A linchpin provider of Texas’ budding plan to privatize the placement of foster youth across the massive state has dealt a blow to the concept by unexpectedly walking away from its contract with the Department of Family and Protective Services.
Family Tapestry’s decision means the state must resume responsibility for the task in the Bexar County (San Antonio) region — the first in the state to launch privatization — while, and if, it looks for a new provider.
If the conditions that Family Tapestry cited for abandoning the partnership continue to prevail, Texas may be in for a hard time attracting new bidders to provide community-based care, even as the state’s current plans call for expanding privatization of foster placement in the Dallas area next year.
Tapestry, which is affiliated with the 120-year-old nonprofit The Children’s Shelter, said the state’s reimbursement rate is unsustainably low and that there are more lucrative opportunities available to contract with the federal government to care for a months-old surge of unaccompanied Central American children crossing the Texas-Mexican border in search of asylum or refuge.
In addition, there is what more than one industry insider called a “catastrophic” shortage of beds for foster kids, partly because of the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to children in the state’s care sleeping in the offices or hotel rooms. Before October, the number of youth experiencing such a situation had only ever breached 100 once, in May of 2019. By November 2020 the number had reached 126, and more recently has skyrocketed past 200.
Meanwhile, Family Tapestry and another early contractor, serving Fort Worth, suffered black eyes recently when they were excoriated by a federal judge overseeing a settlement agreement in a decades-old lawsuit against the state.
Despite the early stumbles in the privatization effort, Republican lawmakers and providers have encouraged Texas to stick to the plan, according to the Dallas Morning News.