Governor Signs CPS Legislation

We concluded the 85th Legislative Session on May 29th. The session was marked by many divisive bills and contentious issues. One bright spot, however, is our efforts to improve foster care and reform our state’s Child Protective Services (CPS).

At the start of session, when Governor Greg Abbott proclaimed child protection and reform as an emergency legislative item, I knew we would have the opportunity and the leadership to make monumental changes to the CPS system. In my twenty years of working on CPS issues, I have never seen so many legislators, advocates, and members of the public interested in championing this cause. This session was truly historic on the child protection front.

Five months later, a week after the legislative session ended, flanked by members of the Texas Senate and Texas House of Representatives, Governor Greg Abbott signed the most impactful of a suite of bills designed to improve the lives of individuals who work for and with the CPS system. The bills― House Bill 4, House Bill 5, House Bill 7, and Senate Bill 11―passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in both chambers and represent hundreds of hours of advocating and negotiating.

Senate Bill 11improves the foster care system by holding the state’s child welfare service providers to higher standards. Because of this bill, children who need immediate medical attention will get it immediately, youth aging out of the system will be better prepared for adulthood, and kids coming into the system will have more supportive living arrangements. House Bill 7 rebalances the family court system to ensure that all parties―children, parents, judges, and the Department of Family and Protective Services― are provided with transparency, due process, and access to vital information. As an author and sponsor of these bills, I could not be more proud of what we have accomplished on behalf of our constituents.

As a member of the Senate Committee on Finance, I also advocate for funding increases for child abuse prevention services. Despite progress each session, the system remains dysfunctional partially because it has been under-funded. The Texas Legislature is finally committed to paying caseworkers competitive salaries to keep and recruit talented individuals, and to hiring an appropriate number of caseworkers to fight against caseloads that are too high.

We have both a moral and a legal obligation to these children, and I believe with these changes to law, combined with the additional funding we will invest in this biennium, our state will finally begin to get a handle on our CPS system and meet our obligations. These changes and


Recently Passed CPS Legislation:

Senate Bill 11– Improves foster care by holding contractors to higher standards and ensures youth get needed services more timely.

House Bill 7– Rebalances the family court system and the CPS system to provide additional transparency and due process for children, parents, and foster parents.

House Bill 4– Increases compensation for kinship families willing to take in children, who cannot return to their parents.

House Bill 5– Makes the Department of Family and Protective Services a standalone agency, thereby reducing bureaucratic overhead.

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