Two House bills and a Senate bill that would change the way Child Protective Services operates in Texas unanimously passed out of their respective chambers Wednesday afternoon.
House Bill 5 authored by Rep. James Frank, R-Wichita Falls, would make the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services an executive level agency that reports directly to the governor.
Frank said HB 5 is a big step toward performing the child welfare system and will streamline the management of Child Protective Services, which is housed under DFPS.
“I believe this body is ready to ... give CPS the resources and clear direction and tools to make our child protective service system a model for the rest of the country,” Frank said. “This after all, is the goal of HB 5, to have CPS among the best-run, best-performing child welfare agencies in the country.”
HB 5 passed out of the House by a vote of 144-0 and will move to the Senate.
The House also passed House Bill 4 by a vote of 145-0. HB 4 would give monthly payments to families caring for their relatives who would otherwise be in the foster care system.
An amendment proposed by state Rep. Mark Keough, R-The Woodlands, which would require relatives to be legal residents in order to receive payments, faced opposition on the House floor and was not adopted.
“Today the House showed that improving child protection is among our highest priorities,” House Speaker Joe Straus said in a statement. “We have taken a couple of very important steps toward providing better protection and care for children in terrible circumstances, with more to come in the weeks ahead.”
Senate Bill 11, which aims to improve CPS through a more efficient structure and increased funding, will advance to further deliberation in the House. The 31 Texas senators all voted favorably on the bill after some deliberation and the adoption of nine amendments.
The author of the bill, Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, said it alleviates multiple issues that have strained the program in the past by providing a thorough and timely investigation for each child’s specific situation and by placing children in communities, rather than residential treatment centers.
“This is an issue that we all need to get right for all the constituents of the state of Texas that we serve, for the children in the state of Texas,” Schwertner said.
Schwertner said he encourages local community engagement in the system while maintaining state responsibility of the program. According to reviews of the agency and discussions with CPS workers, Schwertner said CPS needs a structural change in order to improve the quality of care children receive.
“Those that argue that we just need to throw money at it, I think are missing the point,” Schwertner said. “We need to be doing it different.”
Gov. Greg Abbott listed CPS reform as an emergency item during his State of the State Address last month. He said the advancement of these bills is a step in the right direction.
“Today’s actions by the House and Senate are a significant first step toward reforming the child welfare system and creating a culture that gives every child a chance to not only survive, but thrive in Texas,” Abbott said in a statement.