Texas Governor Signs Emergency Bill to Overhaul Child Welfare

The child welfare system in Texas has been under fire for decades. Shortcomings have put children at risk and undermined criminal justice in the state.

Recently, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed new legislation aimed at overhauling the state’s malfunctioning system.

In May, the Texas House passed a package of sweeping measures aimed at addressing what is described as a crisis in the state’s child welfare system.

The House passed Senate Bill 11. The measure envisages a shift toward a “community-based care” model for helping endangered children in Texas.

child welfare gets shake-up in Texas

Governor signs overhaul of child welfare in Texas

It would allow contracted organizations to monitor children in foster care and adoptive homes. In the past, that onerous responsibility has fallen on the cash-strapped state with disastrous consequences.

State Rep. James Frank, R-Wichita Falls, the sponsor of the bill, said it signaled an end to the status-quo of child welfare in Texas.

A report in the Texas Tribune noted that Under SB 11, the Department of Family and Protective Services must identify eight areas in Texas to implement a new community-based care system and publish a comprehensive plan for implementation by the end of 2019.

The changes followed alarm over abuse and neglect in the child welfare system in Texas.

The changes came too late for children like two-year-old Colton Turner from Cedar Park.

The child was murdered by his adoptive father even though four Child Protective Service investigations were underway at the time into allegations that Colton was being abused.

Supervisors and case workers were found to have made numerous mistakes and three CPS workers were fired.

The new legislation contains a number of key reforms to child protective services in Texas. It would.

  • Create a pilot program for nonprofits to handle issues involving behavioral care for children.
  • Require managed care organizations to be notified within 24 hours if a child’s placement is changed.
  • Children under conservatorship must be given medical exams within three days of entering into the system. Organizations that fail to meet the medical exam requirement would be fined.

Abbott dubbed the child welfare issue an emergency item for action this year.

In  2015, a judge ruled the foster care system, violated children’s rights, and runaway foster kids made headlines.

Earlier this year, we noted how CPS was discontinuing its use of U-Visas to protect children of undocumented immigrants who were in danger.

Problems in CPS in Texas have impacted the administration of justice and immigration in Texas over the last few years. If you need the help of an immigration or a criminal defense lawyer in Austin, call us at (512) 474-4445.

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