Ensuring the safety of Texas children is a major responsibility for every person in Texas. As elected officials, Texas House Democrats take the charge seriously.
The biggest child protection issue in 2017 was child protective services and foster reform. Tens of thousands of Texas kids are in Texas’ foster care system, which is suffering from over a decade of Republican underfunding and mismanagement. House Democrats led the way with numerous bills to address the crisis, many of which are listed below. However, full funding improvements requested by the Department of Family Protective Services were left unmet, leaving lingering concerns that an unwillingness to fully fund the necessary solutions may sustain the foster care crisis for years to come.
House Democrats also fought hard throughout session to reverse the rate cuts for acute therapy services for children in need. The budget fight began early in session, and sustained until the final weeks. Democrats passed amendments to the budget to almost fully reverse the cuts, but Republican-led budget negotiations removed many of the improvements Democrats fought for in the House. Ultimately, these critical only services will only receive about a 25% reversal of rate cuts, leaving many Texas children and families in critical need.
Here’s a sample of some of the legislation championed by Texas House Democrats in 2017:
Tracking Foster Kids in Juvenile Justice System
The legislation requires the Texas Juvenile Justice Department to create a report on the number of kids they admit that have been in foster care systems, in order to provide a clearer understanding of the back-and-forth between the two departments, and the overrepresentation of former foster youth in TJJD.
Ensuring Foster Parents can Advocate for their Children
This bill clarifies that the foster parent of a child with a disability is the educational decision maker for that child, ensuring that the person who knows the child’s situation best is the same person advocating on behalf of him/her.
Empowering Authorized Relatives to Help Children
This bill helps relatives authorized to make decisions on behalf of a child to obtain identification documents for that child, streamlining the process so that authorized relatives are more empowered to help the child.
Entitling Foster Parents to Equity with Parents
This bill ensures that an employee with a sick foster child is entitled to the same leave that an employee with a sick biological or adopted child is. This will assure equity between parents and foster parents in regards to leave policies.
Giving Foster Parents More Say in Court Proceedings
This bill authorizes a court to grant leave for a foster parent to intervene in certain suits affecting the parent-child relationship, ensuring that foster parent have more influence when a suit involves their conservatorship.
Clarifying Judicial Proceedings for Removal of a Child
This bill overhauls and streamlines the judicial process for removing a child from his/ her parents after accusations of abuse. It clarifies the reasons for which that may happen, which will help keep more families intact and ensure that CPS and foster care resources are used dutifully for the children who need the assistance the most.
Continued Education and Skills Development for Foster Youth
This bill provides more educational and training opportunities to homeless children, foster care youth, and former foster youth, which will improve their job prospects and provide the state with a well-trained workforce.
Internship Programs for Foster Youth
Creates a pilot program for foster youth, to help them be more easily placed in internship programs and thus begin building the skills and experience needed to enter the workforce.