Texas Department of Family and Protective Services
Advisory Council Meeting
October 15, 2010
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) Advisory Council meeting was held October 15, 2010, in the John H. Winters Building Public Hearing Room 125-E, 701 West 51st Street, Austin, Texas. Members present were Chair Gigi Edwards Bryant, Vice Chair Imogen Papadopoulos, Past Chair Ommy Strauch, Debbie Epperson, Paul Furukawa, Tina Martin, Scott Rosenbach, and Mamie Salazar-Harper. Also present were Commissioner Anne Heiligenstein and department staff. Not present was Council member Linda Bell Robinson.
Agenda Item 1 Call to Order
Chair Gigi Edwards Bryant called the meeting to order at 9:04 am.
Agenda Item 2 - Reading, Correction. and Approval of Minutes of July 16, 2010 meeting
Ms. Strauch moved acceptance of the minutes as printed; Dr. Furukawa seconded. The minutes needed no corrections and were approved as presented.
Agenda Item 3 - Agency Briefings
3.a. Overview of Internal Audit Division - Paul Morris
Paul Morris, Internal Audit Director, presented an overview of the Internal Audit Division, beginning with an explanation of the Texas Internal Auditing Act that establishes guidelines for agencies having: an annual operating budget that exceeds $10 million, more than 100 FTEs (full time equivalents), and that process more than $10 million cash in a fiscal year.
Each of the Enterprise agencies within HHSC (Health and Human Services Commission) has an independent audit function, meaning that Internal Audit conducts audits primarily for DFPS, but will occasionally work in concert to address certain enterprise-wide risks. The Business Continuity & Emergency Preparedness plan is an example of a concerted effort.
The Internal Audit Charter defines the internal audit activity's purpose, authority and responsibility; and establishes the division's position within the agency. The charter is signed by the Commissioner, and reviewed annually by the Internal Audit Director for adequacy and appropriateness. An internal audit charter is a requirement of professional standards. Even though the auditor's access is unlimited, the safekeeping and confidentiality of all records and information in the auditor's possession is paramount.
Internal Audit is an independent, objective assurance and consulting activity that reports directly to the Commissioner and is independent of programs or divisions. Internal Audit partners with management by helping to ensure the adequacy of internal controls. Internal Audit is guided by multiple standards and state regulations, most notable of which is the International Professional Practices Framework (IIA) and Government Auditing Standards (GAO). Mr. Morris reiterated the importance of independence and objectivity, which is essential to fulfilling Internal Audit's duties. Generally speaking, Internal Audit helps management evaluate the effectiveness of internal controls and consults on implementation of controls.
Eighty percent of Internal Audit staff have achieved one or more professional certifications. Average experience of staff is approximately 13 years in service.
The Annual Audit Plan is developed from an agency wide risk assessment. Internal Audit focuses on: creating effective relationships and creating an environment of trust and reliance on the audit function to provide unbiased input for improving the control environment. Internal Audit presents at conferences when possible and utilizes the intranet to share audit reports, the status of the annual audit plan, organization charts and contact information, presentations conducted for program areas, and an annual report on audit efforts sent annually to the State Auditor.
Internal Audit is reviewed regularly by an independent peer review team that assesses compliance with audit standards. Internal Audit's most recent evaluation resulted in the rating of "Fully Complies", the highest possible rating. Audits may be financial or compliance-based as defined by the Texas Government Code, Title 3, Chapter 321 (State Auditor), and can also be a performance-based audit as defined by generally accepted government auditing standards.
Non-audit services are assessed for appropriateness and could include consulting services. Examples include process review and participation on agency workgroups. DFPS Internal Audit is sought out to provide such services to management – something we are proud of. Finally, Internal Audit acts as liaison to external oversight bodies at both the federal and state level.
State agencies are required to report fraud, waste and abuse. Additionally, DFPS has internal policy addressing the requirement to report fraud. The DFPS Fraud Policy, developed with input from management, General Counsel and Internal Audit, addresses expectations for staff in reporting fraud, waste and abuse. Key to avoiding, recognizing and reporting fraud, waste and abuse is awareness and education of the fraud policy.
