The Brief: Texas wants to reform foster care on its own

A new legal filing from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's office on Tuesday argued that the state is capable of fixing its foster care system without federal oversight.

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Editor's note: The Brief will be taking Thursday and Friday off for Thanksgiving. We'll be back on Monday morning with a roundup from the long weekend. 

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The Big Story

A new legal filing from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's office on Tuesday argued that the state is capable of fixing its foster care system without federal oversight. Here's the story so far:

The recommendations had been broadly outlined in a December 2015 ruling by U.S. District Judge Janis Jack, who deemed that Texas' long-term foster care system had violated children’s constitutional right to be free from an unreasonable risk of harm. In her ruling, Jack mandated the appointment of a pair of "special masters" — paid for by the state — to oversee reforms to the system.

Tuesday's filing criticizes the recommendations as "over-broad" and claims there is no proof they will work. Lawyers for the state argued that the alleged constitutional violations laid out by Jack “are unsupported by reliable expert testimony or other competent, admissible evidence.” They argue Jack's findings were "too vague" to support the remedies recommended by special masters.

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The move puts the state's Republican leaders in an awkward position of admitting problems with Texas foster care system but insisting they can address those problems without the federal government getting involved — despite the system's growing problems under their tenure.

Texas' top officials have all vowed to push through reforms to the foster care system during the 2017 legislative session. Recently appointed Department of Family and Protective Services Commissioner Hank Whitman has already asked lawmakers for $53.3 million to 550 additional investigators and provide pay increases for front-line caseworkers.

What We're Reading

(Links below lead to outside websites; content might be behind paywall)

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Margaret Lloyd, Vice Chair, Board of Directors, Scenic Texas and Scenic America

Trib Events for the Calendar

•   A Symposium Previewing the 85th Legislature on Nov. 29 at The University of Texas - Texas Union Ballroom

•   A Conversation with Michael K. Young, President of Texas A&M University on Dec. 1 at The Austin Club

•   San Antonio & the Legislature: A Preview of the 85th on Dec. 2 at University of Texas at San Antonio – Downtown Campus

•   A Conversation with Sen.-elect Dawn Buckingham & Rep.-elect Hugh Shine on Dec. 8 at Temple College – Arnold Student Union

•   Health Care and the 85th Legislature on Dec. 15 at UT Health Science Center San Antonio - Pestana Lecture Hall

•   Trivia Night on Jan. 8 at The Highball 

•   A Conversation with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Jan. 11 at The Austin Club 

•   A Conversation with Reps. Dustin Burrows & Drew Darby on Jan. 19 at Howard College – West Texas Training Center

•   A Conversation with Sen. Kel Seliger & Rep. Brooks Landgraf on Feb. 17 at Odessa College – Saulsbury Campus Center