UPDATE 4/17/20 2:34 PM: Texas Scorecard received the following response from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services:

All decisions about testing and treatment for children in foster care will be directed by medical personnel. Steps for reporting testing activities are listed in the “Guidance to Residential Providers” which you can read at the link I previously provided you to our COVID-19 resource page.

We went to the website and found “Tips for Residential Providers.” On page 20, it gives a hotline and DFPS email address for residential providers to report children and youth in their care who contract the coronavirus. DFPS has not changed their reply of having “no responsive records” to our open records request for their data tracking of coronavirus infections of children in CPS custody. 

While the state and the many local governments across Texas regularly report Chinese coronavirus infection rates, Child Protective Services apparently has no such data tracking infections among the children in its custody.

On March 23, Texas Scorecard sent open records requests to Texas’ Department of Family and Protective Services—the parent body of CPS—asking for the following:

1) Records corresponding to the weekly and daily tracking numbers of children in Child Protective Services’ custody who have tested positive for COVID-19, broken down by county.

 

2) Records corresponding to the weekly and daily tracking numbers of children in Child Protective Services’ custody who have tested positive for COVID-19 at the 2700 Ben Ave. Fort Worth location.

 

3) Records corresponding to CPS’ COVID-19 policy.

 

4) From February 20, 2020, to present, records corresponding to hourly and daily cleaning and sanitation reports of meeting rooms for visitation between children and parents.

On April 15, 22 days after we sent our requests, we sent a follow-up to DFPS asking for an update. We received a reply the following day.

DFPS pointed to a previous email reply to us that outlined in detail the policies and procedures they were following regarding the coronavirus, namely that investigators were asking screening questions when visiting a home and conducting investigations outdoors—while maintaining a distance of 6 feet—with families that might have been infected.

For children in their conservatorship, monthly contact is still required; however, CPS is conducting those digitally. In-person meetings may occur if “there have been previously noted issues around the safety or quality of care provided in a placement.”

For item four, we were told to contact the Texas Facilities Commission.

As to the first two items, however, DFPS replied:

“There are no responsive records related to these two items for the time period of your request.”

This is in spite of the fact that throughout Texas and the nation, governments are regularly providing updated numbers on infections and hospital admissions among the general public. Why does CPS not have such information for children in their custody? Are they tracking it all?

Texas Scorecard has sent follow-up inquiries regarding CPS’ testing practices and the rollout strategy of treatments such as hydroxychloroquine for children in their custody who test positive. Inquiries have also been sent to Gov. Abbott’s office. As of publication, no response has yet been received.

Robert Montoya

A former filmmaker, University of North Texas graduate, and one-time assistant language teacher, Robert Montoya misses Japan and the 1980s. He is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard.

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