HHSC Releases Foster Care Ombudsman Report for FY21

As required by the 84th Legislature, the Office of the Foster Care Ombudsman (FCO) has released its annual report of recommendations for addressing investigated complaints made by youth and children in foster care. The report also documents the results of the FCO recommendations from the past year and summarizes outreach efforts to youth during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21), FCO resolved 569 complaints from youth. Of these:

  • 273 were substantiated,
  • 289 were unsubstantiated, and
  • seven were unable to be substantiated (there was not enough evidence to make a finding).

The five most common reasons for complaints by order of frequency were:

  • Rights of Children and Youth in Foster Care (162)
  • Case Recording (80)
  • Other (51)
  • The Placement Process (44)
  • General Caseworker Duties (39)

FY20 vs. FY21

  • There was an overall increase in contacts in FY21. The total contacts increased by 13% (from 808 in FY20 to 911 in FY21).
  • FCO resolved 569 complaints in FY21. This is a decrease of 25% from 762 in FY20. This decrease in complaint data can be attributed to temporary restrictions caused by the public health emergency.

Recommendations

The report also outlines eight recommendations to implement during FY22. Some recommendations may already be taking place depending on existing programming within Child Protective Services (CPS) or Residential Child Care Regulation (RCCR). Recommendations are based on adherence to policy and made with the goal of improving services for children and youth in foster care. Some of the recommendations include:

  • RCCR address all potential policy violations provided by Child Care Investigations in the complete investigation report to determine if additional minimum standard violations were identified and should be cited.
  • CPS should create an internal investigation process like the process followed when a CPS employee is involved in a CPS investigation. This creates a more objective investigation to be conducted by having a supervisor or program director from outside the complaint region be assigned to investigate the allegation.
  • Child Care Investigations (CCI) should implement a plan to conduct investigations within the required timeframes to ensure the safety of children and youth in placements and ensure all intake allegations are addressed thoroughly per CCI policy.

You can view the full report with recommendations and expected outreach efforts for FY22 on the DFPS website.

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