AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The head of Texas' troubled foster care system says emergency state funding helped hire 441 new employees in December and January, a two-thirds increase over the same period the previous year.

Department of Family and Protective Services Commissioner Hank Whitman told a state House committee on Monday that an additional around 250 staff should be hired soon. The Legislature approved nearly $150 million for about 830 extra employees.

More than 100 children died in Texas child protective services last year alone, when a federal judge had already ruled that the system violated youngsters' constitutional rights.

A major House bill would make it easier for at-risk children to be adopted by relatives. Two others seek to increase case management privatization and separate Whitman's agency from the state's larger, omnibus health agency.