1. For this discussion, you will need to draft a policy memo to the Texas Legislature regarding reforms to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). Here is a sample policy memo.
2. Research the concerns from Texas foster care investigations. You may also want to review the report below that was referenced in a few court hearings.
Stanley, A., Vincent, P. & Meltzer, J. (2022, January 10). Recommendations for Improving Texas Safe Placement and Services for Children, Youth and Families. https://www.courthousenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/tx-foster-expert-panel-report.pdf (Links to an external site.)
3. Determine your position. I implore you to view the topic from multiple perspectives and try to understand the arguments from a different lens. Understanding the opposition may help improve your argument. If you are neutral or undecided, your opinion is still important to the discourse. You may be able to see both arguments clearly and find common ground or assist in closing the divide. (For example, has Texas DFPS made any reforms to the foster care system? Are there other internal or governmental roadblocks that have prevented Texas DFPS from enacting the reforms? Or, has the Texas DFPS willfully neglected youth in the Texas foster care system?)
4. Draft your modified policy memo in at least 200 words. Since this is a draft, you will not need to address your policy memo. Answer the questions below. To be clear, I do not expect you to choose a side. I want you to evaluate the merits and examine the impact on Texas youth and families. Be sure to review the discussion rubric tab under the ‘Start Here’ module for details on how your discussions will be graded.
For the purposes of this discussion, here is how I am defining a policy memo: A policy memo is a document written to provide an analysis or recommendation of an issue to influence decision-makers.
Policy Memo Components (The questions in purple are designed to help you think through your answers. You do not have to answer them.):
Introduction: Write an overview of the problem. What important information should the Texas Legislature know about Texas DFPS and needed foster care reforms? Why is the problem urgent? 1-2 sentences
Your Position on the Topic: Detail why you are for, against, or neutral on Texas foster care reforms. Will complying with the needed foster care reforms solve all of the concerns within the Texas DFPS? What do the youth in Texas foster care actually need? What will improve their well-being? What about the families? What are the larger implications of the problem? Who does the problem impact? How are they impacted? 2-3 sentences
Governmental Background: In 2017, the Texas Legislature designed the Texas DFPS as an independent state agency and required that they report directly to the Texas Governor. Within the Texas system of separation of powers, provide 1 recourse the current judicial and legislative branches have to counteract potential political overreach of the executive branch. In other words, what can the Texas Supreme Court and the Texas Legislature do if they disagree with how the Texas Executive Branch is overseeing Texas DFPS? How effective is the Texas system of checks and balances when all 3 branches are controlled by the same party and ideology? Have the Texas judicial and legislative branches effectively checked and balanced the Texas executive branch or Texas DFPS? Or, have the issues at Texas DFPS been overlooked due to party politics? What can be done to counteract the political influence? What impact does the Texas plural executive have on Texas foster care reforms? For example, what if Governor Abbott was in support of Texas foster care reforms, but the other members of the Texas Executive Branch were not? Does the plural executive weaken Governor Abbotts’ power or ability to pursue Texas foster care reforms? Why or why not? 3-4 sentences (You must answer the key concept questions in bold (Texas Checks and Balances, Texas Separation of Powers, and Texas Plural Executive), visit Chapter 3: 3 Things to Know for more information on the terms.)
Recommendation: Propose 2-3 recommendations to reform Texas DFPS and the Texas foster care system. What will help current and future Texas foster care youth? What about LGBTQ+ foster care youth? Or, foster care youth placed with families who do not share the same religious beliefs and cultural background? Should parents and/or guardians be required to reimburse the state for foster care placement? Should families receive financial support for housing or childcare to keep the family together? What should happen to Texas DFPS? Was their neglect intentional or part of a larger issue? Is more legislation needed? Use data and quotes to back up your recommendations. Why is your recommendation the best option? Who will support your recommendation? Who will be against it? Note: Recommendations should be based on evidence that the problem exists and that the consequences (good or bad) of not accepting your recommendation will negatively impact Texans. 2-3 sentences
Implementation: How should your recommendations be implemented? Who needs to be involved? What Texas agencies or branches of government? Should your recommendations be placed on the ballot to possibly amend laws in the Texas Constitution? How will you inform the public? When and where should action take place? Will your recommendation increase the budget? Will it require input from Texas communities, youth, and doctors? How will you address the opposition? 2-3 sentences
Conclusion: Why should the Texas Legislature care about this issue? What are the goals of your policy recommendations? What will happen if the decision-makers do not implement your recommendations? Remind the Texas Legislature of the urgency of your recommendations and implementation plan. What is your call to action? 2-3 sentences
Citations: You must include at least 2 citations. (If you read any of the data or articles used in this discussion, then you may copy/paste them into your discussion post.) Citations must be in MLA Format
You may deviate from the paragraph format, but you must include the components (introduction, background, recommendations, etc.).
