Strayhorn Blasts Foster Care System

Comptroller releases findings of two-year investigation

Too many children are subjected to double jeopardy when they enter the state's foster care system, Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn charged last week in releasing the findings of a two-year investigation. Most alarming, she said, were the dramatic increases in child deaths – from 30 fatalities in 2003, to 38 in 2004, to 48 in 2005. "If you compare the number of deaths of children in our state's population to the number of deaths in our state's foster care system," she said, "a child is four times more likely to die in our state's foster care system."

Strayhorn, who's running as an independent candidate for governor, was joined at an afternoon press conference last Friday by representatives of Judicial Watch, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights Texas, and Justice for Children. According to the report, 2004 data provided by the Health and Human Services Commission showed that about 100 foster-care children were treated for poisoning from medications, while 63 were treated for rape and 142 gave birth. The comptroller accused her chief political opponent, Gov. Rick Perry, of stonewalling her agency's repeated requests for additional data needed to complete the investigation. And she blasted Perry for ignoring her call in 2004 to create a crisis management team to help stem the number of child fatalities in foster care. "Gov. Perry's failure to act is unconscionable," she said.

Perry spokesman Robert Black said the governor and the Legislature have already taken steps to reform the child welfare agency with the 2005 passage of Senate Bill 6, which he said addresses many of the concerns Strayhorn raised in 2004. Black's statement went on to accuse Strayhorn of sounding the alarm for political gain. "With her support evaporating, her poll numbers dropping and her campaign stagnating, Carole Strayhorn seems desperate to change the subject and is sadly not above exploiting child tragedies to do it," he said. "What a despicable thing to do."

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

State foster care system, Carole Keeton Strayhorn, Rick Perry, Robert Black, Justice for Children, Judicial Watch, Citizens Commission on Human Rights Texas, Health and Human Services

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