The state’s child welfare agency faces a $40 million budget shortfall, a critical shortage of good homes for foster children and overwhelming caseloads for staff, agency leaders told state lawmakers at a hearing on Wednesday.
John Specia, the outgoing head of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, told the Senate Health and Human Services Committee that lawmakers will likely need to sign off on a supplemental budget to make up for the shortfall. The agency has had to spend more money than expected on expensive placements for children in settings such as psychiatric hospitals because there weren’t adequate homes available.
He said the agency seeks to do “everything we possibly can” to keep children out of residential treatment centers and psychiatric hospitals except when absolutely necessary, “because that does not bode well for their future.”
Specia said the agency had encountered an increase in children with severe behavioral and mental health needs and is currently struggling to find appropriate homes to keep up with demand.