Texas House’s 1st bill address growing foster care crisis

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – The Texas House has passed its first major bill of the session with a proposal addressing the state’s troubled foster care system.

Lawmakers on Wednesday unanimously approved a proposal to restructure the state agency in charge of foster care. Another bill being debated would make it easier for at-risk children to be adopted by relatives.

Gov. Greg Abbott declared foster care reform a priority for the session.

A federal judge in 2015 ruled a portion of the state’s foster-care system unconstitutional because of alleged continuing abuse. Texas has appealed.

State lawmakers have approved nearly $150 million in emergency funding to hire 800-plus workers and give pay raises to 7,000 employees. The money is meant to address staffing shortages and high turnover rates within Texas’ child welfare agency.