Child Welfare Legislation

Stay up to date on the latest news about child welfare legislation from Dallas CASA.

The Texas State Legislature met for its 88th session in Austin from January 10 to May 29, 2023.

Dallas CASA’s Legislative Advocacy Team (LAT), including board members and volunteer advocates, visited the legislature March 1, 2023 for CASA Day at the Capitol.

During the 88th session, the legislature passed and the governor signed into law the following bills that impact child welfare. The bills go into effect September 1, 2023.

Passed during the 88th session:

SB 1930 by Senator Lois Kolkhurst will ensure youth in foster care spend more time in loving homes with caring families instead of Residential Treatment Centers (RTCs) by ensuring judges proactively monitor the child’s progress in the RTC, outlining new duties for attorneys and CASA volunteers representing children in RTCs and ensuring parents can participate in meetings about their child’s treatment in an RTC. The bill was signed into law by the governor on June 18.

HB 474 by Representative Lacey Hull will codify current CASA practice by ensuring all CASA programs have grievance policies in place. It also requires CASA programs to do additional reporting to the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) each quarter. The bill was signed into law by the governor on May 23.

SB 1849 by Sen. Kolkhurst will direct the Department of Information Resources to develop the Texas Interagency Reportable Conduct Search Engine as a centralized data registry between the Texas Education Agency, the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) and the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). This new registry will contain the list of individuals who have been determined to have engaged in abuse, neglect, exploitation or misconduct within school, long-term care, childcare or juvenile justice settings. The bill also requires certain licensed providers that serve vulnerable populations in these settings to conduct a search using the database to determine the eligibility of applicants seeking employment. The bill was signed into law by the governor on June 18.

HB 3765 by Representative John Bucy will require the DFPS to maintain and distribute a supply of luggage for use when transporting the personal belongings of children in foster care and to maintain a record of each time a trash bag us used instead of luggage. The bill was signed into law by the governor on June 10.

HB 4233 by Representative Erin Zwiener will require each foster parent, prospective adoptive parent and relative or other designated caregiver who provide care for children and youth in the conservatorship of the DFPS who are 10 years or older to complete a training program on runaway prevention measures and proper procedures in the event a child or youth runs away from the provider. The bill was signed into law by the governor on June 13.

SB 593 by Senator Kevin Sparks will require the HHSC to contract an independent entity to oversee statistical and operational analysis to assess HHSC’s and DFPS’ rules, minimum standards and contract requirements that apply to child-placing agencies, residential child-care facilities including foster homes, relative caregivers and adoptive homes. The individual entity will then be required to submit a report to HHSC and DFPS regarding ways to promote transparency and to address, simplify and update licensing standards. The individual entity will also make recommendations for legislative action, including recommendations for retaining, repealing or modifying existing state laws or rules or adopting new state laws or rules, necessary to implement the entity’s recommendations. This bill was signed into law by the governor on May 19 and is effective immediately.

SB 1379 by Senator Tan Parker establishes a Foster Youth Financial Pilot to assist youth in foster care in achieving financial security and independence as they transition to independent living. The pilot will assist youth in opening savings and checking accounts.

Additionally, the 88th legislature finalized the state budget for the fiscal 2024-2025 biennium. Items from the enactment of House Bill 1, the General Appropriations Act, which impact CASA include:

• Continued CASA funding from the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) of $31.9 million
• Continued funding for the Family Finding/Collaborative Family Engagement under the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS)
• Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding for the next two years

Passed during the 87th session:

HB 2058 requires judges to ask about access to normalcy activities at every permanency hearing for children and youth in the permanent managing conservatorship (PMC) of the state. This would help ensure all children in foster care have access to normal, childhood activities. (This is already required for children in temporary managing conservatorship.)

SB 2054 allows the funds in the State Identification Fee Exemption Account to cover costs associated with the requirements to obtain a driver’s license for youth experiencing homelessness or youth currently or formerly in foster case. These costs could include driver’s education classes, practice time with an instructor and testing fees.

SB 1059 ensures young people formerly in foster care are able to maintain their Medicaid health coverage until their 26th birthday without experiencing a disruption in coverage if they fail to renew their benefits and update their address with the state. Youth who age out of care in Texas are already eligible for Medicaid coverage until their 26th birthday. This bill directs the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to automatically renew their coverage each year after HHSC verifies their benefit information, so that youth don’t lose coverage accidentally.

