Foster care system in 23 East Texas counties soon to be run by private entity

“I don’t know anybody that’s felt that the state is a good parent,” Arrow Child & Family Ministries CEO Scott Lundy said.
Published: Mar. 29, 2023 at 9:16 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 29, 2023 at 10:03 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - One of the biggest changes to the foster care system in East Texas is underway: privatization.

“This transition does create challenges, and there’s lots of need in our community,” said Smith County 321st District Court Judge Robert Wilson during the 4Kids4Families kickoff event at South Spring Baptist Church in Tyler.

Wilson has a deep understanding of the state of foster care. For years, he’s seen many East Texas families on their best and worst days in court. He also doesn’t shy away from the painstaking reality of what it’s like to be in Texas state care in 2023.

“We’ve had as many as 130 kids statewide without placement,” said Wilson. “That means that we have kids sleeping on the floors of CPS offices, in hotel rooms, or in rented spaces ... or on gym floors. It’s not any easy solution to fix, but it’s not an acceptable solution at all.”

On March 1, a new chapter began for 23 East Texas counties which make up DFPS Region Four.

“I don’t know anybody that’s felt that the state is a good parent,” said Scott Lundy, CEO of Arrow Child & Family Ministries. “Right now it’s a very large bureaucratic system, and what we’ve found is that communities take much better care of kids and kids do better, they thrive better, in communities. They still have their friends, they still have their schools, their teachers, their family members that are close by.”

Debi Tengler, Scott Lundy explain transition for East Texas counties to 4 Kids 4 Families.
Debi Tengler, Scott Lundy explain transition for East Texas counties to 4 Kids 4 Families.(Source: KLTV Staff)

Arrow Child & Family Ministries is the organization which will head the new 4Kids4Families division, representing Region 4.

“Arrow has been operating here in the Piney Woods area for about 28 years,” explained Debi Tengler, Chief Relations Officer for Arrow. “The model for community-based care has been developing since about 2017.”

Community-based care is a system that can be seen in action in other Texas regions, like Fort Worth and parts of west and central Texas. These transfers from state to private entities are happening through a proposal and bid process for agencies that are willing to become so-called Single Source Continuum Contractors (SSCC).

“In other words, we would take on the overall care, placement, and stability for the children in this Piney Woods region,” said Tengler. “So we are beginning a staged implementation until we actually go live later this year, in November.”

“I think people in their hearts really care for these kids. They want the best for these kids, but the whole foster care and becoming a foster parent is just daunting because it’s 24/7, 365,” said Lundy. “It’s a life-changing thing.”

Lundy told us he “absolutely” considers this process a transition toward privatization. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services office in Austin did not dispute this view.

“I think part of it, with a private agency ... we’re able to do things that are different with regards to recruitment,” said Lundy. “We still are accountable to the State of Texas. DFPS is our contracting entity, and we are then licensed and regulated by HHS as well.”

Other Deep East Texas counties will soon follow with a different community-based care contractor.

“I’m very pleased with regard to that region and the provider that’s coming in,” said Lundy. “I’ve known their CEO and executive leadership for a long time.”

One of the top goals for 4Kids4Families will be to keep East Texas kids wherever home is.

“The one thing that kind of keeps me up at night right now is there are a lot of youth (from) East Texas that are being served in Houston,” Lundy explained. “That is going to be our number one priority, because we want to get those kids that are there back here.”

For more information on how you can get involved with 4Kids4Families, click here.