Posted: Apr 5, 2014 3:35 PM
Updated: Apr 5, 2014 3:36 PM
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Prospective foster parents could face tighter vetting following what state officials acknowledge was an "alarming increase" in foster deaths linked to abuse of neglect last year.
New rules the Department of Family and Protective Services is expected to implement by September include mandatory interviews with neighbors and additional family members, The Dallas Morning News (http://bit.ly/OkwnY7) reported.
Eight foster children died from maltreatment in 2013. Among the deaths last year were two children, ages 2 and 11 months, who authorities say had been beaten.
John Specia, head of the state's child welfare agency, hashed out the rule changes with foster care providers in a series of regional meetings.
"These rules significantly strengthen protections for our foster children," he said. "Our focus is ensuring that we know who is in these homes and who may be around these children that could pose an unacceptable risk. These children deserve complete protection and safety."
Currently, neither caseworkers nor employees of the state's 220 foster care contractors are required to interview neighbors when they examine potential homes. Such a check is done only if the people agreeing to tend to an abused or neglected youngster submit neighbors as references.
Paid foster parents who are complete strangers to the children also don't have to provide names of people who can vouch for their character and parenting skills.
Under the new rules, before new foster homes are licensed, employees of private child placing agencies would have to speak with an additional family member who doesn't live in the home and interview at least two neighbors, clergy, school employees or other community members.
The new rules aim to increase the odds of identifying adults who have a propensity for violence and are likely to be around a prospective foster home.