3.b. Advisory Committee on Promoting Adoption of Minority Children Report - Bishop Aaron Blake, Pastor Russell Rogers
Bishop Blake provided the background for the Advisory Committee on Promoting Adoption of Minority Children (ACPAMC), explaining the committee was established to advise DFPS on policies and practices that affect the licensing and recruitment of families for minority children awaiting adoption. Specifically, the committee is charged with studying, developing and evaluating programs and projects relating to community awareness and education, family support, counseling, parenting skills and education, and reform of the child welfare system. Bishop Blake stated the committee has experienced a surge in the increase in awareness of the needs of foster and adoptive children, largely because of the partnerships and adoptive parents produced by the faith-based community initiative. The Department and committee have partnered with many faith-based communities across Texas. Bishop Blake introduced Pastor Russell Rogers of Terrell, founding and senior pastor of Trinity Life Baptist Church in Garland.
Pastor Rogers explained that adoption of HB 1489 in 2003 affirmed that the pool of resources for adoptive families comes from within faith-based communities. He and his wife have fostered more than 20 children, adopting three of them. Their adopted son, Casey Rogers is the boy who won the contest to "press the button" to implode the old Texas stadium. Casey, who started Casey's Heart, is an example of someone called to give back because someone gave to him. HB 1489 has changed the lives of children and families in Texas and has energized the faith-based community.
The Committee's first recommendation is for the Department to continue to seek funding for various resources and programs. The committee urges the department to seek funding for programs similar to the Minister-to-Minister contract launched in several counties in 2008. During this contract, 150 potential adoptive families were identified. The program was dropped in 2009.
Bishop Blake then presented recommendation number 2: Promote adoption through public awareness campaigns. Believing that communities should take ownership of their children, the committee has agreed to find ways to help promote public awareness and be involved in the department's "Why Not Me?" campaign. Faith-based communities are best approached at church on Sunday morning. Bishop Blake suggests customizing the slogan "Why Not me?" to "Why not a Church?" or "Why not a community?" Bishop Blake stated faith-based homes make better parents of children than the State of Texas.
After expressing appreciation to Commissioner Heiligenstein and commenting on his work as an appointee to the Texas Adoption Review Committee, Pastor Rogers presented the committee's third recommendation: that regional foster and adoption conferences be held in the coming year. Over the past three years, the committee had tried to organize a statewide faith-based conference, but funding was unavailable. The committee will instead focus on organizing economical regional conferences. Bishop Blake concluded with the statement that the committee backs the faith-based initiative movement.
Ms. Martin asked if anyone on the committee is from Region 11, the Rio Grande Valley area. Pastor Rogers replied that it is the intent of legislation to have each region represented. Six clergy are mandated to serve on the committee; at present, there are five. Ms. Martin will suggest someone from Region 11.
Ms. Papadopoulos asked for the committee's definition of faith-based community. Bishop Blake defined a member of the faith community as "any organized church ministry that is based upon a religious doctrine." Ms. Papadopoulos then asked what faiths are represented. Bishop Blake stated that the group is diverse. When searching for a pastor to serve, the committee looks at the nominee's experience in child welfare and their understanding of foster/adoption issues, rather than what denomination they represent. There is strength in the pool of resources in the faith-based community.
Commissioner Heiligenstein thanked Pastor Rogers and Bishop Blake for their remarks and their commitment to providing homes for children in Texas.
Chair Bryant recognized CCL District Director, Lou Mar Guerard and APS Regional Director, Ross Jackson, thanking them for contributions to the department.
3.c. Commissioner's Report to include: Foster Care Redesign, Fostering Connections, Legislative Appropriations Request, Legislative Session Preparation, and Notification of Rule Adoptions - Anne Heiligenstein
Commissioner Heiligenstein discussed redesign of the Texas foster care system. The provider community, district judges, advocates to CASA, and the Supreme Court Commission on Children, Family and Youth have all been working on the redesign. Community ownership is the key to the redesign's success. The design concept plan will be presented at the end of December. Features of the plan will include performance-based contracts and a blended case rate for reimbursement; the redesign committee will request flexibility in the use of foster care funds.
