AUSTIN — After receiving much public criticism about the safety of foster parent screening and guidelines, the Department of Family and Protective Services announced April 4 a set of new rules designed to protect foster children.

The number of fatalities as a result of abuse or neglect among foster children in the 2013 fiscal year jumped drastically. Eight died in 2013 compared to two in fiscal year 2012.

One child in foster care died since the new fiscal year began Sept. 1, 2013, according to a Department of Family and Protective Services news release.

This revision is the first for child-placing agencies since 2007 and will probably become effective Sept. 1 after a period of time is allotted for public comments.

“These rules significantly strengthen protections for our foster children,” said Judge John Specia, Department of Family and Protective Services commissioner. “Our focus is ensuring that we know who is in these homes and who may be around these children that could pose an unacceptable risk. These children deserve complete protection and safety.”

All new foster families already undergo interviews, criminal background checks of all adult family members and home safety assessments, but new rules include:

An interview of a family member not living in the home.

Two interviews of neighbors, clergy, school employees and/or other community members.

Interviews of all adult children of foster parents.

Assessment of personal relationships of foster parents and review of household finances.

Review of any law enforcement agency calls to the foster home for the previous two years.

Verification of identity and background checks for any person designated as an emergency caregiver.

Child-protection agencies also must more closely watch foster homes for major household changes including job loss, marriages, divorces or the addition of any household members or frequent visitors.

The goal of these now foster care safety rules is to more thoroughly screen potential foster parents and other caregivers so foster children are adequately protected.

Child Protective Services must know who is in the foster homes on a regular basis and who will be around the children who could pose a risk to that child’s safety, according to the news release.

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