- Associated Press - Saturday, April 15, 2017

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - The number of Texas foster children staying in agency offices or alternate sites due to lack of placement more than doubled from February to March, according to a new report.

The Texas Department of Family Protective Services said Friday that 65 foster children slept at least two consecutive nights in a state office, motel or shelter last month, up from 29 the month before.

Gov. Greg Abbott and Republican legislative leaders have said increasing foster care capacity and improving Child Protective Services investigations are a top priority in this year’s session, which ends May 29. Texas is under federal court order to improve its foster care system.

“The numbers are disappointing, as Gov. Abbott has given clear direction to us that it is unacceptable for foster children to live in CPS offices,” agency spokesman Patrick Crimmins said Friday.

A 15-year-old foster girl living at a state office in Houston was killed on April 2 after running away from the building and being hit by a vehicle.

CPS officials are working to expand capacity, including appeals for volunteers from faith-based groups. Residential treatment providers in Oklahoma, Arkansas and New Mexico are being invited to build facilities in Texas.

“We are continuing to work closely with providers, practically on a daily basis, to come up with additional strategies to open up placements for high-need children,” Crimmins said. “Our work with faith-based providers is also a key component to the drive to build capacity. These partnerships are crucial, because CPS cannot increase capacity on its own.”

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