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A federal appeals court says Texas must make improvements to abuse investigations within its foster care system and make sure workers have manageable caseloads, but the court also struck down dozens of other measures ordered by a judge.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued the ruling Thursday in a years-long case focused on children in the state’s long-term care. U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack had ordered sweeping changes earlier this year. Jack’s order followed a December 2015 opinion in which she ruled the system unconstitutionally broken and said children labeled permanent wards of the state “almost uniformly leave state custody more damaged than when they entered.”

The appeals court judges said they understood Jack’s frustration with the state failing to fix problems and agreed that “remedial action is appropriate.”

But the judges said her order went “well beyond” what’s necessary for constitutional compliance.

So while the appeals court said Texas was “deliberately indifferent” to the risk of harm posed by high caseloads and ordered the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to come up with guidelines for manageable caseloads, the judges nixed Jack’s instruction for all sexualized children — either aggressor or victim — to be placed in a single-child home.


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