Adapted from Marie Danziger, Harvard Kennedy School, Option and Decision Memos: Basic Components, 1988.
Sample Policy Memo
Bush School Writing. (n.d.). Policy Memos. Texas A&M University. https://sites.google.com/site/bushschoolwriting/policy-documents/policy-memos (Links to an external site.). (You will find a video link at the bottom of the page.)
Suggested Reading (Optional)
America Counts Staff. (2021, August 15). Texas Added Almost 4 Million People in Last Decade. U.S. Census Bureau. https://www.census.gov/library/stories/state-by-state/texas-population-change-between-census-decade.html (Links to an external site.)
Brooks Harper, K. (2022, March 14). His public custody battle helped ignite a movement against transgender health care for kids. Will it carry him to the Texas House? The Texas Tribune. https://www.texastribune.org/2022/03/14/jeff-younger-transgender-care-house/?utm_source=Texas+Tribune+Newsletters&utm_campaign=91b327c74f-trib-newsletters-top-story-alert&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d9a68d8efc-91b327c74f-102240873&mc_cid=91b327c74f&mc_eid=c049eb9b68 (Links to an external site.)
Child Protective Services. (2021, June). Child Protective Services Handbook. Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. http://www.dfps.state.tx.us/handbooks/cps/files/cps_pg_1200.asp (Links to an external site.)
Fernandes, D. & Estrada, V. (2021, July 16). Unsafe in Foster Care. Latino USA. unsafeinfostercare (Links to an external site.)
Mackenzie, A. (2021, August 26). The child-welfare system is residential schools part two, says lawyer. Indigi News. https://indiginews.com/vancouver-island/the-child-welfare-system-is-residential-schools-part-two-says-lawyer (Links to an external site.)
Native News Online. (2021, September 7). Petitions Filed to Have U.S. Supreme Court Decide on Indian Child Welfare Act Constitutionality. https://nativenewsonline.net/currents/petitions-filed-to-have-u-s-supreme-court-decide-on-indian-child-welfare-act-constitutionality (Links to an external site.)
PBS NewsHour. (2022, February 24). Claiming abuse, Texas tries to prevent gender-affirming care for trans children. [Video]. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/claiming-abuse-texas-tries-to-prevent-gender-affirming-care-for-trans-children (Links to an external site.)
Roberts, D. E. (2021, Summer). Abolish Family Policing, Too. Dissent. https://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/abolish-family-policing-too (Links to an external site.)
Roberts, D. E. (2022, April 5). I Have Studied Child Protective Services for Decades. It Needs to Be Abolished. Mother Jones. https://www.motherjones.com/crime-justice/2022/04/abolish-child-protective-services-torn-apart-dorothy-roberts-book-excerpt/ (Links to an external site.)
Rummler, O. (2022, March 9). Republicans split on whether the government should block crucial gender-affirming care, poll shows. The 19th. https://19thnews.org/2022/03/republicans-split-blocking-gender-affirming-care-trans-youth-poll/ (Links to an external site.)
Shapiro, J. (2021, December 27). States send kids to foster care and their parents the bill often one too big to pay. NPR. All Things Considered. https://www.npr.org/2021/12/27/1049811327/states-send-kids-to-foster-care-and-their-parents-the-bill-often-one-too-big-to- (Links to an external site.)
Star, C. (2021, May 20). It’s Time to Call Out the Systemic Racism in Foster Care | Opinion. Newsweek. https://www.newsweek.com/its-time-call-out-systemic-racism-foster-care-opinion-1593357 (Links to an external site.)
Svitek, P. (2022, March 9). Fighting care for transgender kids shifts from a fringe issue to a litmus test for Texas Republicans. The Texas Tribune. https://www.texastribune.org/2022/03/09/trangender-kids-texas-republicans/ (Links to an external site.)
University Libraries. (2022, February 24). LGBTQ Studies. UNT. https://guides.library.unt.edu/LGBTQ/ERdata (Links to an external site.)
Washington, J. (2022, August 19). CPS fires Texas employee after encouraging teen to try sex work for money. Kxan. https://www.kxan.com/news/texas/cps-fires-texas-employee-after-encouraging-teen-to-try-sex-work-for-money/ (Links to an external site.)