DFPS facing class action lawsuit: House county affairs committee holds hearing

State Lawmakers taking look at state foster care system
(Source: KCBD)
(Source: KCBD)
(Source: KCBD)
(Source: KCBD)
Camille Gilliam (Source: KCBD)
Camille Gilliam (Source: KCBD)
Dustin Burrows, R. Lubbock (Source: KCBD)
Dustin Burrows, R. Lubbock (Source: KCBD)

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Lubbock hosted state lawmakers today at Texas Tech School of Law.

They wanted to get a West Texas perspective on issues that could be addressed in the upcoming legislation session.

One of those issues is the state Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS).

A lawsuit has been brought against Texas DFPS, alleging abuse of children while in state care.

A federal judge has called the state's foster care system broken and two cases listed in that lawsuit against CPS are from Lubbock and Levelland.

According to a federal judge, Texas violates children's 14th Amendment rights to be free from harm while in state custody.

The lawsuit refers to a Lubbock plaintiff removed from his mother at age 5 because of neglect and drug abuse.

Despite having achieved stability at some points, the suit claims he was placed in homes where he was continually abused.

Representative Dustin Burrows says the details in the lawsuit are shocking.

"I'm outraged that this happened," Burrows says. "You read the 17 different stories that she says represents what's happening in here and it's outrageous and it has to be stopped."

According to the lawsuit, representatives of a child in a Levelland facility reported alleged abuse to regulators.

Director of permanence for CPS, Camille Gilliam, says they take abuse allegations seriously.

"Anytime there is an allegation of abuse or neglect, residential child care licensing which is a different division of our agency, residential child care licensing is called in to investigate that report," Gilliam said. "And certainly, if there is a finding then that's dealt with...we don't do business with people who abuse children."

However, the lawsuit alleges that Residential Child Care Licensing dismissed claims without thorough investigation.

Burrows says the foster care system also does good for children, but when children are taken from their homes, many are subjected to chaos and instability.

"What we've found is the children who don't get re-united with their homes or placed with their families or placed with relatives or adopted out, that get in these group homes, don't get any of that and it doesn't get better for them it gets worse," Burrows said.

"This is a very, very small percentage," Gilliam said. "The huge majority of our caregivers do a wonderful job of caring for our children, that being said, we are concerned and we will always take action if we believe our children are at risk."

The lawsuit says there are 2,000 neglect and abuse incidents per year, for which there is a 75% investigation error rate.

The full lawsuit can be found here.

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