As the 86th Legislative Session comes to a close, the Public Policy team would like to share an update on the Texas CASA Champion Bills filed this Session. With the leadership of some great legislators, their hardworking staff and engaged stakeholders, CASA has been able to pass six different bills from their respective chambers! These bills cover a number of topics, but broadly are intended to support improved outcomes for, and the best interest of, children and youth in the foster care in Texas. Here are the six bills that continue to move through the legislative process:
- HB 72 | Allows adoptive parents to opt into STAR Health Medicaid for their child if the youth has a chronic health condition. Establishes a program that protects the continuity of care for each child and ensures the child receives their health benefits.
- HB 123 | Allows for children in foster care, youth who are experiencing homelessness, and unaccompanied minors ages 18-21 to receive a copy of their birth certificate without requiring parental consent or any fee. Also grants fee waivers for these same categories of children and youth when applying for a driver’s license or ID.
- HB 811 | Requires public schools to consider whether a child is experiencing homelessness or in foster care when taking disciplinary action.
- HB 1702 | Requires liaison officers at institutions of higher education who assist students formerly in foster care to obtain the names and information of all current and incoming students who were previously in the conservatorship of the Department. Also requires the liaison to provide these students with information about support services available to them on campus. The liaison officer may participate in relevant training that serves to better assist children formerly in foster care.
- HB 1709 | Requires school districts to notify DFPS if a surrogate parent has been appointed to a child with disabilities who is in the conservatorship of DFPS. Clarifies that if the school district determines that a court-appointed surrogate parent is not properly performing their required duties, the district shall consult with DFPS. If DFPS agrees with the school district that the court-appointed surrogate parent is unable or unwilling to act in the surrogate parent capacity, DFPS must request that the court review the appointment of the individual.
- SB 1535 | Requires better communication between DFPS and Child Care Licensing and the Foster Care Ombudsman (FCO), and requires Single Source Continuum Contractors (SSCCs) under Community Based Care to give the FCO access to internal records outside of the DFPS IMPACT system. Also requires the FCO to inform the SSCC of the results of any investigation involving a provider in the SSCC’s catchment area and prohibits SSCCs from using the name “ombudsman” to describe their internal complaint lines.
There are other bills that CASA championed this Session that were unable to move through the process quickly enough to meet legislative deadlines. The Public Policy team is currently working to find other legislation that could serve as vehicles for these bills so that they may receive a second chance to become law. These bills include:
(Note: The bills that are grouped together are companion bills, which means they contain the same language but are filed in different chambers):
- HB 1846 or SB 1660 | Requires the court to review DFPS’s efforts to ensure the child has regular, ongoing opportunities to engage in age-appropriate normalcy activities following a permanency hearing.
- HB 3379 or SB 480 | Omnibus bill aimed at improving services and supports for older and transitioning youth. The bill is based on recommendations from the DFPS SB 1758 Workgroup. It ensures 14- and 15-year-old children in foster care have access to supports sooner to help their transition to independent living. Requires changes in policy that would help 17-year-olds understand the medications they are taking, ensure more youth have stable housing secured before exiting care, and more.
- HB 4138 or SB 2110 | Creates a streamlined process for determining a youth’s eligibility for Medicaid. This process would provide for the automatic enrollment and recertification of eligible youth formerly in foster care. This bill is designed to prevent any unnecessary disruption of Medicaid benefits for youth who age out of care.
- SB 1333 | Requires DFPS to undertake an administrative rulemaking to define trauma, trauma-informed care and possibly other related terms. This bill is based on recommendations made in the Statewide Collaborative on Trauma-Informed Care’s Blueprint.
This Session, the House filed 6,650 bills and the Senate filed 3,407. The percentage of bills that are able to make it and become law is small given the short time frame of the session. Nonetheless, the Public Policy team is dedicated to continue fighting for the best interest of children and passing transformative legislation informed by the work of CASA programs across the state.