Sweeping Final Order Issued in Federal CPS Lawsuit; Stay Issued to Prevent Implementation

In major developments in the long-running federal lawsuit and ruling regarding Texas’ child protection system, Judge Janis Jack issued a final order requiring DFPS to implement nearly 100 changes to the CPS system, but implementation of that order was stayed by subsequent judicial action. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will hold an initial hearing on this stay on Feb. 15 – Texas CASA will report on the outcome of that hearing.

Based on a lawsuit initially filed in 2011, after a trial that commenced in 2014, Judge Jack issued a ruling in December 2015 that found Texas’ foster care system for children in Permanent Managing Conservatorship (PMC) unconstitutional because it failed to protect them from an unreasonable risk of harm. After receiving a suggested plan of implementation from two Special Masters appointed in the case, Judge Jack issued a final order on Jan. 19, 2018, that included numerous far-reaching changes to the foster care system with an aggressive implementation timeline.

Among the nearly 100 requirements in her order, some of the changes ordered include:

  • reductions in caseloads for conservatorship caseworkers,
  • creation of a new comprehensive data system,
  • expansion of placement capacity to meet regional needs, and
  • payment of attorneys ad litem by DFPS while children are in PMC.

The state has consistently opposed the plaintiffs in the case, arguing that the legislature and DFPS have been improving the child protection system and that the ordered changes are expensive and unnecessary.

For the time being, Judge Jack’s order will not be implemented, pending further consideration of the state’s appeal by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

For more information, including a more in-depth summary and analysis, read this thoughtful consideration of the recent action on the lawsuit on the Texans Care for Children website.

Please let the Texas CASA Public Policy team at publicpolicy@texascasa.org know if you need additional information on this case.