GetInvolved

Get Involved

Be a part of the solution!

VolunteerTake the first step to becoming a CASA advocate!

NominateIf you know someone who has what it takes to be a CASA advocate, let them know!

DonateSupport Texas CASA & invest in the future of Texas' children!

Click here to view all CASA programs in Texas. For a CASA program outside of Texas, please visit the National CASA website.

The 84th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature adjourned Sine Die on June 1. Texas CASA and the CASA network applauds the work of our legislative champions who advocated for our most vulnerable children and youth, and helped make this a successful session in bringing about change to the child protection system.

We would also like to thank each and every one of you who signed letters, contacted your legislators, attended legislative advocacy training, forwarded our Capitol Beat, and attended CASA Day at the Capitol. Your passion for improving the child welfare system in Texas by raising the level of your advocacy from the courtroom to the Capitol is what enabled us to advocate effectively for each of these remarkable bills!

BILLS championed by TEXAS CASA

SB 354 | Relating to the transfer to the Health and Human Services Commission of contracting authority for children’s advocacy centers and volunteer advocate programs

Author: Sen. Jane Nelson | Bill Summary
Sponsor: Rep. John Zerwas

This legislation would move Texas CASA’s funding from the current Article I to Article II. This would place Texas CASA funding under the Health and Human Services Commission instead of the Office of the Attorney General.

Status: Effective September 1, 2015

SB 830 | Relating to the establishment of an office of consumer affairs for children in foster care

Author: Sen. Lois Kolkhorst | Bill Summary
Sponsor: Rep. Harold V. Dutton Jr.

This legislation would create an ombudsman for children and youth in foster care housed within the Health and Human Services Commission’s (HHSC) Ombudsman’s Office. It would require the  Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) and HHSC to continue to work together to develop policies regarding retaliation protection for reporters, including consequences for individuals, organizations and/or agencies that engage in this behavior; establish specific protocols for handling calls from children and youth in foster care; support consumer knowledge of the role of this position by requiring a yearly outreach plan; and increase the value of information the ombudsman receives by requiring yearly reporting of data and trends to the legislature and the general public.

Status: Effective September 1, 2015

SB 1407 | Relating to encouraging age-appropriate normalcy activities for children in the managing conservatorship of the state

Author: Sen. Charles Schwertner | Bill Summary
Co-Authors: Sen. Carlos I. Uresti, Sen. Lois Kolkhorst & Sen. Donna Campbell
Sponsor: Rep. Dawnna Dukes

This legislation’s aim is to empower substitute caregivers to approve or disapprove a child’s participation in activities based on a caregiver’s own assessment and availability to help facilitate a child’s access to these activities, using a reasonable and prudent parent standard, without prior approval of the Department. The bill will define a reasonable and prudent parent standard and shift the decision-making role from the caseworker to the caregiver. It will also put liability protections in place for caregivers and require training on normalcy for caregivers, staff and Residential Child Care Licensing (RCCL).

Status: Effective on September 1, 2015

HIGH PRIORITY BILLS FOR TEXAS CASA

SB 125 | Relating to certain assessments for children in the conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services

Author: Sen. Royce West | Bill Summary
Co-Author: Sen. Judith Zaffirini
Sponsors: Rep. Elliott Naishtat

As the legislature focuses on strengthening Child Protective Services (CPS) this session, SB 125 would improve the assessment of children who are removed from their homes by CPS. Often, children in foster care receive a number of costly evaluations and psychotropic drugs, experience multiple placements and never find stability, permanency and healing. This legislation would ensure children are more quickly matched with the services they need, placed in appropriate settings, and not assessed and reassessed at great cost to the state.

Status: Effective September 1, 2015

HB 781 | Relating to caregiver screening and training by substitute care providers for children in the conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services

Authors: Rep. Cindy Burkett & Rep. Elliot Naishtat | Bill Summary
Sponsor: Sen. Charles Perry
Co-Sponsor: Sen. Judith Zaffirini

This bill would increase the number of training hours required to become a foster parent to 35 hours. Additionally, it would promote more standardized training and screening foster parents.

Status: Effective September 1, 2015

HB 3748 | Relating to the coordination of educational support services for and information regarding students who are currently or were formerly placed in foster care

Author: Rep. Marsha Farney | Bill Summary
Sponsor: Sen. Royce West

This legislation would require the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to ensure that at least one agency employee act as a liaison officer for educational issues related to students in foster care. It would also require each institution of higher education to designate at least one employee of the institution to act as a liaison officer for current and incoming students who were former foster youth. Additionally, it would require the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) to designate at least one employee of the board to act as a liaison officer for current and incoming students at institutions of higher education who were formerly in foster care. It would also require THECB and the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to exchange information in order to evaluate the educational outcomes of students at institutions of higher education who were formerly in the conservatorship of DFPS.

Status: Effective Immediately on June 17, 2015

Other Legislation TEXAS CASA is supporting

SB 60 | Relating to children’s advocacy centers

Author: Sen. Jane Nelson | Bill Summary
Sponsor: Rep. Four Price

This bill further protects child victims and the sensitive evidence collected in child abuse cases at Child Advocacy Centers (CACs) by aligning CAC’s Texas Family Code statute with current practices.

