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Clubhouse Aimed to Foster Diversity. Is it Working?

Here’s what you need to know before joining the social audio platform, especially if you’re a person of color.

It’s not that hard to get an invite to Clubhouse anymore.

More than a year after its initial release in March 2020, the invite-only social media app is still technically in beta mode, but after a few appearances from the likes of Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, everyone wanted in—and most of them got in. The audio-only platform that was almost built for a global pandemic has exploded to host about 10 million users in nine countries and the European Union on both iOS and Android.

Conversations occur in real time about everything from international politics to watch parties, and you can dip in and out of rooms without saying a word or be invited “on stage” to be heard by 5, 50, 500, or 5,000 people (the current maximum—although Musk has blown past that before). It’s basically a virtual conference, about anything and everything, sold to users with a premium on real-time conversation. But now that Clubhouse’s users are beginning to step out of quarantine isolation and take their conversations offline, the app is being kicked out of the nest to see whether it can fly.

‘Intimacy at Scale’

Like Zuckerberg, Paul Davison and Rohan Seth of Alpha Exploration started their social experiment small, intending to “collect feedback, quietly iterate, and avoid making noise until we felt the product was ready for everyone.” But as the buzz caught on in Silicon Valley, they soon learned that wouldn’t be possible.

“I think part of the appeal of Clubhouse is the scarcity of conversations that are only going to happen live and that you won’t be able to catch anywhere else,” said Jordan Harrod, a user who joined in November 2020 after hearing about the app on Twitter. But after a while, she said, “I think the scarcity idea kind of wears off after you are in too many rooms and not necessarily hearing particularly novel information.”

Since conversations aren’t recorded, fact-checking is difficult, and users aren’t always held accountable for what they say. Sound familiar?

“I’ve been in many a room where I’ve hopped on and fairly quickly realized that the people who called themselves experts on some topic had absolutely no idea what they’re talking about. But everyone in the audience was taking it as fact,” Harrod said.

At the same time, some users say the medium allows for more nuance and critical thinking than other social media platforms, where users can scan over an image or a post in seconds and like or share immediately. Without visual cues like videos, comments or even the infamous blue checkmark, says Abraxas Higgins, a self-described impact influencer and social audio strategist, the app truly is audio-only, and he likes it that way. And while some have compared the app’s content to podcasts, broadcasting live (as radio hosts will tell you) is not the same thing as recording content with the knowledge that you can edit it later.

“Thousands of people are listening to you, and it’s just your voice—there is no image—and you’re having to think of things on the fly and be witty and funny and have lexical prowess,” he said. “If you’re lying, you get caught out pretty quickly. If you’re an idiot, you get caught out pretty quickly. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, you get caught out pretty quickly.”

So while a large following might bring an audience into your room, there’s no guarantee they’ll stay—especially when time is a premium in modern life. And you have to spend time engaging with users on the app, a lot more than you do to scroll through Facebook or Twitter and like someone’s content.

“The power of this app is intimacy at scale,” said Higgins, who said he has friends in cities all over the world today from the platform.

That’s not to say the app is free of disinformation or disingenuous people. Anti-vaxxers, anti-maskers, and Covid-19 deniers have formed their own communities on the app, making unproven claims in their bios and conversations. And while some rooms hold space for conversations between Israelis and Palestinians during the ongoing crisis, the app has also struggled to shut down anti-Semitism and other forms of racism. In April the app shut down a number of rooms and removed users who violated the community guidelines, which ban discrimination, hateful content, or threats of violence or harm against “any person or groups of people.” The growing pains are unavoidable, but how the company handles them moving forward could make or break its future in the social media sphere.

The Evolution of Clubhouse

It wasn’t always this way, and chances are it won’t remain the same either. The app has gone through several evolutions, or cycles, as more and more people were invited on. Each user gets two invites when they join, but Clubhouse gives you more seemingly indiscriminately—which makes any perceived exclusivity short-lived. When it first opened up in July 2020, after three months of development and testing with a few friends, the company stated its intention to “foster a diverse set of voices”—and to a certain extent it managed to do so.

“It’s an app that was created for people in Silicon Valley, and there’s already a hierarchy in Silicon Valley, so that’s sort of how the app became popular. It also gained popularity because of the exclusivity: You wanted to be a part of something that everyone else wanted to be a part of, but only certain people were allowed to be a part of,” said Beth, an early user who did not want her real name shared due to her connections within the tech industry.

