The Texas Senate has approved a priority House bill that would increase payments for people who foster children who are their family members.
“There is, in general, a recognition that kinship care is a superior method of caring for a child versus foster care,” said Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, who presented the bill.
Under House Bill 4, a family that makes up to $73,800 would receive about $4,200 a year to care for a relative foster child. Currently, kinship foster parents only receive a one-time $1,000 payment and $500 per year. Such arrangements are called kinship care, which results in better outcomes for children including fewer behavioral problems, fewer placements and more stability, according to supporters.
“Data shows us that when children must be removed from a dangerous home situation that they usually have better outcomes when placed with relatives who already know and love them rather than strangers in foster care,” said Madeline McClure, head of TexProtects, the Texas Association for the Protection of Children.
The Senate made a major change to the bill on Monday that would stop payments to kinship foster parents after a year or 18 months under the discretion of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, which oversees the foster care system.
Sen. Van Taylor, R-Plano, who proposed the change, said the provision would discourage kinship foster parents from keeping the child because of the money they would receive from the state. He said the average amount of time children stay in kinship care is about a year anyway.
“We need to be careful, because I think unfortunately we’re creating some incentive … for a few people to act in a nefarious manner and to harm the child to enrich themselves,” Taylor said.
Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, pushed back on the measure, saying that foster parents have very little say in whether a child should stay in the foster care system. The caseworker’s input carries more weight, he said.
“When you sit up and say that you believe that they’re going to have some sort of perverse motive to keep the money and keep the child, I think that does a disservice to those that would take on a child that’s the subject of an abuse and neglect claim coming out of someone’s home,” West said.