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Congressional Democrats demand answers from Abbott over Texas' troubled foster care system

FILE - Rep Colin Allred, D-Texas, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday, June 24, 2020. Allred says he'll run for the U.S. Senate in 2024, becoming an early challenger to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.
Manuel Balce Ceneta
FILE - Rep Colin Allred, D-Texas, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday, June 24, 2020. He is one of nine U.S. Representatives who has issued a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott questioning how the state plans to improve its foster care system in the midst of a federal lawsuit over Texas' alleged failures to ensure foster kids' wellbeing.

Nine Texas Democratic members of Congress sent a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott Friday questioning how state agencies plan to improve the quality of care for kids in its beleaguered foster care system.

Texas is currently fighting a nearly 13-year-old federal class action lawsuit over alleged failings in its foster care system — including failures to investigate disabled children’s outcries of abuse, overwhelming caseloads for caseworkers and the overmedication of children.

With the help of court monitors, U.S. District Judge Janis Jack ordered the state for years to implement recommended measures to remedy its foster care system. In a letter, the lawmakers called on Abbott and state agencies to comply with those orders.

“We find it disappointing and disgraceful for your administration to spend so much time and money fighting a lawsuit when the court has consistently found that children have been suffering serious harm during foster care and coming out of foster care more traumatized than when they first entered," reads the letter signed by representatives Colin Allred, Lizzie Fletcher, Al Green, Veronica Escobar, Sheila Jackson Lee, Sylvia Garcia, Jasmine Crockett, Marc Veasey and Greg Casar.

Abbott's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Reporting from Texas Public Radio found the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services spent more than a quarter-billion dollars on housing children under the Children Without Placement category between fiscal year 2021 and the end of August 2023.

The CWOP classification describes unregulated housing that experts say has exposed kids to sex trafficking and other dangerous conditions.

Jack is still weighing whether to hold state agencies in contempt after a three-day hearing in December, in which a former foster care child and caseworkers testified about their experiences within the system. Officials with DFPS and Health and Human Services testified the state has continually worked to comply with the court’s orders.

State officials also filed a request this week asking Judge Jack to lift some of her orders, once again arguing the state has complied with her recommendations. The court held another hearing in the case Friday.

The letter calls on the state to provide a plan on adding more staff to supervise CWOP children, ensuring appropriate placements, easing the workload for DFPS caseworkers, preventing further sexual abuse and trafficking, and providing more mental health care for CWOP children without over-prescribing them medication.

The letter also cites the Social Security Act, which allows the federal government to reimburse state spending on foster care for children who meet federal eligibility criteria and have safe and appropriate placements. The lawmakers also said they want answers to how the state will comply with federal requirements in order to seek funding through that initiative.

The representatives want a response on the state's plans by April 15, according to the letter.

"There is no excuse for this level of abuse and inhumanity that these children are facing," the letter reads. "We hope that the state acts immediately to comply with court orders and ensure that children in foster care are receiving proper care and are placed in safe, licensed homes."

Got a tip? Email Toluwani Osibamowo at You can follow Toluwani on X @tosibamowo.

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Toluwani Osibamowo is a general assignments reporter for KERA. She previously worked as a news intern for Texas Tech Public Media and copy editor for Texas Tech University’s student newspaper, The Daily Toreador, before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She is originally from Plano.