That hierarchy involves race, gender, and class dynamics. White men have long dominated the tech industry and white workers make up two-thirds of the workplace, followed by Asian Americans, who make up just under one-quarter of computing and mathematical occupations and are more likely to be found in technical positions than leadership positions. Black and Latinx workers each make up less than 10 percent of the industry and even less of the executive positions.

But a lot changed when the entertainment industry got on the platform last September, including a wave of Black creatives, ushering in a new era for the app.

“I said, ‘I’m not going to use this platform the way that maybe some people would,’ in the sense that there’s an opportunity here to use this outside of just speaking,” said Noelle Chesnut Whitmore, the chief marketing officer at Geojam and founder of More in Music.

Within a few months, Whitmore pulled together the now-viral and critically acclaimed performance of The Lion King: The Musical as the executive producer and director. When she joined the app, like other Black users, Whitmore invited her community into the wave of users of color joining the app, from cities like Los Angeles, New York City, and Atlanta.

“My Clubhouse experience has always been inclusive of very, very diverse groups, like extremely diverse groups, so much so that it was ironic, because some of these people I would never have talked to just based off of location, based off of some of the sectors in which they worked. The beautiful thing about Clubhouse is it put all of us in one space and forced us to talk to each other,” said Whitmore.

Higgins, who is based in London, joined this wave in October last year, calling it a “music renaissance,” and said the user base—at least to him—was much more Black at the time than it is today, diversifying from the mostly white tech base of its early days. Now the app is taking off in India, having spread to the UK and other parts of Europe as well as Africa, Australia, and South America.

“Each of those cities had some kind of cultural impact on the kinds of rooms we would see,” said creator Minh Do, who hosts clubs like Crazy Good Fun and the Movie Club, which often have more than 500 users in the room. One example he gave was the green moderator signifier, which Atlanta users began calling the “green beam”—and it stuck.

“In the very beginning, it was fairly tech-heavy, but I also came in after George Floyd, and my impression of what happened then is that there was a push for diversity from the user base at that time, and I think that has continued ever since,” he added. “I don’t think that Clubhouse has a strong amount of control over the demographic changes on the app, because it’s kind of in the hands of the users to invite who comes on.”

Clubhouse doesn’t collect demographic information from users when they create an account, so there’s no way to know quantitatively how diverse the platform is. A spokesperson for the company pointed to several top creators of color, some of whom are based in other countries, with audiences of more than 1,000 users.

Other social media platforms with an international base are similarly diverse, and users can turn Clubhouse into an echo chamber of sorts, but the app’s algorithm—while somewhat a mystery—heavily relies on user-selected “interests” to populate your hallway, making it more likely that you’ll find users outside of your bubble. With only a single profile image and a username to identify users, the app also sidesteps some of the racial bias built into artificial intelligence that has gotten apps like Twitter in trouble before. Still, while there are plenty of examples of what not to do, the question remains: Does the company know what to do next?

What Does Growth Look Like?

In recent months, Clubhouse has started to cater more to creators, rolling out a “Creator First” initiative to support selected creators by providing resources, services, and a stipend. The app also added a payment feature using Stripe that allows users to monetize their audience—with 100 percent of the money going directly to the user, unlike other platforms, which take a cut of the money.

Features like these are encouraging, especially for creatives of color, who are often cut out of the profits made online. Beyond the user base, however, part of the inclusivity equation as the app grows is biased by the people behind the technology. One of the app’s two male cofounders, Seth, is a person of color, while the other, Davison, is white.

“There’s definitely an air of strong male energy. The more popular rooms tend to be the rooms where it’s mostly white, male tech speakers,” said Beth, noting that other voices were present as well—if you went looking. “When two men start an app with roots in Silicon Valley, with this agenda of being inclusive, it’s a different air than when a woman starts an app to ensure that women feel safe in that community. With Clubhouse, perhaps the exclusivity was once a marketing tactic, but at a certain point it can become their Achilles’ heel.”

The small company of roughly a dozen employees is hiring, however, and would double in size if it filled all currently open positions. If they follow through on opening the platform, as the website says they intend to do, they’re likely to need the help.

“The beautiful thing they have on their side is that there is some sense of culture that they had early on. I think the hard part, though, is how do you establish and communicate and share that culture as it scaled,” said Whitmore. “People are just getting dumped onto Clubhouse and are unfortunately bringing some of those norms from other platforms without realizing that there is a unique opportunity for us here to develop a new standard, a new culture, and new ways in which we use this platform.”

