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New foster care safety rules approved

AUSTIN The Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) Council today approved a set of new safety-related rules designed to more thoroughly screen potential foster parents and other caregivers and more adequately protect foster children.

The rules for new and existing foster homes apply to the state's 220 foster child-placing agencies (CPAs), which are licensed by DFPS to operate networks of foster homes and to recruit, screen, train, and monitor the homes. It is the first substantive revision of CPA rules since 2007.

The rules approved today are expected to take effect Sept. 1 after a public comment period.

These rules significantly strengthen protections for our foster children, said Judge John Specia, DFPS Commissioner. Our focus is ensuring that we know who is in these homes and who may be around these children that could pose an unacceptable risk. These children deserve complete protection and safety.

For new foster homes, in addition to existing requirements (for example, interviews and criminal background checks of all adult family members and a safety assessment of the home) the rules require:

An additional interview of a family member not living in the home.

Two additional interviews of neighbors, clergy, school employees, and/or other community members.

Interviews of all adult children of foster parents.

An assessment of personal relationships of foster parents, and review of household finances.

Review of any law enforcement agency calls to the foster home for the past two years.

Verification of identity and background checks for any person designated as an emergency caregiver.

The new rules also require CPAs to more closely monitor existing foster homes for major changes in the household, including job losses, marriages, divorces, or the addition of any household members or frequent visitors.

The new rules are the result of a close collaboration between DFPS and foster care providers following an alarming increase in the number of abuse/neglect fatalities among foster children in Fiscal Year 2013. In FY 2013, eight foster children died from abuse/neglect in homes, compared to just two in FY 2012.

So far in FY 2014, which began Sept. 1, 2013, one child has died from abuse/neglect in foster care.

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