Houston Matters

Lawyer Says Ruling on Texas Foster Care System Is Foundation for Reform

Paul Yetter highlights two experts on child welfare will be tasked with overseeing and keeping track of the changes the state implements

A lawyer representing children in a years-long lawsuit over Texas’ foster care system told Houston Matters Friday a ruling announced this week is the foundation to reform the system.

Paul Yetter.

Paul Yetter, partner at Yetter Coleman LLP, categorized the ruling by the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals as “a huge victory for Texas children.” “Basically, what the Court of Appeals has ruled is that the State of Texas has to make sure that its caseworkers can keep children safe and that investigations find abuse and they can prevent it,” Yetter told Houston Matters’ Maggie Martin.

One of the main points of the ruling orders that Texas decrease caseloads for overburdened workers and Yetter underscored the importance of these professionals. “The case worker is the single adult in some of these young children’s lives that is there to watch after them.”

“Without a case worker who is trained and has the time to keep the child safe,” Yetter added, “these children are left to, you know, suffer all sorts of abuse at the hands of caregivers that, you know, frankly have bad intentions.”

The lawyer also highlighted two experts on child welfare will be tasked with overseeing and keeping track of the changes the state implements. “Ultimately, and it will take time, ultimately there will be a safe foster care system for these innocent children,” he said.

Yetter would like the state not to keep litigating over the foster care system, as it has done for several years, and hopes Governor Greg Abbott will focus on the reform as “a positive step for the state and that we will start seeing reforms and cooperation in keeping these children safe.”

The Office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement that “(The) Fifth Circuit’s decision affirmed many of the significant changes the state has made to our foster care system. While the program still faces challenges, the Fifth Circuit upheld significant parts of the program as constitutional while finding that the District Court engaged in judicial overreach in entering an overbroad and impractical injunction.”

The statement added that at this time, they can’t comment on plans for future litigation.

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services said it’s reviewing the ruling carefully.

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