SB 2049 clarifies the role of the Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) in dual status cases—cases in which children and youth are involved in both the juvenile justice system and the child welfare system. It helps ensure that children and youth involved in both systems receive the strongest advocacy possible. The bill also stipulates that a GAL appointed for dual-status youth may not investigate charges pending in the juvenile court.

SB 1575 requires courts to examine new evidence about whether placement in a Qualified Residential Treatment Program will be effective, appropriate and in each child’s best interest. The bill helps bring Texas into compliance with new federal standards under the Family First Prevention Services Act and also requires the Children’s Commission to study the feasibility of making these changes in court practice for all children placed in residential treatment centers, not just those that meet the standards to be Qualified Residential Treatment Programs.

HB 700 requires the Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS) to establish a workgroup with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board that will develop a plan to ensure youth who complete the Preparation for Adult Living Program (PAL) receive college credit for the completion of the curriculum. The bill requires certain membership in the workgroup and requires a report be issued by Nov. 1, 2022.

HB 1315 requires the continuation of appointment for guardian ad litem or attorney ad litem serving in a dual role, for as long as the child remains in the conservatorship of DFPS. This legislation is particularly targeted for children and youth in permanent managing conservatorship.

HB 2926 allows the court to consider petition of reinstatement of parental rights for parents whose rights were previously involuntary terminated. Petitions for reinstatement may be filed by the parent, the DFPS, the Single Source Continuum Contractor, or the attorney ad litem. Petitions may only be filed if two years have passed since the termination and the child has not been adopted. The parent must demonstrate that their situation has improved since the termination occurred, and the child’s preference must also be taken into consideration.

HB 80 prohibits judges and justices from imposing fines or costs on children and youth in the conservatorship of the Department, or on those in extended foster care. Fines and costs are to be waived, and in some instances community service may be required instead.

Texas CASA’s Public Policy Team collaborates with stakeholders, the state child welfare system and elected officials to ensure public policies focus on issues affecting children and families in child protective services.

Legislative Advocacy Teams (LATs) work with Texas CASA and their local CASA programs to build relationships with legislators, develop policy agendas to improve the child welfare system in partnership with Texas CASA, and motivate and empower others in their program to advocate for those improvements. LATs are led by CASA volunteer advocates and/or board members, and work with staff liaisons in each CASA program.

Texas CASA’s legislative policy priorities include:

• Supporting policies that preserve families, promote family reunification when possible and minimizing the time children spend in foster care.
• Supporting funding and policy changes to fully implement the federal Family First Prevention Services Act within a reasonable timeframe.
• Supporting needed state funding for DFPS priorities and adequate foster care and kinship provider rates.
• Integrating policies and practices that respect and elevate child, youth and family voices in all aspects of the child protection system.
• Supporting policies to recognize and address disparities and disproportionality in the child protection system and achieve equity for youth and families in vulnerable populations.
• Improving services and supports for older youth in foster care and youth transitioning out of foster care.
• Supporting continued state funding to enable the successful expansion of Community-Based Care and ensure transparency and performance accountability.
• Strengthening policies and services in the STAR Health Medicaid program that cover children and youth currently or formerly in foster care.
• Supporting necessary changes to the Texas Family Code to ensure children and youth with dual status in foster care and the juvenile justice system receive efficient and effective services and supports.
• Improving access to high-quality treatment services and supports for children, parents and families affected by substance use disorder and mental illness.
• Strengthening policies and programs that improve educational outcomes for children and youth currently or formerly in foster care.
• Supporting funding and policy changes that help prevent human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children and youth, along with adequate funding for services and supports that meet the needs of survivors of trafficking.
• Expanding transportation options for children, parents and family members to help children stay in their school of origin, to support parental and sibling visitation, and to access services.
• Supporting funding and policy changes that promote the development of a trauma-informed child protection system.

For more information, visit Texas CASA:

Leadership in Public Policy
87th Legislature Overview

Find your representative:

Photo of child with "Meet Our Children" written on it

Donate badge

Men of CASA logo