Texas Department of Family and Protective Services
Advisory Council Meeting
January 18, 2008, 9:00 a.m.
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) Advisory Council met in Public Hearing Room 125-E of the John H. Winters Building, 701 West 51st Street, Austin, Texas. Council Members present were Chair Ommy Strauch, Vice Chair Imogen Papadopoulos, Gigi Edwards Bryant, Debbie Epperson, Paul Furukawa, Richard Hoffman, and Faith Johnson. Not present were Linda Bell Robinson and Mamie Salazar-Harper.
Also present was Commissioner Carey Cockerell and Department staff.
Agenda Item 1 – Call to Order
Call to order at 9:02 a.m. by Chair Ommy Strauch.
Agenda Item 2 – Reading, Correction and Approval of Minutes of October 5, 2007 regular Meeting*
Judge Johnson moved approval of the minutes, and Ms. Bryant seconded the motion. There was no further discussion, and the minutes were approved as distributed. Ms. Papadopoulos noted that since she was not present for the October 2007 meeting, she abstained from voting.
Agenda Item 3 – Public Testimony
Max Taylor, Chief Executive Officer of Advance Child Care, Inc., Corsicana, Texas, declared his approval of fingerprint/background checks and stated that such a measure has much merit even if only one child is protected. He noted; however, that there are numerous gaps and inconsistencies in the rule which the Council should address. Mr. Taylor stated that the rule is very confusing when dealing with existing versus new employees. He believes compliance will be nearly impossible for some child care centers and that regulation by CCL representatives will be quite difficult.
Mr. Taylor believes that portions of the rule are not realistic since many Texas child care centers often need new employees immediately and will not have the ability to process background checks on prospective employees in a timely manner. Many day care centers use their applicant lists to hire substitute teachers. If a few teachers are out due to illness, the centers will no longer be able to quickly hire temporary replacements because the rule requires that background checks be completed 48 hours in advance of employment. Mr. Taylor stated that in such circumstances, day care centers will be forced to either be below the child/teacher ratio or to hire substitute teachers “under the table.”
Mr. Taylor further stated that background checks are too costly for child care centers, and that many parents cannot afford to cover these expenses either. Mr. Taylor believes the rule is unnecessarily duplicative since a person must be fingerprinted in order to obtain a Texas driver’s license, and that day care centers would be required to spend $44 for each fingerprint/ background check that already exists in the DPS database.
Mr. Taylor opined that most abuse occurs in the day-home industry, not the child care industry, He stated, “if this law needs to be fixed, we can fix it, but we don’t want 10,000 solutions from 10,000 vendors. We want one workable solution”. Mr. Taylor concluded by stating that the Council should take the lead to support the day care centers by arriving at one good solution.
Debra Taylor, Center Management Director of Advance Child Care, Inc., Corsicana, Texas, stated that the fingerprint/background checks place huge burdens on the rural communities of Texas. She explained that although the company that performs the fingerprinting, Integrated Biometric Technology (IBT), has 66 locations in the state, the closest for Navarro, Ellis County, is in Waxahachie, 45 minutes to one hour away, and its business hours are 8:00 to 4:30 Monday through Friday. Ms. Taylor noted that the cost for fingerprinting is $44.20. This figure does not include the time and gas expense to and from the IBT facility.
Ms. Taylor’s organization had been informed that IBT would go to a child care facility requiring 30 or more sets of fingerprints; yet, when Texas Licensed Child Care Association (TLCCA) attempted to obtain fingerprinting for nearly 500 people in Dallas in November, IBT refused to go to their facility. Ms. Taylor believes that DFPS should not contract with only one company to perform fingerprinting for the entire state. There are currently approximately 10,000 day care centers in Texas, employing more than 100,000 people in total, and IBT stands to gain nearly $1 million. DPS could attain in excess of $1.5 million through fingerprinting/background check services annually. Ms. Taylor further noted that CCL told her organization that Navarro County Sheriff’s Department and local law enforcement agencies do not perform FBI electronic fingerprinting, but when she contacted the sheriff herself, she was informed that his department does do fingerprinting. Therefore, Ms. Taylor believes that fingerprinting could be performed locally in Navarro County.
Dawn Leach, Director of the Austin Community College Children’s Lab School, spoke regarding the FBI background checks. She supports FBI background checks for childcare providers and believes that it is an important step in safeguarding children. She noted some difficulties in implementation of the new law and said she will support some of the recommendations to be made to the Council by CCL staff in today’s meeting.
Ms. Leach represents community college training grounds for students who are preparing to become professional childcare providers. She explained that between 100 and 200 students are placed at ACC’s field work site per year for lab work. These students, while under supervision of the lab’s teachers, either observe or actually work with the children. Ms. Leach believes that background checks will be quite costly and could place financial burdens on students and/or educational institutions. She suggested there may be ways to safeguard children within the lab settings by requiring only those students who might be left alone with children to actually submit to background checks.
Ms. Leach agreed with today’s earlier testimony regarding encouraging fingerprint contractors to be flexible about their hours, as well as forms of payment. She noted that because a contractor required a personal check and would not accept credit cards or other means of payment, her group waited two weeks for its account to be set up in order to have background checks performed.
Monica Carney, Director/Owner of Tree House Academy in Arlington, stated that while she supports background checks, her biggest concern is staff. She reminded the Council that the staff turnover rate is already very high in Texas, and she suggested that in order to hire quality staff, childcare centers must be able to provide them with as few personal costs as feasible. Out-of-pocket expenses currently incurred by Ms. Carney’s staff include $30 for CPR and first-aid and $35 for a City of Arlington childcare class. Adding $40 to $50 for fingerprinting to these other expenses will cost a teacher who earns $7.50 to $8 per hour approximately $100. Ms. Carney believes that this added cost is unreasonable and could affect the quality of care in her center.
Ms. Carney spoke with the Nurses Association of North Texas, which works with a company called L-1 Identity, whose cost for fingerprinting is $9.95. This is an expense most childcare providers could afford. Ms. Carney concluded by stating that she does the best she can to provide quality care. She requested that Council do research to find a fingerprint contractor whose cost is more reasonable in order to provide children the quality and safety they deserve.
Sharon Jorgeson, representing Catholic Charities of Houston, spoke regarding the impact of fire inspections on her agency’s adoption and foster care programs. Her agency experiences difficulty not only in retaining long-term foster homes but also in advising prospective foster care providers about fire inspections. Individual fire marshals within the numerous jurisdictions of the Houston metropolitan area have their own rules and regulations when conducting fire inspections of foster homes. Ms. Jorgeson stated that one fire marshal may have requirements that differ from another fire marshal’s. Ms. Jorgeson also expressed frustration with the fact that there is no uniformity regarding the cost of a fire inspection.
Ms. Jorgeson reminded the Council that most foster care providers are not families of great means, and they foster because they truly care about children. These providers use the foster care program reimbursement in order to meet children’s needs. Many families are finding it more difficult to provide foster care, because they are expected to spend more and more money to comply with all the requirements.
One of her agency’s major concerns is the length of time it takes an inspector to complete a fire inspection once a foster family has paid the $135 administration and permit fees. The application states that it could take up to 90 days for an inspection appointment. Ms. Jorgeson noted the cases of two foster families who each waited six months before their inspections were completed, a situation which is very discouraging for a new foster family waiting to become certified.
Ms. Jorgeson reported that the lack of uniformity among the many jurisdictions in her area makes her agency’s job very time consuming and creates a maze of frustration when determining what is required by whom and what families need to do. She agreed with the recommended rule change to allow fire inspections for foster family homes to be conducted by Texas Commission on Fire Prevention-certified fire inspectors.
Arlene Fisher, Director of Child Welfare with DePelchin Children’s Center in Houston, also asked the Council to approve the rule change relating to fire inspections in order to allow inspections to be conducted by state-certified fire safety inspectors. Ms. Fisher echoed the comments of previous speakers today concerning the long time delay and the unpredictability or lack of uniformity of costs of fire inspections.
Ms. Fisher explained that her agency has had new foster families who have spent in excess of $8,000 in order to become fire safety compliant so that they can be foster care providers. She cited the case of an existing foster family who spent $1,500 for a gas inspection, repairs and a new hot water heater and $4,500 to replace its air-conditioning system, which was safe but not up to the current code. She noted that these situations could discourage most existing, as well as prospective, foster families because of the huge expenses they would have to pay out of pocket.
In conclusion, Ms. Fisher discussed the cases of two long-time foster families who, because they each had four unrelated children in their care, were defined by the fire marshall as group homes and were informed that they must have sprinkler as well as manual-pull fire alarm systems, at approximate costs of $20,000, in order to be in compliance. Neither family felt they could afford these expenses, thus they each needed to remove one foster child so that they would not be defined as a group home. One of the two families had medical needs foster children. The other family had children who had previous behavior issues, and both families had to make painfully difficult decisions as to which child to remove from their care.
Irene Clements, President of Texas Foster Family Association (TFFA), presented the Council with handouts and discussed TFFA’s upcoming “Walk Me Home to Where I Belong” 5-K walk, scheduled for May 3, 2008, which will be held in seven locations across Texas in conjunction with the National Foster Parent Association. She asked Council members to support this recruitment effort and opportunity to publicize information about foster care and the need for foster and adoptive parents. Ms. Clements stated that DFPS and various agencies will attend the events, which will also provide some much needed funds for not only TFFA but also for the local foster parent associations in each of the seven areas so that more training can be provided to foster families. The additional funding will also increase the number of scholarships to children in foster care and to the adopted and biological children of foster families.
