Retired DFPS supervisor testifies on foster care system: 'It feels criminal'

Pooja Lodhia Image
Thursday, April 18, 2024
Retired DFPS supervisor on foster care system: 'It feels criminal'
A 427-page ruling revealed shocking allegations against the agency.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- A federal appeals court Wednesday temporarily blocked a $100,000-a-day fine against the state for its long-criticized foster care system.

This comes after a judge found state officials have repeatedly ignored claims of abuse, neglect, and exploitation of children in custody.

In Harris County, some of the most vulnerable children live in hotels.

The program is called Children Without Placement, or CWOP; it's for children with nowhere to go. They've been removed from their homes but haven't been accepted into foster care. Most of the kids are teenagers with complicated mental and physical needs.

"It feels criminal because we're not doing what we need to be doing for these children," Christie Carrington, who just retired after more than a decade at the Department of Family and Protective Services, said. "My job is to protect these children, and my hands are tied. I can't protect them."

Carrington is one of 13 witnesses to testify against the state.

"If we don't take care of these children now, we'll deal with the issues that these children have later," she said.

The hotels where they live are not licensed for childcare. A previous program housing them in state offices has been closed. CWOP children are supervised by caseworkers on overtime shifts, not medical professionals.

"Now the agency is collapsing because we just don't have people. They're burning out," she said.

This is the third time the state has been held in contempt for its foster care system. For Carrington, it's not just what happens to the children now, it's about what happens to them later.

"They're 18. They didn't have a home when they left DFPS. They don't have a home now. So, now they're on track," she said. "That pipeline, that prison pipeline. They're on track to being in another system."

If custody doesn't become safer, taxpayers could soon continue paying $100,000 a day.

That's $100,000 coming from taxpayers and not going toward improving the system for children in need.

"Life happens to everybody, and at some point, it's kind of a measure of our society, our civilization, that we have safety nets for vulnerable people," she said.

Eyewitness News has reached out to Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton, but they have yet to reply.

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