Task Force Considers Changes in Foster Care

Deaths prompt leaders to seek local fixes to system

Amid growing concern for the state’s foster care system, a task force in Williamson County is considering improvements that can be made on a local level.

According to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, in the past two years there have been four abuse- or neglect-related deaths of children who were placed in foster care in Williamson County or who were from the county.

“There’s around 500 kids in foster care in Williamson County at any given time,” Precinct 1 County Commissioner Lisa Birkman said. “I think a lot of people hear the stories of children dying, and they’re appalled by it like everyone else but they really don’t know what to do. I’m hoping we can get the message out of things you can do.”

A task force set up by Birkman held its first meeting Sept. 25 to discuss the state of the foster care system in Williamson County and where gaps in care have developed. In its second meeting Oct. 10 the members identified how to close those gaps.

The caseworker turnover rate was identified as a major issue in the foster care system, but the task force identified a lack of communication and collaboration among organizations to be the root of the county’s problems.

“There’s a number of resources in the community that are all working parallel on a lot of public welfare issues, but there’s not cross-talk,” attorney ad litem Robert Maier said. “Recently my wife provided me a list of the services that are available here, be it mental health, medical, food banks, pantries—these resources are out there. But we were talking about consolidating this into some sort of a centralized list.”

Maier used himself as an example, admitting he learned about a valuable resource just by attending the first meeting.

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