Ms. Clements then discussed the rule regarding fire inspections and expressed her desire that the Council agree to the rule changes. She asked that timelier and lower-cost inspections be offered. She noted her personal experience as a foster parent living near Seguin and explained that the nearest fire marshal was in Del Rio. She had to schedule her fire inspections at least three months in advance. Because foster homes were low on the priority list, her inspections often would not be done as scheduled, and she would find herself out of compliance. Ms. Clements stated that this situation occurs with foster families every day around the state.
Ms. Clements discussed the latest bulletin from the state fire marshal and expressed frustration with the current rules and definitions of what constitutes group homes and foster family homes. She thanked Commissioner Cockerell and DFPS staff for their valiant, albeit unsuccessful, fight with the state fire marshal and the commissioner of the Texas Department of Insurance in order to determine how to separate foster families from the rules that apply to residential board and care facilities. Ms. Clements remarked on the lack of uniformity between the rules which apply to foster homes and those applying to foster group homes. She reminded the Council that according to DFPS, a group home has seven or more unrelated children, yet the fire marshal’s rule considers a home with four or more unrelated children to be a group home.
Ms. Clements cited the case of two medically fragile children who had to be removed from a foster home with six children in order to meet the fire inspector’s capacity rule. Both children had been in the home more than four years. She opined that the new rules are unrealistic where such things as sprinkler systems, interconnected fire alarms, automatic fire doors and fire boards on the walls are concerned. She noted that although some existing group foster homes and foster families may be grandfathered under the new rules, it will be nearly impossible to find new homes and families who are not only willing but also financially capable of fostering groups of three or more siblings. Ms. Clements concluded that TFFA is very concerned about the current rule and will be working toward some type of solution during the next session of the legislature. She then expressed her hope that the Council would provide some support in these endeavors.
Aaryce Hayes, Policy Specialist with Advocacy, Inc. in Austin, spoke regarding the rule changes relating to investigations in TDMHMR facilities and related programs. She reminded Council members that when she last spoke before them, it was to request delaying adoption of the rules being presented again today. She thanked the Council and APS staff for their willingness to delay adoption of the rules which govern the investigations of abuse, neglect and exploitation in HCS programs and facilities.
Ms. Hayes explained that one of her agency’s biggest concerns is who should be notified when the head of a facility is an alleged perpetrator of abuse. Delayed adoption of the rules provided additional time for APS staff and Advocacy, Inc. to negotiate the issue with DADS. She noted that while she regrets that a resolution is yet to be reached, the issue is still being discussed and all parties will continue to pursue a satisfactory resolution to ensure the protection of residents. Ms. Hayes believes the Council’s decision to delay adoption of the rules is a clear indication of Council’s investment in the integrity of the process, and she appreciates the very strong statement that is made by such action on the part of Council members and APS staff.
Ms. Hayes stated that she intends to work to educate policy makers regarding this particular issue of potential conflicts of interest. She believes that in order to attain the kind of protection desired, more resources and additional collaboration between all involved agencies will be required. She concluded by noting how much Advocacy Inc. appreciates the collaborative relationship they have with DFPS.
Mary Jamsek, with the Priscilla Pond Flawn Child and Family Laboratory, UT-Austin, echoed Ms. Leach’s comments, support and concerns regarding FBI background checks for students in classrooms. Ms. Jamsek informed the Council that the lab has up to 300 students per semester who, while not counted in the adult/child ratio, are in classrooms once a week. These students merely observe and have no interaction with children.
Ms. Jamsek believes that background checks would be cumbersome for students who are in the lab for only one semester and financially taxing for either the students or the lab. Ms. Jamsek remarked that the safety of children is paramount. She supports all the recommended safety measures; however, she also believes that learning experiences the students have are valuable, and she thinks the two can co-exist.
William Cox, Board of Directors Secretary, Texas Association of Child Placing Agencies (TACPA), spoke of his association’s support of DFPS’s efforts regarding the fire inspection rule, and he encouraged the Council to extend those efforts by creating statewide uniform guidelines on what is expected in foster home fire inspections.
Monica Carney addressed the Council again, this time in her capacity as the First Vice President-Elect of the Board of Directors of the Texas Licensed Child Care Association (TLCCA). Ms. Carney expressed her association’s support of the proposed rules regarding fingerprinting and background checks, and she thanked the DFPS staff for their efforts to mitigate the numerous concerns childcare operators have identified since the passage of the law.
Ms. Carney reminded the Council that implementation of any significant change often generates many questions. She noted that while DFPS has worked to answer many questions, some level of confusion remains. She encouraged DFPS to do whatever is necessary to ensure that all CCL representatives have clear and consistent guidance as child care centers in the state move forward in complying with the new rules. Ms. Carney stated that over the past few months, TLCCA members have reported receiving conflicting information from DFPS field staff, a situation which underscores the need for strong, uniform training of Agency staff regarding the new rules.
