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Child Advocates Say Texas Contradicts Itself On Foster Care

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DALLAS (AP) — Texas' objections to reforms to its troubled foster care system that were recommended by court-appointed experts are "grossly at odds" with state officials' statements out of court and before legislators, the advocacy group that successfully sued the state said Thursday.

New York-based Children's Rights and the Texas lawyers who joined them in the lawsuit said in a court filing that if state arguments were to be accepted, "none of the recommendations (of the court experts) are warranted because the Texas foster care system is neither significantly broken nor in need of urgent repair."

"That is, even as they insist otherwise in court, outside of the courtroom ... (state officials) have made open admissions, of which this court can take judicial notice, about the longstanding systemic problems that plague its foster care system — and of the urgent need for reform," the advocates said.

U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack last December declared the foster care system unconstitutionally flawed and ordered an independent overhaul by two special masters. In a lengthy filing last month, Texas objected to the reforms submitted by the special masters. The plaintiffs had no objections to the recommendations, which are being reviewed by Jack before she issues her final order.

The state argued that there was no evidence that the "proposed remedies will, in fact, cure the alleged class-wide constitutional violations" and that the court's findings of unconstitutional violations were "unsupported by reliable expert testimony or other competent, admissible evidence."

The trial included testimony from young adults talking about abuse they suffered while in foster care. The judge said she believes the foster care system often leaves children labeled permanent wards of the state more badly damaged than when they entered.

The class-action lawsuit against the state was filed in 2011 on behalf the children who are labeled permanent wards of the state, which can happen as quickly as a year after a child enters foster care. Nearly 11,000 of the almost 31,000 children in foster care have the permanent label.

Texas Department of Family and Protective Services has said the special masters' report "highlights many of the issues we are working on day and night." Texas officials say changing the foster care system is the job of the state, not the courts.

The advocacy group said in its response: "In their legal filings, they turn a blind eye to the harms being suffered by children, even as they profess to recognize in public testimony, statements and letters the depth of the harms being done and the urgent need to do something to protect children who face risk of

(© Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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