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Dan Patrick offers faith-based plan to ease foster care crisis

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick wants faith-based communities to help find foster and adoptive homes for kids in need.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick assures the audience at the Freedom, Faith and Fellowship event May 12, 2016 that he will uphold conservative principles as leader of the Texas Senate in 2017.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick unveiled Monday an initiative for Texas faith-based communities to identify foster and adoptive families for children, the latest in attempts from state leaders to ease a backlog of thousands of endangered kids searching for homes.

"I'm asking faith-based leaders across Texas to reach out to their congregations and communities to open their hearts and homes to the foster children of Texas," Patrick said in a statement.

Patrick's plan comes amid intensifying scrutiny of Child Protective Services. The Department of Family and Protective Services released numbers earlier this month showing nearly a thousand at-risk children under CPS care were not checked on once over the course of six months. That report also found that caseworkers did not see 1,800 children within 24 hours of hearing reports of alleged abuse or mistreatment.

Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott, House Speaker Joe Straus and Patrick last week ordered the Department, which faces a $40 million budget shortfall, to bolster efforts to protect at-risk foster care children. The letter included in their four-point action plan a call for the department to develop more partnerships with local faith-based communities. 

"Their assistance in recruiting amazing families is mission critical, and we need their support within the child welfare community now more than ever," state leaders wrote in the letter. 

Patrick's initiative is being launched in conjunction with National Adoption Month in November. On Nov. 2, he's hosting faith leaders at the Texas Capitol to discuss the role of faith-based communities in recruiting and retaining future foster and adoptive families.

Patrick's plan also includes a website that will "guide potential foster and adoptive parents to information about how they can help," he said in his statement. 

"Several elected state officials have opened their homes to children in need of loving families and are working with me to inspire a statewide movement to answer this calling," Patrick said. "I hope you and your family will consider doing the same." 

Kate Murphy, senior policy associate for child protection for Texans Care for Children, said in an emailed statement that Patrick's initiative could help recruit foster parents who are "nurturing, well-trained and focused on helping kids heal in foster care." Yet the state will need to do more to fully address the state's foster care crisis.

"We also need more well-paid CPS caseworkers, mental health services, and coordinated care," Murphy said.

Read more of the Tribune’s related coverage:

  • 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 in April.
  • In a wide-ranging interview, Hank Whitman, the new commissioner overseeing the Department of Family and Protective Services, explained how he thinks he can turn around a child welfare agency in crisis.

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Politics State government Child Protective Services Dan Patrick Department of Family and Protective Services State agencies