Commissioner Heiligenstein provided an update on the federal enactment, Fostering Connections. The Permanency Care Assistance (PCA) program began in Texas on October 1, 2010, and allows use of state and federal funds to support relative families in caring for children. As of the end of August, ninety-five children were ready to enter into the PCA program. As of today, CPS has 130 children ready to transition into permanency care. Commissioner Heiligenstein believes the program is meeting its intended design. Forty-four percent of the children moving to permanency are under the age of 6. Eighty-seven percent of the children about to be placed are part of a sibling group.
The agency has made major strides in addressing disproportionality, which is the over-representation of a group, particularly African-American children, in the foster care system. Joyce James has accepted a position at the Health and Human Services Commission where she will oversee efforts in addressing disparate services and outcomes for the entire Health and Human Services enterprise.
Commissioner Heiligenstein provided an update on the upcoming legislative session and the budget. The Legislative Appropriations Request has been submitted. This will be a difficult session due to economic challenges. The department will keep the Council updated as bills are filed.
Two rule packets that were proposed at the July Council Meeting have received no public comment. Therefore, the rule packet for re-determination of foster care and the return-to-care program where older children are allowed to come back into care and the Fostering Connections legislation related to the Permanency Care Assistance Program will be adopted by Executive Commissioner Suehs and become effective December 1, 2010.
Commissioner Heiligenstein announced that Katie Olse, CCEA Director, has accepted a position with the Health and Human Services Commission. Commissioner Heiligenstein thanked Ms. Olse for her service; she will be missed. Ms. Olse thanked the Commissioner and the Council; stating she was privileged to have worked with them.
3.d. Chair's Report - Gigi Bryant
Chair Bryant called for individual reports from Council members. Ms. Bryant represents the Austin area where she and her siblings are former foster children. She continues to work closely with children who are in foster care and refers to them as her "brothers and sisters". Ms. Bryant acknowledged the Tschetter foster family in attendance at this meeting.
Tina Martin, Region 11, represents the area south of San Antonio: Corpus Christi, Laredo, Brownsville, and the Rio Grande Valley. She has experience in juvenile detention programs. She was a small business owner for 30 years. Ms. Martin spoke at the Region 11 Leadership Graduation ceremony. She works with the Children's Advocacy Center in Starr and Hidalgo counties.
Scott Rosenbach represents Region 1, the Texas Panhandle. He was an external auditor and has worked with the church for the past 24 years and is now a pastor, handling administration of a large church in Amarillo. He was involved with Adult Protective Services during their staff training meeting this last quarter. He has also been helping to establish a Silver Star Board in Amarillo to support APS staff.
Debbie Epperson, who lives in the Dallas area, spoke at the DFPS Leadership Graduation ceremony for Region 3. She attended the Van Zandt County community collaboration meeting in Region 4, which she also represents. Next week she will go to a CASA and CAC meeting held quarterly in Gilmore. She has been a CASA volunteer and is a grandparent raising a grandchild.
Ommy Strauch is from San Antonio and represents Region 8. She continues to work on the foster care redesign. She spoke at the DFPS Tomorrow graduation ceremony in Austin for Regions 7/12, and at the leadership graduation ceremony for Region 8 in San Antonio. Ms. Strauch's background is in Human Resources as a consultant.
Imogen Papadopoulos is a family law attorney from Region 6. She is involved with the Family Law Bar. She helped rewrite the duties and responsibilities of attorneys ad litem, the guardians ad litem and amicus attorneys. Ms. Papadopoulos is involved in the Joint City Commission on Children, Harris County and the City of Houston and has been appointed as chairman of a task force working with the issues of grandparents raising grandchildren when the children in question are not in the care of the State. The task force has provided training to family law attorneys on how to represent grandparents on a pro bono basis. Ms. Papadopoulos is working to provide a program for pro bono services for grandparents through the Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program. She also attended the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Expo in Houston.
