One week after a 1-year-old girl was fatally injured in her Cedar Park foster home, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services unveiled a sweeping safety plan prompted by a spike in foster care deaths.
But some new mandates in the plan are only required for homes in the Austin area, where 1-year-old Orion Hamilton and 2-year-old Alexandria Hill died in recent months from injuries sustained in their foster homes. Those measures include unannounced visits to foster children living with their relatives in “kinship placements” and an immediate review of frequent visitors to those homes. In 2012, there were about 1,300 Austin-area children in kinship placements.
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Changes in foster care oversight announced Friday by state officials include:
- Issuing quarterly trend reports, starting in 2014, on child deaths from abuse and neglect.
- Limiting the number of medically needy foster children that can be placed in one home.
- Increasing the number of unannounced visits to all foster homes, including homes where foster children are staying with relatives through what are known as “kinship placements.”
- Updating the agency’s kinship placement home studies to ensure that caseworkers are adequately discussing safety issues and recognize risks.
- For state licensed foster homes, requiring that caseworkers interview all grown adult children of the foster parent before issuing a license.
- Holding a statewide training refresher on safety for all CPS foster and adoption staff on Nov. 7.
- Conducting an audit to assess how private child-placing agencies evaluate the performance of foster parents.