Texas fails foster kids, suit says

(KLTV) – A New York-based child advocacy group has its sights set square on the Texas child welfare system. The Children's Rights is seeking a class action lawsuit which would ultimately represent 12,000 Texas children in permanent foster care.

The suit was filed in federal court, Tuesday, in Corpus Christi and doesn't mince words. It claims Texas has routinely failed its children in the system.

The 89-page complaint names nine Texas children in permanent CPS custody as plaintiffs to represent the class, including "A.M.," a 13-year-old girl from Canton.

The suit says she's been in foster care since 2004. During that time, the Department of Family and Protective Services separated her from her sisters, shuffled her from one home to another, placed her in inappropriate foster homes, and left her for years in an institution according the complaint.

The suit asserts DFPS failed to provide "A.M." and other children with a permanent adoptive home.

"These, truly, are the children that the state has forgotten," said Marcia Robinson Lowry, executive director of Children's Rights. "That's just not right, and it's illegal."

Caseworkers generally have up to a year to reunite children with their birth families, or find them permanent homes. "Once they enter permanent foster care, the state gives up," said Robinson.

Sara Maynard is a board certified juvenile lawyer. She represents nearly 40 Smith County children in CPS custody. "Nobody's going to say the system is perfect. There's always room for improvement."

Maynard said, locally, things fair a bit better than in other parts of the state. "There's not a kid that's not adoptable. There's some that have been labeled 'not adoptable' and we've found those kids permanent homes."

Patrick Crimmins with DFPS said 99.9 percent of Texas foster children are safe, according to a federal government overview.

"Case loads for foster care workers have steadily decreased, our success in placing foster children with relatives has increased by 38 percent," he said.

Crimmins said there is also a plan to involve judges, courts, a network of foster homes and facilities to keep more children close to their home communities and with their siblings. He said that initiative was rolled out long before the suit was filed.

"In order to respond to this lawsuit, time and resources and personnel will have to be diverted," said Crimmins.

Robinson said, currently, eight other state child welfare systems are under court-ordered reform following similar lawsuits. The Texas case is one of four under active litigation.

The next step is for a federal judge to decide whether the case meets the criteria for a class action suit.

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