The CASA network makes a difference in the lives of children and families each and every day. During the month of July for National Make a Difference to Children Month, we get the chance to put extra emphasis on the difference a CASA can make while also celebrating the major wins for children and families made during this past legislative session. The goal of National Make a Difference to Children Month is to raise awareness about the various issues children around the world are facing such as child labor, poverty, human trafficking, neglect and abuse, as well as to celebrate and recognize those who are making a positive impact in the lives of children. Texas CASA is proud to be a leader, convener, highly effective advocate and responder to system changes effecting the child welfare system and advocacy for children.
During the 88th Legislative Session, Texas CASA worked hard alongside the Legislative Advocacy Teams (LATs) across the state to bolster effective changes that will support, uplift and make a difference in the lives of Texas children and families. The 88th Legislative Regular Session and Governor’s Veto Period have officially ended, and we are excited to announce that there were several historic investments made to improve the child welfare system.
Throughout the session, Texas CASA’s advocacy put extra focus on providing more available resources for children in care. Too often, the children and youth in foster care are using trash bags to pack and move their belongings between placements – an issue Texas CASA and Day 1 Bags have actively worked to address and raise awareness of in the past. The Bags of Love Act, HB 3765, will require DFPS to maintain and distribute a supply of luggage for use when transporting the personal belongings of children in foster care and to maintain a record of each time a trash bag is used instead of luggage. The luggage issued will become the property of the child to keep and cannot be taken back by DFPS or a foster care provider. This legislation will actively prevent additional stress, trauma and stigma for children and youth in foster care.
Texas CASA also strongly supported the passage of full funding for Foster Care Rate Modernization (FCRM). The FCRM project will replace the current Level of Care System in order to create a new way of reimbursing foster care providers based on the services that they offer. The goal of FCRM is to improve outcomes for the foster care population through the establishment of a well-defined service continuum that will recognize and compensate the caregiver for delivering high-quality services. This new structure will dramatically shift the culture of child welfare in Texas and will have a significant impact on advocacy for children.
Another win for Texas children is through the passage of SB 1930. Texas CASA greatly contributed to the passage of this bill which will ensure children in foster care spend more time with families by enhancing legal representation while children are in facilities, including Guardian Ad Litem powers and duties. This bill also requires judges to actively monitor children’s progress in treatment and their timeline for a swift return to their families. Strengthening services that support children remaining safely with loving families is critical to the well-being of youth in the child welfare system and is one of the core guiding principles of Texas CASA.
July is also Disability Pride Month, and we were excited to see the legislature made an investment in supporting children’s healthy development by boosting Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) funding for infants and toddlers with disabilities and developmental delays. The state will provide $448 per child enrolled in ECI next year and $445 the following year, compared to $434 this year. This additional funding is a significant first step towards improving outreach to eligible children and ensuring that those enrolled in ECI get the support they need for autism, Down syndrome, speech delays and other disabilities.
Every legislative session, Texas CASA’s mission is to support local CASA program initiatives and to advocate for effective public policy to make a difference in the lives of the children and families in the child welfare system. We are extremely thankful for the opportunity to do this work, for the collaboration with the LATs across the state, and for the positive progress we are making at the local and state level. For a full overview of the impact made this session, check out the 88th Legislative Session Outcomes page on the Texas CASA website.
While the regular session has officially wrapped up, we know the work doesn’t stop here. Now comes the next phases of spreading awareness and preparing and equipping the network for these changes in the system. We hope you will continue to support us and the CASA network in making a positive difference in the lives of children and families.
Thank you for all that you do,