WEST TEXAS - Texas has been re-designing their foster care system. The state started employing private institutions to manage agencies regionally. But the effort took a hit recently as one of those companies overseeing the West Texas centers bailed on its contract.
The Providence Service Corporation of Texas was the super contractor that had signed on to care for about 1100 foster kids across 60 counties in the region. The contract between them and the State Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) became active near August of 2013, but a year later, they voluntarily terminated it. Now each agency will have to go back to the system before the fix.
According to the a commissioner with the state DFPS the company pulled out because they felt they were losing money from the deal. They also told NewsWest 9 Providence had probably underestimated the challenges they'd face. That includes having to oversee the massive geographic area they were responsible for. Officials claim the company knew what it was getting itself into, but also that it wasn't malicious.
Local agencies who play the "buffer" between the state and the contractors also chimed in on the impact. According to Executive Director at High Sky Children's Ranch in Midland, JaLynn Hogan, the children will likely not see a difference in the services.
But she said she does feel there are negatives since the privatization of these care centers brought on more collaboration, synchronization, and networking among the individual agencies. With this change, each one will revert back to the separate agendas.
"I'm saddened by the fact that I think we've worked hard for two years. It's gone live for a year, but we were working a whole year before then to implement practices, so I'm somewhat sad that we're at this place now, and and we don't want to lose that momentum," she explained.
Now the state is taking the reins back. They'll be the ones directly responsible for providing services to foster families, and each agency will go back to develop their own foster care recruiting methods and programs.
And that's just what centers like High Sky want, for now.
"I think I kind of want things to level out a little bit. It's kind of like get our feet grounded before we start again," Hogan said. She added that she believes it will take time for the state to choose another contractor, because it took a couple of years for them to settle on Providence.
As for the state, they feel this setback was a learning experience, and that they will rise stronger from the ordeal. Both they and Hogan, who feels she also speaks on behalf of other facilities, said the focus is on increasing the level of care and support to the kids.