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Child Welfare System is Overhauled to Protect Minors in Texas

By Peek & Toland on July 6, 2017

Texas Department of Family and Protective Services has been under fire for years over its approach to child welfare. Now legislators from both chambers have passed bills that change how the department treats vulnerable children.

Recently, we noted how the Department of Family and Protective Services has been accused of failing to protect the vulnerable child victims of crime.

Gov. Greg Abbott highlighted child welfare in Texas as one of four emergency items when he made his State of the State address in January.

Immigration has been entwined in the child welfare debate for months.  The department revealed it was no longer helping the children of undocumented immigrants last year. It previously protected victims by processing U visas.

A proposed amendment in the Senate to one of the bills would have excluded undocumented people from receiving state funds aimed to help families who care for abused or neglected children. It did not survive. The Texas Tribune described the deliberations at the Senate and the House.

Texas seeks child welfare overhaul

House members unanimously backed House Bill 4. It would allow monthly payments for relatives who care for abused children within their families. The chamber voted to make the Department of Family and Protective Services a standalone agency.

Senators backed Senate Bill 11 which included provisions to:

  1. Require the department to retain neglect and abuse records for a longer period of time than previously.
  2. Set up a pilot program for non-profit organizations to handle children’s behavioral health care.
  3. Require care organizations to be notified when a child’s placement changes within 24 hours.
  4. Require children under conservatorship to receive medical exams within three days of entering the system.

Department of Family and Protective Services Faced Child Welfare Criticism

Over the last few years, Texas Child Protective Services, which is part of the Department of Family and Protective Services, has been accused of letting children down.

Texas CPS ignored threats to young people on numerous occasions, leading to many tragedies, according to an article. The Star-Telegram documented the pressures on the department.

Since 2004, a series of high-profile child deaths of foster children in Texas led to calls for reform. In some cases, judges were highly critical of CPS.

As Austin family immigration and criminal defense lawyers, we are alarmed at the track record of the child welfare system in Texas.  Call us for a consultation at (512) 474-4445.

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