Dr. Paul Furukawa is executive director of a special needs camp. He is from San Antonio, in Region 8. He participated in the mayor's initiative, San Antonio 20/20, which is an attempt to look ahead ten years to determine what San Antonio should look like and what the quality of life should be; 1,000 people attended. Dr. Furukawa nominated nurse Judy Foster, for Nurse of the Year 2010. Ms. Foster won this award and was noted for her contributions as a foster and adoptive parent.
Mamie Salazar-Harper represents El Paso, Region 10. She has young children at home and also aging parents. She works with both APS and CPS and provides private resources to those agencies. In response to an incident of an infant smothering in bed, she arranged purchase of 12 sets of bunk beds from rental dealers. She has appealed to the business community to get computers for the Child Advocacy Center.
General Counsel Gerry Williams was introduced. He is parliamentarian to the Council and reported involvement in the upcoming legislative session and Fostering Connections. He expressed appreciation to the Council. Ms. Bryant thanked Mr. Williams and his team.
Council took a seven-minute break at 10:30 a.m.
Ms. Bryant reconvened the meeting of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Council at 10:37 a.m., October 15, 2010, in the John H. Winters Building, Public Hearing Room, 125-¬E, 701 West 51st Street.
Agenda Item 4 - Public Testimony
Joe Gagen, representing CASA, spoke about CPS, noting volunteers' activities in courts. He recognized the DFPS Council and Commissioner Heiligenstein's work. CASA has a memorandum of understanding and has worked with DFPS on foster care redesign, placement decisions, the House Bill 1912 workgroup, and background checks of workers. He thanked the leaders of the department for improvements.
Ms. Bryant reviewed the rules for public testimony.
Arel Garza spoke about the agency's help to her family, specifically her foster father and thanked Ms. Bryant.
David Fincher, representing the National Child Care Coalition, spoke about child care licensing, Chapter 746, and thanked the agency for its work.
Melanie Rubin, Project Director for the Texas Association for Infant Mental Health, spoke about minimum child-care standards. DFPS had stated that current ratios do not promote health and safety of children in some age ranges. The Department is reversing its proposed revisions on group size, ratios and amount of time the director must be at the site; however, there are a greater number of comments in support of the revisions than against them. This is an uncertain time for child care in Texas. She supports adopting or postponing the decisions.
Carol Shattuck , President and CEO of Collaborative for Children, spoke about proposed minimum standards for licensed centers. Ms. Shattuck complimented the work of the Department and believes the process has worked well. Proposed ratios are out of step with national averages and national accreditation averages, and she is disappointed that the proposal has been pulled from the agenda. Ms. Shattuck urged postponement of the decision on ratios until after the legislative session. Responsibility for training has not been addressed; however, Ms. Shattuck believes pre-service training is critical.
Susan Craven, Executive Director of Texas Association for Infant Mental Health, commented on child care licensing standards. TAIMH is a nonprofit dedicated to improving the health of babies age zero to three years. Standards have been studied for over two years; current standards do not adequately safeguard physical, emotional or developmental needs of children. She supports postponing decision making until the legislature's decision is known and economic trends are determined.
Kathleen Nichols provided testimony around the Fostering Connections Program. Ms. Nichols spoke from personal experience about the redesign and Foster Connections, sharing benefits and challenges of having the birth family connected. One of the hurdles is the suspicion, fear and stigma of families in poverty. She suggests that in going forward the department address how the birth family is viewed.
Debbie Leahart, representing Ms. Debbie's Darlings, spoke about registered and licensed ratios and the bucket swings change. One concern is the open door policy where the parent can come in and visit. At times, daycares experience difficulty in defining the meaning of "parent." Ms. Leahart suggests changing the terminology to "guardian" or "conservator" since some parents have restrictions placed on them. Additionally, Ms Leahart addressed licensing ratios in registered homes vs. licensed homes, stating her opinion that more is required to become a licensed home than a registered home. She believes licensed homes should receive more leniency, or at the very least, ratios for the two center types should match. Ms. Leahart reminded the Council that when considering lower ratios, economics is central.