Ms. Carney said she knows that DFPS recognizes the challenges that rural child care facilities face when trying to gain access to DPS facilities that have digital fingerprint technology. She asked that the Agency monitor these rural parts of the state. She also noted the high turnover rate in the child care profession and asked the Council to continue to partner with TLCCA to ensure ease of mobility from facility to facility within the industry. In conclusion, Ms. Carney pledged TLCCA’s partnership with DFPS to ensure that those required to be fingerprinted and have criminal background checks get them, and that all operators are educated regarding the new rules.
4. Agency Briefings
4.a. PEI Calendar – Jeannie Coale, PCS
Jeannie Coale, Assistant Commissioner for Purchased Client Services, presented the 2008 Prevention and Early Intervention (PEI) calendar for the prevention of child abuse, titled “Family Building Blocks: Positive Parenting from A to Z.” She recognized and thanked Donna Norris of the PEI division and Tera Stone from the media department of the Center for Consumer and External Affairs for getting the calendar published in a timely manner.
Ms. Coale reported that the division received over 1,200 orders for calendars and distributed 500,000 calendars this year. She noted that the number is up from approximately 193,000 in 2007. Most agencies that request calendars serve individuals at high risk for abuse and neglect. About 25 percent of calendar requests come from agencies, such as churches, medical facilities and schools, who serve the general population.
Ms. Coale stated that Region 3 requested 100,000 calendars, noting that the superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District considered the 2007 calendars most helpful and ordered more for 2008. Since Dallas ISD is considering printing some 2009 calendars, Ms. Coale’s division is planning to investigate whether other agencies could be allowed to print additional calendars for the same price that DFPS has them printed.
Ms. Coale pointed out that the 2008 calendar was endorsed by the Texas Pediatric
Society, which is the Texas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She also noted some of the calendar’s sponsors, including AT&T who contributed the most and solicited all of the other donations. In addition to a slight increase in the DFPS budget for the 2008 calendar, these sponsorships enabled the Agency to print an additional 160,000 copies. Ms. Coale informed the Council that AT&T has expressed interest in assisting DFPS with the 2009 calendar and will begin the solicitation process earlier to provide more volunteers in support of that effort.
Ms. Coale explained that both English and Spanish versions of the calendar can be downloaded from the PEI website. She concluded her presentation by pointing out the community resources page on the back cover of the calendar.
Ms. Papadopoulos suggested including the attorneys ad litem, who represent children in the managing conservatorship of CPS, in the distribution of the PEI calendar. She also inquired about the cost to print the calendars. Ms. Coale stated that they are 37 cents per copy.
Dr. Furukawa thanked Ms. Coale and Ms. Norris and Ms. Stone and noted that they were instrumental in a test distribution of the 2007 PEI calendar during the Children’s Association for Maximum Potential Summer 2007 Camp (CAMP) program in Center Point, TX. More than 800 campers attended this camp for children with special needs, and the calendars were given away at check-out. Dr. Furukawa said the calendars will more than likely again be distributed at the camp this year. He also stated that an online survey was conducted of all the parents and one of the questions involved the PEI calendar and its usefulness. The responses were overwhelmingly positive.
4.b. APS Community Satisfaction Survey – Karl Urban, APS
Karl Urban, Assistant Commissioner for Adult Protective Services, discussed the survey report which he believes to be a great success story. Mr. Urban stated that the success is due to the new initiatives implemented as a result of APS division reform and due also to the efforts by APS Community Engagement Specialist Rachel Wilson and APS Director of Field Operations Susan Thomson, who have created a network of support for community engagement in the field. Mr. Urban believes the report represents a real collaborative effort with state office. He credited APS Policy and Program Development Project Manager Lori Henry and Research Specialist Nora Douglas for their input in the overall methodology, design and analysis of the survey.
Mr. Urban provided some background on the survey and reminded the Council that the APS reform legislation placed an emphasis on greater community engagement. As a result, community engagement specialists, who strengthen and develop partnerships in their communities, have been placed in each region of the state. Mr. Urban noted that the reform legislation also mandated that DFPS perform an evaluation of this community engagement effort. This report represents the third such evaluation survey performed by APS. The survey allows APS at the state level to assess how successful the division’s efforts are at the local level and provides ideas about what direction to focus on in the future. Perhaps more importantly, the survey provides information at the regional level which can be used to develop regional community engagement plans.
Mr. Urban highlighted the two major conclusions resulting from this year’s survey: 1) APS community engagement efforts and local outreach activities are very effective; and 2) 2007 overall results were improved over those from 2006, particularly in the area of law enforcement. Mr. Urban reported that APS is in the process of developing community engagement plans for 2008 which will focus on increased collaborations with law enforcement and judicial personnel, as well as the financial and mental health communities. These plans will call for active participation in local service provider coalitions focusing on issues involving vulnerable adults, such as hoarding and financial exploitation. Plans also call for continued communication with judicial communities.