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Author: Anagha Srikanth
Read more here >>> Business Latest

Attacks on workers spike with more foster care children sleeping in Texas CPS offices

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Inside a state office building one day in late May, a child threatened to get a gun and hold it to a worker’s head, according to state incident records.

Another report obtained by KXAN investigators reveals a few weeks before that, a young person at a Child Protective Services office in Austin “grabbed a worker’s bottom.” Just a few weeks ago, at a CPS office in Bastrop, a child “repeatedly punched a worker in the face, head and stomach and pulled the worker’s hair.”

One incident report details what happened when caseworkers took a child in their care to a park outside of Dallas: the child tried walking toward a busy highway, before hitting a worker with a tree limb and slapping them in the face.

These are just some of the dozens of physical altercations or sexual advances made on Department of Family and Protective Services workers by children living in state offices, hotels and other temporary locations.

DFPS has acknowledged the increase in children living in these types of locations — a result of what’s become known as Texas’ foster care “capacity crisis.” On Thursday, a spokesperson for the agency said the situation had “worsened dramatically” this year, with the loss of more than 1,000 available beds for children.

“Because there are so many more children and youth without placements, these locations are becoming more crowded. None of these facilities – especially of course CPS offices – are designed as sleeping quarters for young people, most of whom need treatment of various types,” the spokesperson said. “Obviously, our workers are in harm’s way and we are very focused on making these locations safer.”

The incident records obtained by KXAN detail just one incident in 2018 across the whole state. Then, there were eight incidents recorded in 2019 and nine in 2020. So far in 2021, DFPS has already recorded 59 incidents between workers and these children.

Six of those incidents involved kids staying in Central Texas CPS offices.

Carrie Ward, a child welfare attorney, reached out to KXAN after connecting with five different workers who said they were distraught and concerned about the number of these Children Without Placement (also known as CWOP).

“Having to respond to a crisis here and there is one thing, but having to do a four-hour shift on a Saturday night?” she said. “It’s a huge toll on these caseworkers. If we are not losing them already, we will.”

However, DFPS data revealed a 17% percent turnover rate for their workforce — lower than last year when the turnover rate was more than 20%.

The spokesperson for the agency said, “What’s most important is the safety of these children and young people in the State’s care, and that they get the treatment they need. We are also extremely focused on our staff, who selflessly provide care for these children 24 hours a day.”

Seanna Crosbie, Chief Strategy and Program Officer at Austin Child Guidance Center, emphasized the importance of personal mental-health support and specialized training for these workers.

“Child welfare workers are human beings, too,” she said.

Experts at the Center offer mental health services, particularly for young people. Some of their staff work with children in the foster care system who have experienced abuse, neglect, or the trauma of being removed from their home.

Crosbie said it’s important for any adult to approach these children with “curiosity,” and not from a place of “compliance.” She also explained the importance of maintaining consistency and building relationships of trust for these children.

“At the core of a child is their sense of safety. Having a sense of routine, knowing where they are going to be living and who they are going to be living with is really, really, really important,” she said. “The brain is functioning from a place of fear and protection. Sometimes kids will be acting out from a place of genuinely trying to protect themselves.”

In 2013, leaders at the Austin Child Guidance Center established the Trauma Informed Care Consortium of Central Texas, bringing together more than 100 professional organizations and agencies. The consortium of mental health clinicians and medical personnel to school personnel, law enforcement, and juvenile justice professionals meets several times a year. They also offer trauma-informed care training.

“That being said, this work is ever evolving,” Crosbie said.

Kate Murphy, Senior Policy Associate with Texans Care for Children, told KXAN the state legislature passed several measures to help ease the capacity crisis. One piece of legislation signed by Governor Greg Abbott actually prohibits kids from sleeping in CPS offices, but Murphy said they will be watching closely to see how that’s implemented.

Her group was concerned about two proposed amendments: one to increase punishments for assaulting CPS caseworkers and another to penalize kids for refusing a placement. Both of those efforts ultimately failed.

“It really makes children bear the brunt of the systems’ failures,” she said. “The focus should be on, how do we change the system to support these kids rather than, how do we punish these kids for what may very well have been a trauma response.”

In a meeting last month, the Department of Family and Protective Services Commissioner, Jamie Masters, told members of the DFPS council they recognized the effect these physical altercations had on other kids in CWOP.

