88th Legislative Session Outcomes

Child welfare & texas casa outcomes for the 88th legislative session

The final day of the 88th Regular Legislative Session in Texas was Monday, May 29. Texas CASA tracked over 438 bills, testified before committees 11 times, and registered in support of 76 bills. Texas CASA is very thankful for our local Legislative Advocacy Teams (LATs) for their hard work and advocacy with their local legislative offices. The LATs participated in over 145 meetings with legislative offices and responded to 92 Action Alerts from Texas CASA. A considerable amount of Texas CASA’s success this session was due to the continued support of our network’s LATs.

Funding priorities

HB 1: Continued CASA funding from the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) of $31.9M for the 2024-2025 biennium.

HB 1: Continued funding for Family Finding/Collaborative Family Engagement under the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) in the amount of $643,600 for the 2024-2025 biennium.

SB 30 by Senator Huffman: This supplemental funding bill included Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding of $115M to address the VOCA shortfall. This is a 2-year fix to the shortfall.

policy Priorities

Texas CASA supports policies that preserve families, promote family reunification when possible, and minimize the time children spend in foster care.

HB 730 by Representative Frank: Changes procedures for parents during an investigation or during a Parent Child Safety Placement. Requires Child Protective Services to inform parents facing abuse or neglect investigations about their right to an attorney. Allows caseworkers to ask a judge for a court order if a parent refuses to be interviewed by an investigator or denies the investigator entry to their home.

HB 793 by Representative Noble: Authorizes a parent who is required to complete a service plan to obtain services from a qualified or licensed provider selected by the parent. Requires DFPS to reimburse the selected provider in an amount equal to the average cost for that specific service.

SB 26 by Senator Kolkhorst: Creates a Mental Health Innovation Grant Program that will be open to agencies that provide services to children and families to develop evidence-based programs.

SB 614 by Senator Perry: Puts time limits and other restrictions around parental child safety placements, requires data collection related to those placements and requires notice to parents of their right to speak to an attorney.

SB 2120 by Senator Zaffirini: Requires the Texas Indigent Defense Commission to provide legal representation and services to indigent parents or children named in a suit filed by the Department of Family and Protective Services.

HB 968 by Representative Gates: Provides a parent or caregiver who is accused of abuse or neglect the option to voluntarily remove themselves from the home in lieu of the child's removal.

HB 1087 by Representative Hull: Requires the Department of Family and Protective Services’ petitions to include affidavits describing reasonable efforts made to prevent child removal.

Texas CASA supports funding and policies that provide a child access to safe, stable placements in their community that meet their individual need and support their permanency goals.

HB 1: The Legislature approved and funded the modernization of Texas' Foster Care Rate Methodology in the budget. The state appropriated funds:
- To make changes necessary to implement new methodology.
- For provider implementation grants.
- To pay rates using the new methodology beginning in 2025.
- For sustained supplemental rate.
- To act as a "bridge" to rate modernization.
- These funds will allow the child welfare system to focus more on the individual needs of children, promote better outcomes, and support higher quality placements.

HB 2969 by Representative Cook: Prohibits the Department of Family and Protective Services, a single source continuum contractor, or a licensed child-placing agency from setting a maximum age for prospective adoptive parents or a maximum age differential between a child and any prospective adoptive parent.

SB 1379 by Senator Parker: Establishes a Foster Youth Financial Program to assist youth in foster care in achieving financial security and independence as they transition to independent living. The pilot will assist youth in opening savings and checking accounts.

SB 1469 by Senator Bettencourt: Requires an applicant for a position with a child care facility to submit a pre-employment affidavit disclosing whether the applicant has ever been charged with, adjudicated for, or convicted of having an inappropriate relationship with a minor.

SB 1930 by Senator Kolkhorst: Ensures children in foster care spend more time with families rather than in facilities by enhancing legal representation, including GAL powers and duties, while children are in facilities and requiring judges to actively monitor progress and the timeline for a swift return to families.

HB 3765 by Representative Bucy: Requires the Department of Family and Protective Services 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 instead of luggage.

HB 4233 by Representative Zweiner: Requires each foster parent, prospective adoptive parent, and relative or other designated caregiver who provides care for children and youth 10 years or older in the conservatorship of DFPS to complete a training program on runaway prevention measures and on proper procedures in the event a child or youth does run away.

Texas CASA supports funding and policies that further support and encourage placement with relative caregivers.

HB 1: DFPS received additional resources to provide funding for concrete needs and to reimburse licensure costs for kinship caregivers.

HB 1: The Legislature directed agencies, pending federal direction, to expedite the development and adoption of rules to facilitate an improved verification process, ultimately resulting in more resources for kin and improved state reimbursement.

SB 1379 by Senator Parker: Establishes a Foster Youth Financial Program to assist youth in foster care in achieving financial security and independence as they transition to independent living. The pilot will assist youth in opening savings and checking accounts.

Other important Enacted legislation

HB 63 by Representative Swanson: Prohibits anonymous reporting of suspected child abuse or neglect. All information about a caller’s identity will remain confidential. Reporters not comfortable giving their information will be instructed to contact law enforcement about their report.

HB 474 by Representative Hull: Requires CASA programs to have a grievance policy and requires reporting of active and inactive volunteers.

HB 2658 by Representative Leach: Adds criminal solicitation of a minor and online solicitation of a minor to the list of convictions for which parental rights may be involuntarily terminated.

HB 3462 by Representative Noble: Standardizes the regulations governing the five Health and Human Services Commission ombudsman offices, including the Foster Care ombudsman.

SB 24 by Senator Kolkhorst: Transfers the Prevention and Early Intervention (PEI) program from the Department of Family and Protective Services to a broader Family Service division at the Health and Human Services Commission. PEI programs were sustained and expanded to serve more at-risk families.

SB 133 by Senator West: Prohibits a peace officer or school security personnel on the property of a public school or at a school-sponsored or school-related activity from restraining or using a chemical irritant spray or taser on a student enrolled in the fifth grade or below unless the student poses a serious risk of harm to the student or another person.

SB 1447 by Senator Miles: Requires DFPS to develop an improved training program in order to increase the quality of abuse and neglect investigations.

SB 1727 by Senator Schwertner: Continues the functions of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) for two more years, setting up another Sunset review for the next legislative session in 2025, and makes additional juvenile justice policy changes.

SB 1849 by Senator Kolkhorst: Directs the Department of Information Resources to develop the Texas Interagency Reportable Conduct Search Engine as a centralized data registry between the Texas Education Agency, the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, the Health and Human Services Commission, and the Department of Family and Protective Services. This new registry will contain the list of staff and volunteers who have been determined to have engaged in abuse, neglect, exploitation, or misconduct within school, long-term care, child-care, or juvenile justice settings.