By: Leslie Barrows
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CPS reform bills signed into law
Following the ongoing work of dedicated teams of professionals and lawmakers, Governor Abbott recently signed four bills into law, bringing widely anticipated reform to the Texas Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS) and its investigatory department, Child Protective Services (CPS). The new laws help cure long-term ailments in child protection and foster care with needed funding, department independence, procedural enhancements and a community-oriented foster care system. The CPS reform bills address many shortcomings that cast a shadow on the child welfare system in Texas.
Texas DFPS and CPS reform bill highlights:
The economic and psychological needs of children are addressed in House Bill 4 which provides monthly financial assistance for families paying the living expenses for foster children with whom they are related. Too often, relatives who could be the foster parents for children born of family members fear financial burdens. The monthly financial assistance set forth in House Bill 4 encourages positive mental health, keeping foster children within their relatives.
Independence and relative autonomy is the focus of House Bill 5 which allows DFPS to create rules and policies the department determines are in the best interests of the foster children and families it serves. The department answers to directly to the office of the Governor under House Bill 5. The effect of increased DFPS independence is more efficient resolution and action in cases involving neglect and the medical needs of children. The new laws take effect this September.
Procedural changes to the foster care system in Texas are allowed through House Bill 7. The changes include requirements that allegations of abuse or neglect are based on factual evidence, guidelines for not separating parents from children for non-violent misdemeanor crimes, and limits on courts ordering mental health treatment without the advice of healthcare professionals.
Community based child rearing is the goal of Senate Bill 11, keeping foster children placed with a family in the same school district and near their familiar friends and neighborhoods. The uncertainty and disruption involved in moving children to foster homes in unfamiliar settings can be detrimental to a child’s mental and emotional health and development. Senate Bill 11 includes local non-profit organizations as well as church communities by giving them the ability to oversee and mange cases in the Texas foster children system.
CPS reform was a top priority for Governor Abbott
Delivering the State of the State address this January, Governor Abbott stated, “If we ever had an emergency item, this is it. And I’m declaring CPS reform my first emergency item. If you do nothing else this session, cast a vote for the life of a child.[i]”
Speaking about foster care, the governor encouragingly proclaimed that when it is done right, the foster care system can lead to tremendous results. Talking about families with open hearts and homes, Abbott mentioned Texas First Lady and others reaching out to community faith leaders and legions of families who may be best suited to foster our more vulnerable children in Texas.
If you want to learn more about becoming a foster parent or if you want to adopt your foster child now or later, contact The Barrows Firm to learn more.
For more information about protective orders in Texas and about family violence and divorce, please do not hesitate to contact The Barrows Firm in Southlake at (817) 481-1583.
If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located at 700 East Southlake Boulevard in Southlake near the Town Square.
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[i] Office of the Texas Governor, Governor Abbott Delivers State Of The State Address, Jan. 31, 2017, Austin, Texas