House Human Services Committee Hearing Oct. 23
The House Human Services Committee met on Tuesday, Oct. 23, to monitor the activities of HHSC and DFPS and receive updates on certain legislation passed during the 85th Legislative Session. Texas CASA submitted written testimony to the committee.
The committee first heard from HHSC, led by new Executive Commissioner Dr. Courtney Phillips. The agency reported on efforts to improve procurement practices and managed care, as well as bill implementation. See the HHSC presentation here.
Next, DFPS led by Commissioner Hank Whitman reported on staff hiring and bill implementation. DFPS reported about the hiring of 550 new caseworkers that has taken place with the funds provided by the 85th Legislature. Caseloads in all CPS areas have decreased, as has caseworker turnover. In addition, there has been improvement in timely face-to-face contact with investigations caseworkers. See the DFPS presentation here.
- The agency noted House Bill 5 has been implemented, making DFPS an independent agency. The DFPS Commissioner is now an appointee of the Governor, subject to Senate confirmation. DFPS will continue to contract with HHSC for certain administrative services.
- DFPS reported on the implementation of HB 4, which allowed for monthly payments for relative caregivers. Those payments now support families caring for a combined 8,500 children. DFPS will be requesting funding in the 86th Legislative Session to expand this program.
- DFPS reported on the successful implementation of HB 7. Among the many provisions of the bill were an expansion of the powers and duties of attorneys ad litem (a CASA initiative) and a requirement for the Supreme Court Children’s Commission to conduct a study regarding the use of attorneys ad litem in DFPS cases. That study can be found here.
- DFPS also updated the committee on the implementation of Senate Bill 11, which included provisions related to a foster care capacity needs assessment, expansion of Community Based Care, and a requirement for a medical exam within three days for children who have been removed from their homes. There was significant discussion about the implementation of the three-day medical exam requirement. Representatives James Frank and Stephanie Klick were concerned that the provision was being implemented more broadly than was intended. Those representatives stated they would seek ways to limit the language so that the Department could not require a medical exam for children who did not come into care meeting specific criteria.