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Federal government stepping in with foster care reform efforts for Texas

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SAN ANTONIO - The federal government is stepping in to possibly overhaul the Child Protective Services system here in Texas.

In San Antonio alone there were over 8,000 cases of child abuse or neglect being investigated in the last fiscal year.

While CPS continues to investigate those claims - we've learned a federal judge is bringing in two experts to study our state's foster care system and make recommendations.

Those recommendations are expected to include hiring more caseworkers and looking more closely at foster group homes.

"Clearly the foster care system in Texas is broken," said Rick Cooke, President and CEO of Child Advocates San Antonio.

It is system that needs help and that is what U.S. District Judge Janis Jack ruled back in December of 2015. Jack noted it has put kids at risk of abuse and neglect due to high caseloads after a lawsuit involving roughly 12,000 children.

"There are over 5,000 kids in the foster care system in Bexar County right now and over 66,000 in the state of Texas it is a tremendous problem," added Cooke.

Last week - new efforts came from the same judge to reform the system by appointing "special masters" to provide recommendations for change.

"The system needs more assistance we need more case workers, we need more foster families who are willing to take on these kids who have had really terrible trauma," said Bill Wilkinson, CEO and President of Roy Maas' Youth Alternatives in San Antonio.

He added that the reform will help shed light on the issue as a whole.

"It is everything from teenage pregnancy control to education to how we are teaching people how to be parents," said Wilkinson.

CASA also said it will help get more children permanent homes.

"There over 2,500 kids in Bexar County that are stuck in long term foster care," added Cooke.

We reached out to child protective services - they had no comment at this time because the reform is being litigated.

However, The Attorney General's Office released this statement: ""The Texas Attorney General's Office will continue to vigorously defend the law and the state's foster care program."

What is next is not clear - but for now - local organizations will keep pushing to give children the care they need.

"We are branching out we are hiring additional staff an investing additional money in supporting these kids that are in long term foster care," added Cooke.

The two experts are expected to begin work April 1st of this year.

It's not known how much the reform efforts will cost, or where the money will come from.

If you would like to become an advocate for CASA or volunteer at Roy Maas' Youth Alternatives - follow the links below.

CASA website

Roy Maas' Youth Alternatives

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