Accountability Is A Two-Way Street

Everyday DFPS enters into the Courts of Texas and asks the court to hold parents accountable for their conduct and their decision making in the form of acts and/or omissions. They ask the court for conservatorship and plead for termination. §153.002; §153.005; §153.071; §153.072; §153.131; §153.191; ( §161.001(1)(2). DFPS must propose services in a Family Plan of Service that the parents must work to obtain return of the children. §263.101; 263.102; 161.001(1)(0). The presumption here is that somehow removing a child from parents and all relative control is best for the children. It assumes that taking children away from extended family, from their schools, friends and entire social structure is in their best interest. It may well be true that the parents and even some family are not appropriate, but it is a real stretch to say the currently understaffed, inadequately trained, overburdened, and underfunded investigative and CVS system of DFPS is well equipped to deal with the additional trauma that its intervention does to an already traumatized child. The old sarcastic adage "We are from the government and we are here to help." is evident here. In a private case, a judge very, very rarely allows one parent to rip a child away from every sense of family, social structure and identity that he or she has ever known. Yet, when the government in the form of DFPS brings the suit, it routinely happens. Furthermore, because of institutional structures, no one seems to have any solutions about how to change it for the better.

What has been lost is the idea that accountability should flow in all directions. Efforts have been consistently targeted on parental accountability through the DFPS related statutes in Title 5, Chapter 261-266 (§261.001-266.010), and the appellate courts which have considered cases arising under the statutes. More recently, attempts have been made to statutorily codify the duties of ad items for children and parents (§107.001-107.0133).

As the legislature mandated budget cuts, DFPS decided to cut services and find providers that were willing to supply marginally similar or services of a reduced quality for either the same fee or lower. Psychological evaluations have become psych- social assessments. Forensic testing was replaced with forensic assessments from providers who have lower skill sets. Quality providers were replaced with providers who were more skilled at getting contracts than performing services. These types of providers end up recommending "only the types of services they provide" or believe that their role in providing therapy for parents is to "get the parents to accept total responsibility for the allegations made in the referral", whether or not they were involved in the referral or whether or not there is any factual accuracy to the allegations. Some of these providers lack any therapeutic or skills training on attachment or bonding theory. Some provide substance abuse or addiction services, but have no idea of the medical, psychological or spiritual manifestations of addition or what it takes to recover. How else could anyone with any credentials suggest that a six (6) session awareness and education class called "Success by Six" run by the YMCA be a sufficient intervention or treatment plan for someone with a documented and significant illegal drug use and addiction history? How is it that DFPS is allowed to contract for services requiring a state licenses with providers that do not have the license or credentials? How is it that anyone accepts such providers as worthy of our citizens.

At the same time, the quantity and quality of services were cut, DFPS conveniently removed from its Family Service Plans any requirement that it had to actually provide any of the services. During the status hearing under (§263.201) attorneys for both the parents and children should insist that DFPS be ordered to provide specific services, that the 2054 service authorizations be issued by a date and time certain and that all components of the Family Service Plan be both internally consistent and possible to perform. The insistence on six (6) months of stable employment, when DFPS only provides services or family visits from 9-5 creates havoc for parents and prevents the very employment demanded. To demand a parent go to services in one part of town when they live in an area with no public transportation yet provide no mobility services prevents compliance with the FSP. Ad items for parents and children, and judges should insist on high standards and practicality. Family Service Plans should be fashioned in such a way that each family gets the specific services needed, from a quality provider and in a timely manner. DFPS should be held accountable at every hearing in the case in the same way parents are held accountable. The statutes require that the caseworker actually involve the parent in the formulation of the service plan, but this almost never done. Insist on it! Ask that it be redone. Ask that it be modified. If our Courts of Appeals are going to hold that "substantial compliance" with a Family Service Plan is insufficient to prevent termination, then all of those people that create it, impose it, and enforce it should have to face an equal measure of accountability.