previously expressed dismay about federal interference — and were adamant that the state does not need oversight to overhaul the Department of Family and Protective Services.
Minutes after the ruling came out, Paxton promised to appeal it, calling it an “unfortunate decision.”
“Unfunded and unrealistic mandates ordered by an unelected federal judge are misguided,” he said in a statement.
Abbott expressed confidence when he signed a series of child welfare bills in May that Jack should “look at what Texas has accomplished” with the legislation and improvements the department had made.
This is a developing story. Check back for more updates.
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