Increase in foster child deaths prompts safety plan

American-Statesman Staff

The Department of Family and Protective Services today released a safety plan in response to the rising number of foster care deaths.
Between September 2011 and August 2013, the number of foster children who died from abuse or neglect jumped from two to eight. The death of Orion Hamilton, an 11-month old baby fatally injured last week at her aunt’s home in Cedar Park, is the first foster care death attributed to abuse this fiscal year.
Of the eight deaths in 2013, seven were attributed to neglectful supervision and one was abuse related, officials say.
The improvement plan, which has been in the works for months, focuses on children with medical needs, family placements and the responsibilities of both CPS and child placing agencies. New rules include:
  • Issuing quarterly trend reports starting in 2014 on child deaths from abuse and neglect.
  • Limiting the number of medically needy foster children that can be placed in one home.
  • Increasing the number of unannounced visits to all foster homes, including homes where foster children are staying with relatives through what is known as “kinship placements.
  • Update the agency’s kinship placement home studies to ensure that caseworkers are adequately discussing safety issues and recognize risks.
  • For state licensed foster homes, require that caseworkers interview all grown adult children of the foster parent before issuing a license.
  • Holding a statewide training refresher on safety for all CPS foster/adopt staff on Nov. 7.
  • Conduct a contract monitoring audit to assess the process of evaluating performance of foster parents.

The new rules come amid fallout over the death of two foster care children since this summer. In July, 2-year-old Alexandria Hill died after police say her foster mother slammed her head on the floor.