“It’s a heavy thing to try to figure out the right answer and the right approach,” Masters said.

A spokesperson for DFPS echoed the sentiment, when KXAN asked about the physical altercations and incidents.

“There is no one-size fits all approach, and DFPS is just one part of a large and complex child welfare system. We must work closely with our private providers to innovate and find new, creative solutions to this problem. We are quickly working with our partner providers and other child welfare stakeholders to meet this very difficult challenge.  We have already identified alternatives, and work will not stop until we have real solutions.”

Author: Avery Travis
This post originally appeared on KXAN Austin

Supreme Court Backs Catholic Social Services in Case on Gay Rights and Foster Care

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously ruled that Philadelphia may not bar a Catholic agency that refused to work with same-sex couples from screening potential foster parents.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for six members of the court, said that since the city allowed exceptions to its policies for some other agencies it must also do so in this instance. The Catholic agency, he wrote, “seeks only an accommodation that will allow it to continue serving the children of Philadelphia in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs; it does not seek to impose those beliefs on anyone else.”

The decision, in the latest clash between anti-discrimination principles and claims of conscience, was a setback for gay rights and further evidence that religious groups almost always prevail in the current court.

Philadelphia stopped placements with the agency, Catholic Social Services, after a 2018 article in The Philadelphia Inquirer described its policy against placing children with same-sex couples. The agency and several foster parents sued the city, saying the decision violated their First Amendment rights to religious freedom and free speech.

Lawyers for the city said the case, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, No. 19-123, was an easy one. When the government hires independent contractors like the Catholic agency, they said, it acts on its own behalf and can include provisions barring discrimination in its contracts.

Lawyers for the agency responded that it merely wanted to continue work that it had been doing for centuries, adding that no gay couple had ever applied to it. If one had, they said, the couple would have been referred to another agency.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia, ruled against the agency. The city was entitled to require compliance with its nondiscrimination policies, the count said.

The case was broadly similar to that of a Colorado baker who refused to create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

In 2018, the Supreme Court refused to decide the central issue in that case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission: whether businesses may claim exemptions from anti-discrimination laws on religious grounds. It ruled instead that the baker had been mistreated by members of the state’s civil rights commission who had expressed hostility toward religion.

The foster care agency relied on the Colorado decision, arguing that it too had been subjected to hostility based on anti-religious prejudice. The city responded that the agency was not entitled to rewrite government contracts to eliminate anti-discrimination clauses.

Last year, Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., appeared to urge the court to reconsider the 2015 decision that established a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, Obergefell v. Hodges, saying it stigmatized people of faith who objected to those unions.

In his majority opinion in the Obergefell decision, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who retired in 2018, called for “an open and searching debate” on same-sex marriage, writing that “the First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered.”

Author: Adam Liptak
This post originally appeared on NYT > U.S. News

TV doctor Christian Jessen on brink of bankruptcy after Arlene Foster libel ruling

Embarrassing Bodies star Dr Christian Jessen, 44, has spoken out after losing a libel case over a tweet he wrote. The celebrity doctor has been ordered to pay £125,000 to Arlene Foster but has said he’s facing bankruptcy over the ruling.
Jessen tweeted false allegations about Northern Ireland’s First Minister having an extra-marital affair.

A Belfast High Court judge ruled the tweet from 2019 was “grossly defamatory”.

While Foster has said it caused her “upset, distress, embarrassment and humiliation”.

The celebrity doctor has said he does not have the funds to cover the libel damages with only £20,000 to his name.

READ MORE: Dr Christian Jessen must pay £125,000 for tweet about Arlene Foster

“I’d been brutally honest about my mental health in court and the circumstances that led to the tweet, and for that to be dismissed is really concerning.”

Jessen shared his crowdfunding campaign on his Twitter in view of his 307,000 followers.

He penned: “I am truly overwhelmed by your generosity and kind, supportive comments.

“I read every one and they are really helping and encouraging me. (sic)

“You are all wonderful! C…”

Many have written supportive comments with their donations to his page.

One penned: “I hope this low season passes soon. And you’re back on top helping others and doing what you do best.”

“He’s helped me tremendously over the years, I’m glad I can return the favour or rather try to,” another added.

A third wrote: “Sorry you’re having to deal with this when you’re not feeling great mentally.”

However, he’s faced some backlash from Twitter users about his crowdfunding campaign.