Kara Johnson, CEO of the Texas Early Childhood Education Coalition, supports the recommended changes to child care minimum standards but believes action should be postponed until after the legislative session due to the current economic situation. Ms. Johnson thanked the Council for their leadership.
Ms. Bryant closed the public testimony period of the agenda.
Agenda Item 5 - Council Operations
5.a. Selection of Meeting Dates for 2011-2012 Calendar Year - Gigi Bryant
Ms. Bryant presented proposed quarterly meeting dates for 2011-2012 to the Council and asked for a motion to accept the calendar as posted. A motion was made by Dr. Furukawa and seconded by a Ms. Salazar-Harper Ms. Bryant asked for comment, and hearing none, the calendar was accepted.
Agenda Item 6 - New Business
6.a. Recommendation to propose rule changes in 40 TAC, Chapter 700, Subchapter L, relating to permanency planning for foster children - Gail Gonzalez, CPS
Gail Gonzalez presented rule change as stated in Agency Item 6(a). The recommendation was discussed yesterday at the work session and provides updated language that reflects the Agency's name, best practices and permanency planning, concurrent planning, and adds an alternative permanency goal. She asked that the Council recommend to Commissioner Heiligenstein and Executive Commissioner Suehs that these rules be proposed and published in the Texas Register for formal public comment.
Ms. Salazar-Harper moved to recommend for proposal by the Health and Human Services Commission the amendments concerning permanency planning for foster children as reflected in the Council's October 15, 2010 Agenda Item 6(a). Ms. Strauch seconded the motion. Ms. Bryant asked for discussion and, hearing none, called for a vote. The motion passed by voice vote.
6.b. Recommendation to propose rule changes in 40 TAC, Chapter 700, Section 700.807, Who is eligible to receive enhanced adoption assistance? - Gail Gonzales, CPS
Ms. Gonzalez asked that the Council consider rules governing the enhanced adoption assistance program, 40 TAC, Chapter 700, Section 700.807. The recommendation was discussed yesterday at the work session. The changes are to clarify and better define eligibility criteria. Ms. Gonzalez proposed that the Council recommend to Commissioner Heiligenstein and Executive Commissioner Suehs that these rules be proposed and published in the Texas Register for formal public comment.
Dr. Furukawa moved to recommend for proposal by the Health and Human Services Commission the amendment concerning enhanced adoption assistance as reflected in the Council's October 15, 2010 Agenda Item 6(b). Ms. Martin seconded the motion. Ms. Bryant asked for discussion and, hearing none, called for a vote. The motion passed by voice vote.
6.c. Recommendation to propose rule changes in 40 TAC, Chapter 730, Subchapter Q; and Chapter 732, Subchapter N; related to the DFPS contract dispute resolution process - Gerry Williams, Legal
Gerry Williams, General Counsel, asked that the Council consider rules governing the contract dispute resolution process. The recommendation was discussed yesterday at the work session. These changes repeal the legal services contract appeal rules because the rules have been superseded by Section 2260 of the Government Code, and amend the contract services dispute resolution rules to clarify the process. Mr. Williams asked that the Council recommend to Commissioner Heiligenstein and Executive Commissioner Suehs that these rules be proposed and published in the Texas Register for formal public comment.
Ms. Papadopoulos moved to recommend for proposal by the Health and Human Services Commission the amendments and repeals concerning the DFPS contract dispute resolution process as reflected in the Council's October 15, 2010 Agenda Item 6(c). Ms. Epperson seconded the motion. Ms. Bryant asked for discussion.
Ms. Papadopoulos thanked Mr. Williams for completing the tedious work on the proposal. Ms. Bryant asked for further discussion and, hearing none, called for a vote. The motion passed by voice vote.