Mr. Urban announced that the Texas Partners for APS, a state-level organization which Council member Imogene Papadopoulos has been active in developing, is up and running. He explained that this organization will bring many new opportunities for APS. In conclusion, Mr. Urban expressed his belief that, as reflected in this year’s survey report, overall community engagement efforts have had great success.
Ms. Papadopoulos asked who APS’s community partners are, and Mr. Urban replied that they are anyone at the local levels with whom APS has ongoing relationships in order to serve APS clients. He gave examples that partnerships would include: law enforcement agencies needing to conduct investigations, the judicial professionals APS works with in guardianship cases, area agencies on aging, and APS-established community boards that assist in providing additional resources.
Ms. Papadopoulos queried whether the business community would be included in community outreach, and Mr. Urban affirmed that it would, particularly at the local community board level.
Mr. Hoffman asked whether judicial partnerships involve only judges, and Mr. Urban said “yes”. He added that because these are probate judges, who often are considered skeptics, follow-up is an integral part of the process.
As a point of clarification, Chair Strauch asked if action plans on identified issues vary from region to region since the survey results are by region. Mr. Urban responded in the affirmative. Ms. Strauch requested the survey results from Region 8, and Mr. Urban said he would provide her a copy.
4.c. Commissioner’s Report – Carey D. Cockerell
DFPS Commissioner Carey Cockerell introduced Dr. James Rogers, board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist, who is the first DFPS Medical Director, and announced that Dr. Rogers began work in that position December 3, 2007. The Commissioner explained that Dr. Rogers’ expertise will be beneficial in specific cases involving clients with medical and therapeutic needs, and as the Agency moves toward implementation of the healthcare delivery model in the coming months.
Commissioner Cockerell provided an update on Senate Bill (SB) 758 and said that DFPS has submitted the implementation report for the CPS improvement plan as outlined in Section 751 of the bill. He explained that the improvement plan is designed to enhance services for children and families and the plan, referred to as Reform 2, continues the progress made with the implementation of SB 6, from the 79th Legislature. The Commissioner noted that the CPS improvement plan has three primary goals: 1) Keeping families together while ensuring child safety in the home; 2) reducing the length of time children remain in state care, and; 3) improving the quality and accountability of foster care. He said that the report also includes implementation plans for other key elements of SB 758 and an update of continued efforts to improve Reform 1 activities.
As an illustration that implementation of SB 758 has already begun to have an effect, the Commissioner remarked that from March through November of 2007, the CPS census of children in care showed a decrease of nearly 1,900 children, a positive direction for the Agency toward the goal of keeping families together and reuniting them with their children quickly. He noted that census figure has dropped nearly 5 percent in CPA homes and approximately 22 percent in DFPS homes.
The Commissioner announced that APS has accomplished much during the biennium and is now moving beyond reform. With help from management support, APS has begun studying the effectiveness of the Tablet PCs, as well as other initiatives from the DFPS reform. He reported that the division is pressing forward to improve investigations and service delivery and is also conducting an evaluation of reform accomplishments.
Commissioner Cockerell announced that he concluded his third tour of the state and regional offices in December 2007; he commended staff for achievements reached since the 79th Legislature in DFPS reforms, including the new minimum standards of CCL, strengthening investigations and lowering case loads in CPS, and the 252 completed reforms, which represent 100 percent of what was required, in APS.
The Commissioner reported that, among other topics, the hiring of new staff was discussed during his visits. He predicted that by the end of the current biennium, the ranks of DFPS will have grown to nearly 11,000 staff. He noted that he discussed the challenges that accompany such growth in staff, such as space shortages, and he assured staff of the Agency’s commitment to strengthen both unit supervision and basic skills training for new staff. Commissioner Cockerel stated the regional visits have provided him the opportunity to have one-on-one visits with many staff and that he is continually impressed with staff’s dedication to clients and the mission of the Agency.
Commissioner Cockerell discussed background checks and announced that the Centralized Background Check Unit, which has been formed as part of the CPS improvement plan, is operational. Twenty-eight of the thirty-four staff positions allocated for the unit have been filled. Temporary space has been established for the unit in the Ridgepoint offices while the Agency goes through the normal HHSC process required to set up a permanent location.
The Commissioner reported that fingerprint-based criminal history checks of day care directors began in September 2007, and the same checks on all day care providers are now being incorporated in the centralized process. He said CPS is on track for having the checks completed on all required entities, regardless of their renewal dates, by September 2009. In addition, the Commissioner reported that a toll-free number for providers to use is being set up and will be operational in the next few weeks. The Commissioner also announced that the consolidated rap sheet became available for use the first week of this month and, as a result, background check results are now completed and returned within 24 to 48 hours.
Commissioner Cockerell updated the Council regarding child placement and capacity figures. After reaching an alarmingly high number of children spending nights in CPS offices in May of 2007, the number finally began a steady decline, to only 11 children for December 2007. Thus far in January 2008, the number of children requiring overnight accommodations is 10, and those children were placed in alternative settings and not in CPS offices.
