By Amy Chandler, Child Care Licensing State Office

Licensing’s new minimum standards will be effective January 1, 2007.
Why did the standards change? DFPS is required by law to conduct a comprehensive review of all rules and standards at least once every six years. Also, some of the standards had not been updated in over 15 years, during which time we have learned a lot about how to better ensure the health and safety of children.

How were decisions made about the changes? Ideas were gathered from the standards of other states, research, and experts such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Focus groups and work sessions were also held early in the process with providers and with Licensing field staff to discuss ideas for standards revisions. After a set of minimum standards had been developed, providers were surveyed to determine the fiscal impact of the changes and three public meetings were held in conjunction with two written comment periods in order to receive feedback from providers and others interested in the minimum standards. Hundreds of changes to the original draft were made in response to the fiscal impact survey results and the comments of providers and others. The DFPS Council recommended that HHSC adopt the new standards in July of 2006, and HHSC adopted the standards in August of 2006.

What’s different in these new minimum standards? Level one staff are now called child placement management staff, and their duties are more specifically outlined. Also, each agency is required to have a treatment director if they are serving a certain number of children with special needs. These special needs have been divided into four defined groups of “treatment services”: emotional disorders, mental retardation, pervasive developmental disorders, and primary medical needs. In some cases, eligibility criteria for these treatment services is the same as it is now, such as for primary medical needs. However, in other cases, the criteria are much different from the current standards. Therapeutic care, for example, is not the same as treatment services for emotional disorders. Many of the children now in therapeutic care will not qualify for treatment services under the new standards, although you willl still be required to meet their special needs, such as therapy and/or medication.

How do the new minimum standards specifically affect foster parents? Foster homes may need to make a few adjustments in the way they operate, but some of the new requirements also have “grandfather clauses” for existing foster homes. Some of the changes that will affect foster parents include:

  • Caregiver/child ratios based on ages of the children as well as the types of services the children are receiving.
  • Infant and toddler care requirements.
  • Respite child-care requirements.
  • Smoking restrictions.
  • Swimming pool and swimming activity requirements.
  • Fire extinguisher and smoke detector requirements.
  • Increased serious incident reporting requirements.
  • Increased training requirements.
    • The “grandfather clauses” for existing foster homes exempt these homes from meeting new requirements in areas such as the minimum age for foster parents,
    • bedroom requirements for children in care, and bathroom requirements. Existing foster homes also have one year to comply with the requirement that there be a fence or wall at least four feet high completely around a swimming pool area.
    • This is just a sample of the changes you will find in the new minimum standards. Of course, each agency and foster home will need to decide the best way for them to learn and adjust to the new minimum standards as they are implemented. Visit http://www.dfps.state.tx.us/About/Renewal/CCL/default.asp to find links to the new minimum standard rules.

Click HERE to download a pdf of the Current Minimum Standards