KHOU 11 Anchor Len Cannon shares the tragic stories of five young people, all of whom went through foster care after being abandoned, neglected or abused by their parents.
Their story doesn't end there. It's what happened to them, and thousands of other children, while they were in state custody that got a federal judge involved.
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"The foster care system in Texas is broken and it's failing the children it's supposed to protect," said Sara Bartosz, a lawyer and children's right advocate.
Bartosz is part of an advocacy group that sued the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services and won. In a 255-page ruling in March, a judge ordered sweeping changes to the foster care system, saying:
Children have been shuttled through a system where rape, abuse, psychotropic medication and instability are the norm.
In April, the judge appointed two special masters to oversee mandatory reforms in the system, including hiring and training more case workers to lower the case load, as well as instituting a 24-hour child abuse hotline.
Bartosz says it could take months or years to get it right, but calls the mandate a roadmap to improve the care of children the state is supposed to be helping.