This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Celebrity News Feed

Ma’Khia Bryant’s Journey Through Foster Care Ended With an Officer’s Bullet

Ms. Hammonds slept wherever she could for several months — sometimes in hotel rooms, sometimes with friends, and many nights in her car — until she secured a home that could accommodate the children. In December 2019, Ms. Hammonds submitted a petition to the court for their return, but it was rejected.

Though the court’s reasoning is not known, the Children Services agency had reported to the court that Ms. Hammonds had failed to meet all of the children’s needs and had not made sure they attended all necessary counseling appointments, according to Ms. Martin, the mother’s lawyer, who said the conditions imposed were unreasonable.

The girls, meanwhile, were placed in group homes. Ja’Niah recalled that, not long after their grandmother dropped them off, she and Ma’Khia were told they had to go into separate rooms for physical examinations. When she emerged, her sister was no longer there.

“I said, ‘Where’s my sister?’” she said. “It was like, ‘We don’t know, we’ll check,’ but he never got back. So that’s when I realized we were being split up.”

After that, Ja’Niah said, the two sisters moved through half a dozen living situations. There was, she said, a foster home so strict that Ma’Khia was often not allowed to leave the house; a group home with dog feces on the floor; a foster mother who screamed at the top of her lungs, not realizing Ma’Khia was recording it all on her phone.

Even when the living situation was good, and a foster parent in Dayton mused about adopting Ma’Khia, her sister was not interested, Ja’Niah said. “She wanted to get back to me, to family. To Columbus,” she said.

Credit…Paula Bryant

At school, Ma’Khia kept her family issues to herself. Jessica Oakley, the teacher’s aide who worked with her at Canal Winchester High School, recalled her as “a hard worker, a sweet girl, very shy.” At the end of ninth grade, she made the school’s honor roll.

Author: Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Ellen Barry and Will Wright
This post originally appeared on NYT > U.S. News

237 children sleeping in CPS offices as Texas foster care 'capacity crisis' worsens

AUSTIN (KXAN) — More than 200 children slept in state offices for multiple nights in March of this year as the “capacity crisis” in the Texas foster care system continues to worsen.

According to data from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, during February 2020 — before the coronavirus began to spread in Texas communities — 34 children spent two or more nights sleeping in DFPS offices. By March 2021, that number had increased by nearly seven times, with 237 kids sleeping in offices.

Scott Lundy, CEO of Arrow Child and Family Ministries, said he has worked in the child welfare system for three decades. He called 2020 the “most challenging year” of his career.

‘It’s a catastrophe’

In short, there aren’t enough beds to accommodate every child entering the foster care system, and Lundy said it’s reaching the level of a “catastrophe.”

“The capacity crisis that we have right now is the worst that I’ve ever seen,” Lundy said.

A spokesperson for DFPS said providers have been “profoundly affected by the pandemic and more recently by February’s winter storm.” They explained foster care providers have struggled to recruit and train foster families willing to open their homes, while residential treatment centers have faced similar struggles with retaining qualified staff.

According to state data, Texas gained 393 beds for children in Fiscal Year 2020 but lost 540 beds. So far in FY 2021, we’ve already lost 696 beds, while only gaining 112.

“DFPS is constantly working with providers to bring more capacity online, while prioritizing child safety over sheer numbers of beds,” the spokesperson said.

Lundy said, “It takes a long time to build capacity, but you can lose it overnight.”

He and his wife fostered and ultimately adopted three children himself.

“I can’t imagine my kids spending time in an office — sleeping there and eating there,” he said. “There’s no laundry facilities. They are eating out the whole time. There’s not a lot for them to do, and recreation, or things that, that would be normal for a child.”

Federal lawsuit

However, problems in the Texas foster care system began long before the pandemic. A decades-long federal lawsuit has drawn attention to stories of abuse, neglect and mounting caseload sizes.

In 2015, Judge Janis Jack ruled the Texas foster care system was broken and ordered the state to make changes, including around the clock supervision by adults who are awake for foster children in a group setting. Almost five years later, in 2019, it was found that DFPS had not implemented her orders. By September 2020, state officials were again warned that they could be held in contempt of court if reforms weren’t implemented.

Right now, the state is still making changes and dealing with the fallout from the lawsuit.

In fact, at the end of last year DFPS asked the legislature for $ 38 million to comply with the lawsuit. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which is also named in the lawsuit, requested $ 37 million to cover costs over the same period.