The Commissioner discussed the Stakeholder Forum initiative and reported that the first forum was held December 3, 2007, and was a success with an attendance rate of 63. He said two topics were presented at that forum. The “Strengthening Families Initiative” is a pilot program that proposes a model to offset certain poverty-related factors in order to assist families working with CPS to avoid having their children removed from their homes and to help speed the reunification of children with their families. The “Weighted Licensing Standards” is a CCL effort to address the challenge of recognizing the relative risks associated with standards violations by child care providers by implementing a weighted enforcement system that assigns a weight to individual minimum standards based on the risks to children. The Commissioner noted that the Stakeholder Forums will be held on a regular basis, and the next forum is scheduled for March 2008.
Commissioner Cockerell provided an update regarding the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR), an assessment conducted by the federal Administration for Children and Families (ACF). The CFSR is designed to identify strengths, as well as areas needing improvement, in state programs and systems, and it focuses on outcomes in the areas of safety, permanency and child and family well-being. He stated that after having completed the Program Improvement Plan (PIP) for Round 1 of the review, which spanned the period from 2002 through 2006, Texas did not meet two of the outcome measures, Permanency I and Well-being I. The Permanency I outcome has since been met; however, failing to meet the Well-being I outcome has resulted in a $4-million penalty. DFPS will appeal the findings of the CFSR through the federal appeals process and will work with and seek guidance from the Texas Congressional Delegation. DFPS is also working in collaboration with other states facing a similar situation. Commissioner Cockerell additionally noted that DFPS is raising concerns through the policy organization with the American Public Human Services Association, and he will keep the Council updated.
Commissioner Cockerell announced that Round 2 of the CFSR site visits in Texas will begin in March 2008 and will take place in Houston, Dallas and El Paso. He warned the Council that, as was the case with all other states in Round 1, Texas will probably again not pass. The Commissioner remarked that although most of the CFSR-required completions of standards were set at around 90 percent in Round 1 and no states met that percentage, the standards have now been raised to 95 percent for Round 2. He reminded the Council that the overriding aim of the CFSR is to improve services to children in all the states and DFPS is, of course, striving to achieve that goal for Texas.
The Commissioner concluded by reporting that Carolyn Bivens, Executive Director of the Texas Council of Child Welfare Boards, had planned to address the Council today regarding her organization’s strategic plan, but, due to scheduling conflicts, could not attend. He said he anticipates that she will be present for the July 2008 Council meeting.
Judge Johnson expressed her concern regarding the expense of a criminal background check and asked if the cost could somehow be reduced or if there are any existing grants that could be used to assist providers in this effort. Commissioner Cockerell said although he isn’t aware of any grant monies that could be utilized, he will look into that possibility.
4.d. Chair’s Report – Ommy Strauch
DFPS Council Chair Ommy Strauch thanked Dr. Furukawa for his efforts as Council liaison in the continuing endeavor to attract and retain DFPS employees. Ms. Strauch announced that Council members Linda Robinson and Debbie Epperson, have volunteered to work on the Enterprise Strategic Planning subcommittee and will keep the Council informed as to its progress.
Chair Strauch introduced Wynne Breece, DFPS Advisory Council Assistant, and noted that Ms. Breece has already proved to be quite an asset to the Agency. Ms. Strauch elaborated on Council member Epperson’s involvement in enlisting AT&T to help acquire funding for the PEI calendars and noted that having that type of business support and credibility was invaluable in gaining support from other donors.
Chair Strauch read a note, addressed to DFPS Advisory Council members and staff and herself, in which Council member Judge Faith Johnson thanked them for their prayers and acts of kindness following the death of her father, whose life motto was, “Be kind to one another.”
In conclusion, Chair Strauch asked for input from other Council members. Judge Johnson praised Joyce James, as well as CPS directors and staff, and noted how impressed she has been with the division’s activities.
Agenda Item 5 – New Business
5.a. Recommendation to propose rule changes in 40 TAC, Chapter 745, Licensing, relating to background checks and educational exemptions – Diana Spiser, CCL*
Diana Spiser, Assistant Commissioner for Child Care Licensing, presented the proposed changes and noted that they are to support statutory changes to background checks and to implement statutory changes to educational exemptions. Ms. Spiser asked that the Council recommend to Commissioner Cockerell and Executive Commissioner Hawkins that the rule be proposed and published in the Texas Register for public comment.
Chair Strauch called for a motion, and Mr. Hoffman moved that the Council recommend for proposal by the HHSC the amendments, repeal and new section concerning background checks and educational exemptions as reflected in the Council’s January 18, 2008 Agenda Item 5.a.. Chair Strauch asked for a second to the motion, and Dr. Furukawa provided one.
