The 85th Texas Legislative Session has been an important one for the state’s child welfare system. A critical goal for TNOYS this session has been to secure increased funding for foster care and other services that serve Texas’ most vulnerable youth, to prevent the kind of headlines we’ve seen recently where youth are forced to sleep in CPS offices for lack of adequate foster care placements.
This means the budget process is particularly important to youth service providers this year. The House and Senate have each passed their own versions of the state budget for 2018-2019 – here’s what you need to know:
How the budget proposals would impact youth and family services
TNOYS has been working hard and in partnership with our members to lobby for funding increases for services for youth and families. We are excited to report the following:
- Both the House and Senate budget bills include substantial foster care rate increases and will fund foster care services at roughly 95% of the cost of care across the board.
- The House budget bill funds the full DFPS exceptional item request to increase funding for PEI, with the exception of several additional proposed internal FTE positions. This means the House budget includes an increase of $7 million per year for the STAR program, as well as increases for HOPES and other PEI initiatives.
- The Senate budget includes a rider that would allow PEI to establish the first state funding stream to support services for youth and young adults who are homeless, in order to prevent sex trafficking of youth.
What are next steps?
Two weeks ago, House and Senate budget conferees were appointed. Senate conferees are: Senator Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen), Senator Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown), Senator Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), and Senator Joan Huffman (R-Houston). House conferees are: Representative John Zerwas (R-Richmond), Representative Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin), Representative Sarah Davis (R-West University Place), Representative Oscar Longoria (D-Mission), and Representative Larry Gonzalez (R-Round Rock).
If your organization serves the districts of any conferees, please contact their offices to express support for foster care rate increases included in both budgets and for the Senate budget rider to address youth homelessness and the House funding pattern for PEI at DFPS. TNOYS will continue our conversations with conferee member offices while they work together to reconcile their funding priorities and draft one budget.
For more background on these budget issues, The Texas Tribune offers a great breakdown of how the House and Senate budget bills compare, here. For more about what TNOYS is advocating for at the Capitol this session, check out our legislative agenda. And keep an eye out for our full recap of the legislation and policy changes youth service providers will need to know about coming out of the session once it comes to a close this summer!