Foster Care

August 13, 2012; Source: Austin American-Statesman

In Austin, Texas, the nonprofit Lutheran Social Services of the South has been denied in its pursuit of more foster care contracts. State officials say this is due to troubling issues at three of its foster care facilities; the Austin American-Statesman points to a letter that documents the concerns. In addition to a failure to provide adequate oversight on homes, undertake background checks on families, or prevent youth from being subjected to abusive behavior and neglect, a letter from Family and Protective Services (which is charged with oversight of all Texas foster care) states that the nonprofit’s three facilities in question have engaged in problematic activities such as:

  • “Levying prohibited punishments, such as pinching, pulling hair, biting or shaking a child.

  • Failing to properly secure weapons and ammunition.

  • Using food as a punishment or reward.

  • Humiliating, ridiculing or yelling at a child.

  • Failing to keep homes safe, clean and in good repair.”

The letter asks Lutheran, according to the Statesman, to “voluntarily fix problems at five other offices it operates” but doesn’t indicate which other offices are engaging in the allegedly offensive behaviors. If these allegations are true, it obviously reflects very poorly on the quality of care offered by Lutheran, but we want to focus on the state’s Family and Protective Services for a moment here.

Note that the department is not taking action against any of the facilities that it alleges are engaging in this terrible treatment of youth. It’s merely denying Lutheran more contracts as the state pushes forward with more privatization of its foster care system. If the department’s allegations about Lutheran are true and awful enough to stop the state from moving forward with more partnerships with this nonprofit, aren’t they also enough to spark some governmental action to ensure corrective (i.e. non-voluntary) measures are implemented? For that matter, shouldn’t the Lutheran allegations give the state pause about its overarching plan to further privatize foster care? –Mike Keefe-Feldman