Status: Effective September 1, 2015

SB 133 | Relating to mental health first aid training for school district employees and school resource officers

Author: Sen. Charles Schwertner | Bill Summary
Co-Authors: Sen. Judith Zaffirini & Sen. Sylvia R. Garcia
Sponsor: Rep. Garnet F. Coleman

This legislation would build on a successful effort from the last legislative session to offer teachers training to better support students facing mental health challenges. The new bill would make the training available to other school personnel, including school police officers. The legislature and school districts should also work to make it easier for teachers and other personnel to attend the training.

Status: Effective Immediately on June 17, 2015

SB 200 | Relating to the continuation and functions of the Health and Human Services Commission and the provision of health and human services in this state

Authors: Sen. Jane Nelson, Sen. Brian Birdwell, Sen. Donna Campbell, Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa & Sen. Charles Schwertner | Bill Summary
Sponsors: Rep. Four Price, Rep. Richard Peña Raymond, Rep. Harold V. Dutton Jr., Rep. Cindy Burkett & Rep. Larry Gonzales

This is the Sunset Commission bill concerning Health and Human Services Commission. After much debate, the legislature decided not to include the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) in the proposed “mega” consolidation of state health and human services agencies. However, all mental and behavioral health services will be moved, as well as Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), so the consolidation could still impact many of the children in the child welfare system. Additionally, all child abuse prevention and home visiting programs will be moved to DFPS, under the direct control of the commissioner.

Status: See Remarks [on Bill Summary] for Effective Date on June 17, 2015

SB 206 | Relating to the functions of the Department of Family and Protective Services and procedures applicable to suits affecting the parent-child relationship, investigations of child abuse and neglect, and conservatorship of a child; affecting fee amounts and authorizing an administrative penalty

Authors: Sen. Charles Schwertner, Sen. Brian Birdwell, Sen. Donna Campbell, Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa & Sen. Jane Nelson | Bill Summary
Co-Author: Sen. Carlos I. Uresti
Sponsors: Rep. Cindy Burkett, Rep. Four Price, Rep. Richard Peña Raymond, Rep. Harold V. Dutton Jr. & Rep. Larry Gonzales

This is the Sunset Commission bill concerning the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). The bill addresses key goals of the Child Protective Services (CPS) Transformation, to allow caseworkers to spend more time with children and families and to improve the safety, permanency and well-being of children in care. The bill contains provisions to reduce unnecessary administrative tasks and paperwork as well as caseworker caseload in some areas, and provides DFPS with more flexibility to change and adapt its policies and practices. Texas CASA was successful in amending the bill to require better data on the proximity of placements to children’s homes of origin.

Status: See Remarks [on Bill Summary] for Effective Date on June 18, 2015

SB 239 | Relating to student loan repayment assistance for certain mental health professionals

Author: Sen. Charles Schwertner | Bill Summary
Co-Authors: Sen. Sylvia R. Garcia, Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, Rep. Eddie Lucio III, Sen. José R. Rodríguez, Sen. Royce West & Sen. Judith Zaffirini
Sponsors: Rep. John Zerwas & Rep. Garnet F. Coleman

This legislation would create a loan repayment program for the five major helping professions focused on mental health in Texas: psychiatrists, psychologists, advanced practitioner nurses, licensed professional counselors and licensed clinical social workers. To qualify for tuition reimbursement, the applicant is required to complete from one to five years of service in a health professional shortage area as designated by the Department of State Health Services (DSHS), and work with clients receiving Medicaid, CHIP or incarcerated in the Texas Juvenile Justice Department or the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Status: Effective September 1, 2015

SB 314 | Relating to appointment of a nonparent as managing conservator of a child

Author: Sen. Royce West | Bill Summary
Sponsor: Rep. Cindy Burkett

This legislation would amend the Family Code to require the court to specify the differences between a managing conservator and an adoptive parent. This includes addressing the authority the managing conservator would have to authorize medical, dental, and psychological treatment, extracurricular activities, and to apply for and receive public benefits for or on behalf of a child.

Status: Effective September 1, 2015

SB 378 | Relating to the liability of certain social workers who provide volunteer health care services to charitable organizations

Author: Sen. José R. Rodríguez | Bill Summary
Sponsor: Rep. J.D. Sheffield

This legislation would add practicing and retired social workers to the list of those covered for liability when they are serving in a volunteer capacity.

Status: Effective on September 1, 2015

SB 949 | Relating to the release of certain child fatality and near fatality information for abused or neglected children

Author: Sen. Carlos I. Uresti | Bill Summary
Co-Author: Sen. José Menéndez
Sponsor: Rep. Elliot Naishtat

This legislation increases the information that the department must release regarding the death of a child due to abuse or neglect. This includes a description of family-based safety services offered by the department (and if they were accepted or declined) and whether or not a criminal investigation or criminal charges will commence as a result. It also directs the department to publish an Annual Child Fatality Report on child fatality investigations where the department investigated abuse or neglect, no matter what the finding.

