Stay up to date on the latest news about child welfare legislation from Dallas CASA.
The Texas State Legislature met for its 87th session in Austin from Jan. 12, 2021 to May 31, 2021. The next biennial session, the legislature’s 88th session, will meet beginning Jan. 10, 2023 until May 29, 2023.
During the 87th session, the legislature passed:
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: