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stands. “The department is waiting further instruction [on privatization] from the Legislature James told the House committee. Meanwhile, CPS child placement remains a shambles. James conceded after a question from Austin Democrat Elliott Naishtat that the foster care system is so overwhelmed at times that CPS can’t find a temporary residence for some kids. Instead, the kids stay with CPS caseworkers in their offices for three and four days. There was a stunned silence in the room. Here was the agency lawmakers had famously fixed last session admitting that foster kids are sleeping on couches in state offices. A few minutes later, Scott McCown testified before the committee and explained why CPS sometimes stashes kids on office sofas. McCown is a former state district judge and heads the Center for Public Policy Priorities, an Austin-based policy shop. The problem with CPS, McCown told the committee, is lack of resources. Texas ranks 47th nationally in per-capita funding for child protective services. Just to reach the national averagenot the top, just the averageTexas would have to spend $2 billion more every two years. \(That’s nearly 10 times the ballyhooed $250 million increase from CPS can’t recruit enough foster care providers. A shortage of safe places to house kids forces CPS to work with just about any company available, no matter how shady their record. Worse yet, meager state funding also means CPS has a shortage of caseworkers and other oversight staff to monitor how kids are treated in foster homes and treatment facilities. Then McCown got to his main point: The solution to these problems is more state funding, not more privatization. He said privatizing the remaining 20 percent of foster care services that the state now provides accomplishes nothing and wouldn’t save any money. The 20 percent of kids the state places in foster care account for the majority of adoptions in Texas. Moreover, the logistics of shuttering state-run foster care and shifting the kids to private firms would, in fact, cost money, roughly $17 million in state funds, McCown said. Beyond that, privatizing the jobs of CPS caseworkers is “what the private providers were able to talk the photo courtesy of Senate Media Legislature into, and I hope you will revisit,” McCown said. Private companies can offer some valuable services, he added, but should “Joe’s Foster Care” decide what happens to Texas’ abused kids? “Do you want to say that a private company will decide if a child goes home or not?” he asked. McCown offered an analogy: If an overworked shepherd is looking after too many sheep, you hire more shepherds. “You don’t say, this shepherd is doing a bad job, losing some sheep, let’s hire the wolf” At that point, an annoyed Chairman Rose spoke up. “I’ve agreed with most of what you’ve said today. I don’t know that I’d compare the private providers to the wolf.” “Yes,” McCown said. “This Mesa Family Services home that was shut down, I would compare to the wolf.” McCown recommended that the Legislature allow CPS to privatize certain services when that makes sense, but not to mandate privatizing CPS case workers. A bill filed by Naishtat \(HB optional. Sen. Nelson also has a foster care reform bill. Her proposal would beef up state oversight of foster care homes like MARCH 9, 2007 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 17