Agenda Item 7 - Old Business
7.a. Recommendation to adopt rule changes in 40 TAC, Chapter 745, Licensing (Background Checks); and Chapter 749, Child-Placing Agencies (Time-Limited Verifications of Foster Homes) - Sasha Rasco, CCL
Ms. Sasha Rasco presented Agenda Item 7(a), recommendation to adopt rule changes in 40 TAC, Chapter 745, Licensing (Background Checks); and Chapter 749, Child-Placing Agencies (Time-Limited Verifications of Foster Homes). These proposed rules modify regulations to support the permanency care assistance program.
Ms. Rasco asked that the Council recommend to Commissioner Heiligenstein and Executive Commissioner Suehs that these rule changes be adopted as reflected in the Council's October 15, 2010, Agenda Item 7(a).
Ms. Epperson moved to recommend for adoption by the Health and Human Services Commission the amendments and new sections concerning background checks and time-limited verification of foster homes as reflected in the Council's October 15, 2010 Agenda Item 7(a). Mr. Rosenbach seconded the motion. Ms. Bryant asked for discussion and, hearing none, called for a vote. The motion passed by voice vote.
7.b. Recommendation to adopt rule changes in 40 TAC, Chapter 746, Minimum Standards for Child-Care Centers; and Chapter 747, Minimum Standards for Child-Care Homes - Sasha Rasco, CCL
Ms. Bryant asked Commissioner Heiligenstein to make comments prior to the consideration of Agenda 7(b). Commissioner Heiligenstein thanked staff who had worked on the review of licensing standards. She also thanked those who provided input. She indicated that there is a legal impediment to postponing the vote on the minimum standards and asked General Counsel Gerry Williams to explain. Mr. Williams stated that adoption of rules that have been published in the Texas Register has to be completed within 180 days of publication. The rules were published on June 11, 2010. Therefore, the rules would have to be voted on, approved by Executive Commissioner Suehs, and republished in the Texas Register by December 11, 2010, or the Texas Register would automatically withdraw the rules and the rules would have to be proposed again.
Ms. Strauch commented that it would not be six years before the rules would be considered again; rules can be proposed before the next six-year review of minimum standards. Ms. Rasco recapped the process leading up to the recommendation proposed today, reviewed the proposal and thanked participants for their role in producing the recommendations. Ms. Rasco asked that the Council recommend to Commissioner Heiligenstein and Executive Commissioner Suehs that these rule changes to Chapter 40 TAC, Chapter 746, Minimum Standards for Child-Care Centers; and Chapter 747, Minimum Standards for Child-Care Homes be adopted as reflected in the Council's October 15, 2010 Agenda Item 7(b).
Mr. Rosenbach moved to recommend for adoption by the Health and Human Services Commission the amendments, repeals, and new sections to Chapter 746, Minimum Standards for Child-Care Centers; and Chapter 747, Minimum Standards for Child-Care Homes as reflected in the council's October 15, 2010 Agenda Item 7(b). The motion was seconded by Ms. Salazar-Harper. Ms. Bryant asked for discussion.
Ms. Strauch asked to add to the motion a notation of the strong request from the Council that the issue of the ratios be considered prior to the next legislative session and requested an update one year from now. Mr. Williams responded that the notation being added to the motion was that the ratio be reconsidered at some time after the next legislative session and prior to the required six year review. Ms. Strauch requested that it be looked at before 2013 legislative session.
Ms. Bryant asked for further comments. Support for Ms. Strauch's recommendation was expressed. Ms. Bryant asked for further comments. Mr. Williams repeated the motion, that the Council move for adoption by the Health and Human Services Commission the amendments, repeals, and new sections in Chapter 746, Minimum Standards for Child-Care Centers; and Chapter 747, Minimum Standards for Child-Care Homes as reflected in the council's October 15, 2010 Agenda Item 7(b). In addition, the issue of the ratios will be reconsidered by DFPS after this legislative session and prior to the 2013 legislative session.
Ms. Bryant called for a vote of the recommendation with the amendment added. The motion passed by voice vote.
Agenda Item 8 - Adjourn
The meeting was adjourned at 11:34 a.m.