Status: Effective on September 1, 2015

SB 1117 | Relating to housing services provided through the transitional living services program to certain children in the conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services

Author: Sen. Judith Zaffirini | Bill Summary
Sponsor: Rep. Elliot Naishtat

This legislation would amend the Family Code to require the department to include a housing stability plan with the youth transition plan that would help inform the youth about the basics of how to rent an apartment, manage costs of living, and cope with roommate conflicts. It would also provide contact information about emergency shelters and housing resources.

Status: Effective on September 1, 2015

HB 1180 | Relating to establishment of a child-care facility database on the Department of Family and Protective Services’ Internet website

Author: Rep. Cindy Burkett, Rep. Senfronia Thompson, Rep. Four Price, Rep. Drew Springer & Rep. John Zerwas | Bill Summary
Co-Author: Rep. Rick Galindo, Rep. Myra Crownover, Rep. Charlie Geren, Rep. Donna Howard, Rep. Rick Miller, Rep. John Otto, et al.
Sponsor: Sen. Lois Kolkhorst
Co-Sponsor: Sen. Judith Zaffirini

This legislation would require the department to create a child-care facility and residential child-care facility database, searchable by its name, operation type, locations, and the ages of the children it serves. It would also include information on compliance with minimum standards, inspection results, and disciplinary actions for the last five years.

Status: Effective on September 1, 2015

HB 1217 | Relating to reporting information for certain foster children who are missing or are victims of sex trafficking

Author: Rep. Senfronia Thompson | Bill Summary
Sponsor: Sen. Carlos I. Uresti
Co-Sponsor: Sen. Donna Campbell & Rep. Eddie Lucio III

This legislation would improve reporting on foster care youth who fall victim to human trafficking.

Status: Effective on September 1, 2015

HB 1309 | Relating to the notification of certain legislators of the death of a child in foster care

Author: Rep. Sylvester Turner | Bill Summary
Sponsor: Sen. Charles Schwertner

If a child dies while the state has managing conservatorship, this legislation would require the legislators who represented that child to be notified of the county of the child’s placement at time of death and the county in which the case was located.

Status: Effective Immediately on June 17, 2015

SB 1406 | Relating to the protection of certain children through the operation of the child safety check alert list

Author: Senator Charles Schwertner | Bill Summary
Co-Author: Sen. Carlos I. Uresti
Sponsor: Rep. Harold V. Dutton Jr.

This legislation would add to the duties of the Child Safety Check Alert File, which is run by the Texas Crime Information Center (TCIC) within the Department of Public Safety (DPS). Under this legislation, in addition to their current duties, TCIC would also have to help locate the child or the child’s family, for the purposes of creating an alternative response to allegations of abuse or neglect, providing protective services to a family receiving in-home support services, or providing protective services to the family of a child in the managing conservatorship of DFPS.

Status: Effective on September 1, 2015

SB 1496 | Relating to background checks conducted by the Department of Family and Protective Services for certain child-care providers

Author: Sen. Carlos I. Uresti | Bill Summary
Sponsor: Rep. Elliott Naishtat & Rep. Richard Peña Raymond

This legislation would require that family homes listed or registered as a child-care provider must submit fingerprints to the department.

Status: Effective on September 1, 2016

HB 1804 | Relating to notice by campuses and open-enrollment charter schools about events that may significantly impact the education of certain foster children
Author: Rep. Elliott Naishtat | Bill Summary
Sponsor: Sen. Royce West

This bill would amend the Education Code to require that school campuses and open-enrollment charter schools to provide notice regarding events that may significantly impact the education of a child to the education decision-maker and caseworker. This includes items such as requests for a special education evaluation and any disciplinary actions where parental consent is required. Currently, the Education Code only specifies that school districts are compelled to provide this information.

Status: Effective September 1, 2015

SB 1876 | Relating to the appointment of attorneys ad litem, guardians ad litem, mediators, and guardians in certain counties

Author: Sen. Judith Zaffirini | Bill Summary
Sponsor: Rep. John T. Smithee

This bill requires judges to use a rotation system for appointing attorneys ad litem and mediators to cases to prevent the preferential appointment of certain attorneys or mediators.

Status: Effective September 1, 2015

HB 2079 |  Relating to the designation of May as Postpartum Depression Awareness Month

Author: Rep. Senfronia Thompson | Bill Summary
Sponsor: Sen. Joan Huffman
Co-Sponsor: Sen. Carlos I. Uresti

These bills would amend the Government Code by adding a section that establishes May as Postpartum Depression Awareness Month. This seeks to increase awareness of postpartum depression, and encourage prevention and treatment through educational materials and screenings in collaboration with educational institutions, hospitals, private health care practices, health insurance providers, Medicaid providers and mental health agencies.

Status: Effective September 1, 2015

HB 3014 | Relating to the administration of “pay for success” contracts for state agencies

Author: Rep. Tan Parker, Rep. Cindy Burkett & Rep. Bobby Guerra | Bill Summary
Sponsor: Sen. Royce West

This bill provides the framework for “pay for success” financing to allow the state to enter into social impact bond agreements to leverage government dollars with private funds to bring effective programs to scale.

Status: Effective on September 1, 2015