Monday, May 31, marked the end of the 87th Regular Legislative Session in Texas. Texas CASA tracked over 260 child welfare bills, testified before committees 10 times, and registered in support of 65 bills total. Texas CASA thanks all local Legislative Advocacy Teams (LATs) for their support and correspondence with key legislative offices in their districts. Much of Texas CASA’s success this session came from the ongoing support of our LATs. Below is an overview of passed legislation and CASA funding for the next biennium. Please be sure to keep an eye out for our Regional Trainings later this year for a more in-depth discussion of what these policy changes mean for CASA programs and the children and families we serve.
CASA Funding & Budget Riders in SB 1
The 87th Legislature concluded its work on the state budget for the fiscal 2022-2023 biennium with the enactment of SB 1, the General Appropriations Act. The significant budget items affecting Texas CASA and our legislative priorities include:
- A $1 million annual funding increase through the Health and Human Services Commission for the CASA network, increasing annual state funding to $15.95 million. Texas CASA requested an additional $2.25 million per year.
- Maintaining current state funding under DFPS for Collaborative Family Engagement at $321,800 per year. Texas CASA requested maintaining this level of funding.
- The addition of a rider directing DFPS to study transportation options and needs for children and parents to improve reunification outcomes. This was a Texas CASA request.
Passed Texas CASA Champion Legislation
HB 2058: This bill would require judges to ask about access to normalcy activities at every permanency hearing for children and youth in permanent managing conservatorship (PMC.) This would help ensure all kids in foster care have access to normal, childhood activities. (This is already required for children in temporary managing conservatorship.)
SB 2054: This bill would allow the funds in the State Identification Fee Exemption Account to cover the costs associated with the requirements to obtain a driver’s license in Texas for youth experiencing homelessness or youth currently or formerly in foster care—costs such as driver’s education classes, driving practice time and testing fees.
SB 1059: This bill would ensure 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: This bill 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: This bill 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.
More Key Passed Legislation
Texas CASA also worked diligently to support and help pass other important child welfare legislation this session. Below is a list of additional key legislation passed during the 87th Legislature.
HB 700: This bill requires 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. Texas CASA also worked with the bill author and sponsor to add the provisions of SB 1084 which strengthen the PAL program for foster youth transitioning out of care. These provisions include addressing barriers for youth with disabilities to participate in the program, ensures youth receive needed personal documentation and identification, provides a secure email address to all youth fourteen years and older, and requires youth be provided physical proof of health coverage. Also, the bill mandates that youth 17 and over receive support to manage their medication and requires greater efforts to ensure transitional or supervised living arrangements for youth voluntarily leaving foster care at age 18.
HB 1315: This bill 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 Department, 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.
For any questions about newly passed bills this session, please reach out to our Public Policy team at firstname.lastname@example.org.