Debbie Sceroler, Senior Director for foster care and adoption at Bucker, said the pandemic couldn’t have come at a worse time, with the foster care system already in this “state of reform.”

She explained that legislation a few years back allowed Texas to transition Community Based Care model, where local communities organize to provide services rather than the traditional model run entirely by the state. Still, the new data shows reforms are slow-moving.

“We’ve always had more children coming into care, than we do families,” she said. “I think awareness is definitely the first thing we need.”

Buckner works to provide temporary homes

Buckner Children and Family Services recruits and licenses foster homes in Texas.

They’ve helped connect foster parents like Buck and Stephanie Baskin with kids in-need of a temporary home, –sometimes even just for a short time while a child’s case is reviewed, before the child is placed back with family or with adoptive parents.

“It is the hardest, best thing we’ve ever done,” Stephanie said, recalling the more than 15 foster children they’ve welcomed into their home in Mesquite over the last 11 years.

“You realize the need that’s there, and you just continue on,” Buck said. “They’ll be like, ‘Oh, y’all are so special. How do you do it?’ We are not special — we just jumped in and did it.”

Buckner also offer provide preventative services through their Family Hope Center, to help families stay together and avoid falling into the foster care system.

At the end of April, after hearing about the increasing numbers of children staying in state offices, they launched a partnership with the state to provide a more home-like environment for more than 30 at-risk children across the state — opening up campus foster cottages in six different cities. Each home will house up to four children and are located in Dallas, Beaumont, Lubbock, Midland, and Mission in the Rio Grande Valley.

“So, basically we provide the facility and oversee the safety of the facility, and CPS resumes responsibility of the children that stay there. This provides them a more home-like environment,” she said, noting it’s a far better option than a state office.

“Food and activities and games and hygiene products and just the ability to be outdoors and be in a home until permanency can be found. This is a temporary solution. We know children will come and go.”

Legislative efforts at long-term solutions

Meanwhile, several efforts at the State Capitol are aimed at providing more long-term solutions and funding.

Kate Murphy, Senior Child Welfare Policy Associate with the group Texans Care for Children, said some of the most important legislative pushes are the ones that work to implement the Family First Prevention Services Act — federal legislation passed in 2018.

“It really shifted a lot of things for state child welfare system,” she explained. “It restructured how the feds are going to pay for foster care, and it opened up new funding for prevention services that can keep kids out of foster care in the first place.”

She explained that several pieces of the 2022-2023 state budget would allocate funding to things like those prevention services, as well as provider rates.

“We know that we need to support foster care providers right now, especially the ones that are doing life-saving work for kids and taking care of our kids. We want to make sure they have the resources to do that well,” Murphy said.

She also mentioned two bills other to watch with “really, really good stuff for kids” — SB 1896 and SB 1575 — both proposed by Senator Lois Kolkhorst.

Still, Murphy thinks Texas needs to have a long-term vision of how to take care of families, rather than focusing on “putting out this fire.” That will take “sustained interest” on behalf of lawmakers.

“We need them to remember that passing the law is just the beginning,” she said.

Who are the children sleeping in offices?

According to DFPS, it has proved more difficult to find placements for older teens who have complex behavioral or psychological needs, and therefore need specialized care.

The number of children without placements began to increase toward the end of 2020 and into 2021 (Graphic and data provided by the Department of Family and Protective Services)

Oftentimes, these children need care in a residential living or treatment facility, which Sceroler said have faced higher levels of scrutiny and increased costs in recent years. Buckner does not operate any of these types of facilities, but their leadership is aware that many are closing.

Lundy echoed that fact, saying some of these closures — and part of the capacity crisis, in general — was due to increased regulation and oversight following the federal lawsuit.

“How do we support these mission-driven organizations at taking care of kids better, and better, and better,” he said, “Instead of just fining them?”

Arrow Child and Family Ministries instead operates a program called Treatment Foster Care, in order to get “highly traumatized, very complex youth” out of residential centers and psych hospitals and into homes. To be a part of the program, one parent must become a member of their clinical team, undergo extensive training and even agree to stay home with the kids involved.

Still, he said they’ve seen the success rate nearly double for children in the program — 73% compared to less than 30% for similar children in a residential facility or other institutionalized environment.

“There’s not a kid’s issue and not a child’s trauma that can’t be healed better in a family,” he said.

Author: Avery Travis
This post originally appeared on KXAN Austin