Ms. Papadopoulos expressed concern regarding the use of only one contractor to perform fingerprinting and the costs associated with the background checks, and she asked Ms. Spiser to comment. Ms. Spiser said that when this legislative action was first proposed in February 2007, CCL staff realized implementation would be a huge undertaking, so they immediately began working with both DFPS IT staff and the Department of Public Safety (DPS) on the project, and it soon became clear that there were certain things that DFPS staff would and would not be able to do. Ms. Spiser said one of the first things investigated was the idea of using fingerprints obtained by DPS in the process of issuing driver’s licenses, but, because only thumbprints are collected, that would not be acceptable for either the DPS or the FBI for a background check.
Ms. Spiser explained that one concern was whether there would be enough DPS contracted IBT sites across the state to ensure that providers could conveniently send their staff or applicants to be fingerprinted, and DFPS is still working closely with DPS and IBT in this effort. She said they also addressed the issue raised earlier today regarding whether students in lab settings would be included in those requiring background checks and, as long as these students are in classrooms with other teachers and/or professionals and are merely observing, they will not be required to be fingerprinted.
Ms. Spiser explained that the cost of fingerprinting and background checks is not controlled by DFPS and that none of the money received comes to DFPS; DPS receives $15, the FBI receives $24, and IBT receives $9.95 for conducting each fingerprint scan. Ms. Spiser said the cost to have background checks performed on all day care staff in the state was estimated at about $5.5 million and, since none of the money generated in the process would come to DFPS, no funds were allocated to the Agency in order to perform the function. She added that because hundreds of thousands of background checks will be performed each year, they tried to look into as many different options as possible in order to implement the process smoothly.
Judge Johnson queried whether the option of obtaining some kind of underwriting to help fund the process had been considered, and Ms. Spiser said although that is one idea that has not been investigated thoroughly, it will be.
Ms. Bryant suggested that when the proposed rule is published for comment, some explanation should be provided to make people aware that none of the money generated through the background checks comes to DFPS. Ms. Spiser said staff would do that and noted that they are trying to include as much information as possible on the Agency website. She added that CCL conducted meetings across the state throughout the summer in order to assist providers in preparation for the change in the rules.
Ms. Spiser stated that DPS is exploring establishing a clearinghouse for background checks because child care providers and staff will not be the only people required to have them performed. Background checks will also be required for realtors and school teachers, as well as many other professionals. She noted that even employing the use of some kind of clearinghouse would have some type of fee associated. There was no other discussion, and the motion carried unanimously.
5.b. Recommendation to propose rule changes in 40 TAC, Chapter 749, Child-Placing Agencies, relating to fire inspections in foster homes – Diana Spiser, CCL*
Diana Spiser discussed the proposed rule changes, which will help to facilitate fire inspections in foster homes. Ms. Spiser requested that the Council recommend to Commissioner Cockerell and Executive Commissioner Hawkins that these rule changes be proposed and published for public comment.
Ms. Bryant moved that the Council recommend for proposal by HHSC the amendments concerning fire inspections in foster homes as related to the Council’s January 18, 2008 Agenda Item 5.b., and Mr. Hoffman seconded.
Ms. Bryant asked if it would be possible to make the fire code match the state rules in regard to number of children in a foster home. Ms. Spiser replied that CCL has worked diligently on this issue. She noted that Commissioner Cockerell met with the Commissioner of the Department of Insurance, the umbrella agency for the state fire marshal’s department, and that all parties will continue working together in order to resolve the issue. No further discussion ensued, and the motion carried unanimously.
Agenda Item 6 – Old Business
6.a. Recommendation to adopt rule changes in 40 TAC, Chapter 711, Investigations in TDMHMR Facilities and Related Programs – Karl Urban, APS*
Karl Urban presented the rule changes and thanked Aaryce Hayes for her help during the process. Mr. Urban asked the Council to recommend to Commissioner Cockerell and Executive Commissioner Hawkins that these rules be adopted to be effective March 1, 2008.
Judge Johnson moved that the Council move for adoption by HHSC the amendments, repeal and new section concerning investigations in TDMHMR facilities and related programs, as reflected in the Council’s January 18, 2008 Agenda Item 6.a..
Ms. Papadopoulos, in her second to the motion, requested an amendment to the motion in the form of the following additional statement: “The implementation of § 711.401(b) has generated some concern from the Council. This rule informs the DFPS investigator who is to be notified of an abuse/neglect allegation when the allegation is against the CEO/administrator for a home- and community-based waiver program. The rule requires the DFPS investigator to provide the notice within one hour to make sure the client is safe. It is agreed that the notice should not be provided directly to the CEO/administrator that the allegation is against. The DFPS Council believes that the most effective option is predesignation of a designee in these types of situations in order to safeguard the client. While DADS and Advocacy, Inc. have been working on a solution to this problem, as of this date, a solution has not been reached. The DFPS Council recommends that the Executive Commissioner review this issue and facilitate a resolution to the problem.” Judge Johnson noted her acceptance of the amendment to her original motion.
