History of LWVTX Action on Child Abuse and Neglect

History of LWVTX Action on Child Abuse and Neglect

1990-1995: During this period, the League supported its Child Abuse and Neglect positions through membership in the Texas Council on Family Violence. In 1995 we supported a measure that rededicated monies paid to the Children's Trust Fund of Texas (CTF) directly into the agency's operating funds, thus establishing an improved, more direct method for the CTF to provide funds to communities for local abuse prevention programs.

1999: During the legislative session, funding to Child Protective Services (CPS) was increased significantly. Foster care received a 7% increase. 220 new CPS staff, which had been authorized by an emergency-spending bill, was augmented by an additional 160 caseworkers in order to lower caseloads and to improve the effectiveness of child abuse investigations.

2003: During this legislative session Children's Protective Services was reorganized and will continue to be impacted as the result of a huge human services reconsolidation law. Several prevention programs lost funding in the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services, including Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Healthy Families, Family Outreach, and the Children's Trust Fund.

2005: Although LWV-TX did not set a priority for this issue, reform of Child Protective Services (CPS) was an important aspect of this session for legislators. The omnibus bill relating to child abuse, as passed and signed by the Governor, decreases worker case loads, strengthens ties between CPS and law enforcement, and provides other protections for children. A last minute attempt to ban gay foster parenting was ultimately unsuccessful. The bill does institute privatization of services for children over the next 6 years, beginning with one region. In the budget battles, CPS received a 12% increase in funding (state and federal), which will be used to reduce caseloads.

2009: Three bills supported by the League were passed and signed by Governor Perry. SB 1646 (Van de Putte) creates a Council of Children and Families. SB 2080 (Uresti) creates a Task Force whose task would be to form a strategy for reducing child abuse and neglect and improving child welfare, including providing assistance for adoptive parents and foster care parents. HB 1041 (Parker) relates to school districts policies on addressing sexual abuse and establishes a state agency to reduce child abuse and neglect and to improve child welfare. In addition, the overall budget of CPS received a 8.1% increase over 2008-09 General Revenue expenditures including funding for an additional 118.6 Family Based Safety Services Staff to increase face-to-face contact with children and their parents, therapy for abused children, treatment and other services for parents/families, an increase in foster care services, and funds to strengthen services to youth transitioning from foster care.

2011: There was some success in this area with the passage of six bills supported by the LWV. These included bills by Senators Nelson, Uresti, and West which related to the operation of child protective services and the foster care system, mental health services for children in foster care, and the establishment of a task force to study the relationship between domestic violence and child abuse. Also school districts are required to expand their policies to include all types of abuse and to require training of new staff.

2013: With the passage of two bills supported by LWV-TX, progress was made on recognition and reporting of child abuse and penalties for not reporting it: SB 939 (West) relates to training to recognize child abuse in schools and reporting it. HB 1205 (Parker, Raymond, Zerwas, Fallon) relates to the offense of failure to report abuse or neglect of a child in schools or institutes of higher learning.

Other bills also supported by LWV-TX passed: SB 44 (Zaffirini, West) provides mental health services in certain child abuse or neglect cases. SB 66 (Nelson) relates to studying the causes of and making recommendations for reducing child fatalities, including those from abuse or neglect. SB 245 (West) relates to eligibility of children's advocacy centers to provide services for children and family members in cases of child abuse and neglect. SB 1758 (Uresti) establishes a task force to examine hiring and management practices of the Department of Family and Protective Services. HB 1228 (Dukes) relates to consideration by the court of sex abuse and conduct that constitutes sexual assault in certain suits affecting the parent-child relationship.

2019. The 86 th Texas Legislature lost the previous session’s focus on the Texas Department of
Family and Protective Service and child protection. Fortunately, a few bills were passed that
continue to improve services provided to abused children.
Now schools, courts, and colleges are required to consider the child’s situation when disciplining or
in the civil/criminal court system.  The Texas Children’s Commission must develop guidelines for
judges for greater uniformity in handling CPS cases involving children with mental illness and the
placement and termination of parental rights. Texas will provide additional services for foster youth
who age out of the system to encourage success as a young adult. And lawmakers will have better
data on foster youth in the juvenile justice system, with specific reporting requirements to enable
development and implementation of programs to prevent foster youth from entering the criminal
justice system.
Lawmakers recognized the importance of stability in a child’s life by strengthening the possibility of
kinship placement. Now, the Department and Courts may consider as a caregiver a person who
has a longstanding and significant relationship with the child’s family. Courts are required to ask
the child and the parent(s) about the identity of someone who may be considered as a caregiver in
lieu of placement in the foster system. Children will also be heard, as judges must ask them about
relationships in their lives at each permanency hearing. And Courts are now required to educate
kinship caregivers of ways to receive additional resources to help them provide for the placed
children.
Pregnant and parenting foster youth were not forgotten and will receive information about ways to
keep their own child(ren) safe and promote healthy attachment, child development, and maternal
health if they cannot or do not participate in Project Helping through Intervention and Prevention
(HIP) (a voluntary program).
Schools will have more responsibilities as well to help abused children through mandatory training
for public school employees to address prevention of sexual abuse, sex trafficking and other
maltreatment of children. Additional trauma-informed approaches will be integrated into schools,
but more needs to be done to prevent Adverse Childhood Experiences (“ACE”) and develop services to assist children to heal. H.B. 4183, which did not pass, would have implemented a statewide collaborative effort for communities and resources to address ACE.
Funding is always an issue for the state when providing protection for children. This lack of focus of
lawmakers included feeble attempts to meet the upcoming federal Family First Prevention Act
funding deadlines. Fortunately, S.B. 355 passed which calls for the Department to develop a
strategic plan for implementing previous programs in order to comply with FFPA.
The League issued six Action Alerts on Medicaid expansion and additional months of Medicaid
coverage for children. These alerts were among the most popular with our members and
supporters, generating more than 13,500 emails to legislators. However, only one of the bills, HB 744 giving 12 months of Medicaid coverage for new mothers, passed the House but was not voted on by the Senate.