Federal Judge Fines Texas Agency $100K Daily for Foster Care Failings

Federal Judge Fines State Agency $100K Daily for Foster Care Failings

In a decisive legal ruling, a federal judge has found the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) in contempt for failing to conduct adequate investigations into allegations of abuse and neglect within the state’s foster care system.

The verdict was delivered on Monday, marking a significant development nearly five months after an extensive three-day court hearing.

During the December hearing, various stakeholders, including a former foster child, several caseworkers, attorneys for current foster children, and experts on psychotropic medications and child welfare, testified.

These proceedings gave the court a comprehensive view of the ongoing issues within Texas’ foster care system.

On the final day of hearings, U.S. District Judge Janis Jack expressed regret over the need for such measures, saying, “I’m just sorry we’re at this point.” This statement highlighted the gravity of the situation.

The ruling detailed in Judge Jack’s 427-page order revisits previous contempt charges and outlines the evidence and testimonies brought during the hearing.

It particularly focuses on the HHSC Provider Investigations unit, which is tasked with overseeing state-run facilities like group homes.

Federal Judge Fine State Agency $100K Daily for Foster Care Failings
Federal Judge Fine State Agency $100K Daily for Foster Care Failings

The findings underscore significant delays, inaccuracies, and inadequate outcomes in the agency’s handling of abuse and neglect cases.

Judge Jack pinpointed two specific violations of court-mandated remedial orders that require timely and complete investigations of abuse and neglect allegations, especially for children in high-risk scenarios.

As a consequence, HHSC, under the direction of Executive Commissioner Cecile Erwin Young, is ordered to pay a daily fine of $50,000 for each violation until compliance is verified.

Moreover, the court’s order mentions potential further actions, including the judge considering additional contempt charges against the state and the possibility of placing parts of Texas’ foster care system under receivership.

Such a move would involve appointing external experts to manage and rectify the identified deficiencies.

Looking ahead, a hearing is scheduled for June 26 to further assess the state’s compliance with the court’s orders and to discuss additional fines.

This latest ruling marks the third instance of contempt findings against the state by Judge Jack since the initiation of this legal battle in 2011.

In 2019, the judge imposed a $150,000 fine on the state for not ensuring that an adult supervisor remained awake during the night at privately run group homes. The following year, although she threatened daily fines of $75,000, she ultimately did not enforce them.

About the author

Nancy Beverly

Nancy Beverly is a prominent political journalist and editor at World-Wire, known for her sharp analysis and deep understanding of global politics. With a Master's degree in Political Science, she excels in breaking down complex political issues, making them relatable to the public. At World-Wire, Nancy crafts compelling political narratives covering everything from local governance to international relations. Recognized for her expertise, she received the 'Excellence in Political Journalism' award in 2021. Nancy's work not only informs but also enriches her readers' understanding of political dynamics.

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