Chair Strauch queried whether the amended motion is acceptable, and Gerry Williams, DFPS General Counsel, responded affirmatively. No further discussion ensued, and the amended motion passed unanimously.
6.b. Recommendation to adopt rule changes in 40 TAC, Child Protective Services, Chapter 700, Subchapter H, Adoption Assistance Program, relating to the New Health Coverage Benefit Stipend Program – Beth Engelking, CPS*
Beth Engelking, CPS Support Manager, discussed these rule changes and noted that all public comments received have been addressed. Ms. Engelking requested the Council to recommend to Commissioner Cockerell and Executive Commissioner Hawkins adoption of the rule changes, to be effective March 1, 2008.
Ms. Epperson moved that the Council recommend for adoption by HHSC the new sections concerning the Health Coverage Benefit Stipend Program, as reflected in the Council’s January 18, 2008 Agenda Item 6.b, and Judge Johnson seconded. There was no further discussion, and the motion carried unanimously.
6.c. Recommendation to adopt rule changes in 40 TAC, Chapter 700, §§700.203, 700.1351, 700.1403, 700.1404, relating to Medical Consent for Children in Conservatorship – Beth Engelking, CPS*
Beth Engelking presented the proposed rule changes and reported that no public comments were received. Ms. Engelking requested the Council to recommend to Commissioner Cockerell and Executive Commissioner Hawkins adoption of the rules as presented, to be effective March 1, 2008.
Mr. Hoffman moved that the Council recommend for adoption by the HHSC the amendments concerning medical consent for children in conservatorship, as reflected in the Council’s January 18, 2008 Agenda Item 6.c, and Judge Johnson seconded. There was no further discussion, and the motion passed unanimously.
6.d. Recommendation to adopt rule changes in 40 TAC, Chapter 700, Strengthening Families Through Enhanced In-Home Support Program – Beth Engelking, CPS*
Beth Engelking discussed the proposed rule changes, and she noted that the public comments received have been addressed. Ms. Engelking asked the Council to recommend to Commissioner Cockerell and Executive Commissioner Hawkins that these rules be adopted to be effective March 1, 2008.
Judge Johnson moved that the Council recommend for adoption by the HHSC the new sections concerning the Strengthening Families Through Enhanced In-Home Support Program, as reflected in the Council’s January 18, 2008 Agenda Item 6.d, and Ms. Epperson seconded. After brief discussion and thanks to all involved in this project, the motion passed unanimously.
6.e. Recommendation to adopt rule changes in 40 TAC, Chapter 746, Minimum Standards for Child-Care Centers, relating to the support and inclusive care of children with special needs – Diana Spiser, CCL*
Diana Spiser presented the proposed rule changes and said that all public comments received have been addressed. Ms. Spiser asked that the Council recommend to Commissioner Cockerell and Executive Commissioner Hawkins that the rule be adopted as presented, to be effective March 1, 2008.
Dr. Furukawa moved that the Council recommend for adoption by the HHSC the amendments concerning the support and inclusive care of children with special needs in child-care centers, as reflected in the Council’s January 18, 2008 Agenda Item 6.e, and Ms. Bryant provided a second.
Chair Strauch thanked Ms. Spiser and CCL Policy and Program Operations Director Sasha Rasco and CCL staff for their efforts in this rule overhaul process. Chair Strauch requested as an amendment to the motion the following statement: “The Council wishes to express the concerns that have been brought to our attention by our constituents regarding the reported delays of the US Department of Justice (DOJ) investigations when they are investigating ADA claims in child-care centers. These claims, we’re told, can take up to two years to investigate. This is such an important issue related to the special needs of children that we recommend to the Executive Commissioner that he take whatever steps are available to him to communicate to the DOJ the importance of these cases and our deep concern over this issue and the need to expedite these kinds of cases.” Dr. Furukawa and Ms. Bryant agreed to the amendment to the original motion. There was no further discussion, and the motion carried unanimously.
6.f. Recommendation to adopt rule changes in 40 TAC, Chapter 745, Licensing; Chapter 746, Minimum Standards for Child-Care Centers; Chapter 748, General Residential Operations and Residential Treatment Centers, and; Chapter 749, Child-Placing Agencies – Diana Spiser, CCL*
Diana Spiser discussed the proposed changes intended to aid in implementation of legislation passed during the 80th Legislature. She noted that all public comments received have been addressed. Ms. Spiser asked that the Council recommend to Commissioner Cockerell and Executive Commissioner Hawkins that these rule changes be adopted to be effective March 1, 2008.
Ms. Papadopoulos recommended that the Council move for adoption by the HHSC the amendments, new sections and repeals concerning licensing, minimum standards in child-care centers, general residential operations and residential treatment centers and child-placing agencies, as reflected in the Council’s January 18, 2008 Agenda Item 6.f. Ms. Epperson provided a second to the motion. There was no further discussion, and the motion carried unanimously.
Chair Strauch adjourned the meeting at 11:09 a.m.
* Denotes Action Item