State Sen. Jane Nelson filed eight bills Thursday with the intent of better serving children in foster care and other programs connected to the Department of Family and Protective Services.
The goal of Nelson, R-Flower Mound, is to foster a transparent and collaborative approach to addressing the needs of children.
“I have made it a top priority this session to ensure all of our health and human services, including our foster care programs, are achieving results for the people they serve,” Nelson said in an e-mail Thursday. She spent most of the day in hearings.
“I’ve been working on the issue of child protective services for years, but this legislative package has been developed over the past year and a half. Some [bills] reflect the interim report recommendations of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services, which I chair.”
The senator said she is confident that all the bills can be passed this session.
Sherri Gideon, executive director of Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children of Denton County, said all eight bills are good. She said two of the bills address CASA’s top concerns.
Senate Bill 424 would ensure that the psychotropic drug plan for foster youth is appropriate, necessary and monitored by creating a more transparent process. Gideon said CASA has been very concerned about the number of children placed on medication without proper medical review.
“This will really help have screening of children before being placed on psychotropic medications,” she said.
SB 425 would require that the CASA volunteer, guardian and attorney are consulted prior to changing a child’s Child Protective Services placement, except in cases of emergency, to ensure that each placement decision is made with input from those child advocates.
“Research has shown when CASA is involved in a child’s case, they have less placement changes,” Gideon said.
She said it’s difficult for a child to lose friends, switch schools and leave a familiar place.
“We hope by the introduction of this bill there will be more attention focused on the right placement to get children not just in any home but the right home based on their needs,” Gideon said.
Gideon said those two Senate bills are two of the three agenda items officials have been discussing with legislators from across the state.
“I am glad they are being filed,” Gideon said.
Legislators may continue to file bills until the March 8 filing deadline. To search legislation, visit the Texas Legislature online at www.capitol.state.tx.us.
BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
BILL BY BILL
Following is a list of the bills filed by Sen. Jane Nelson:
Senate Bill 423 authorizes an alternative response system for low-risk cases in which there is no immediate danger to a child. For qualifying cases, Child Protective Services would have the flexibility to take a more supportive approach with families that can be kept together through education, counseling and other services.
SB 424 ensures the psychotropic drug plan for foster youth is appropriate, necessary and monitored by creating a more transparent process.
SB 425 requires that the CASA volunteer, guardian ad litem and attorney ad litem are consulted prior to changing a child’s CPS placement, except in cases of emergency, to ensure that each placement decision is made with input from those child advocates.
Home visiting program
SB 426 promotes evidence-based practices for prevention programs by requiring that at least 75 percent of appropriated home visiting funds go to evidence-based programs.
Child care background checks
SB 427 closes a loophole by requiring residential child care contractors and CPS workers who coordinate services for children in foster homes to undergo background checks before working with children in the foster care and child placement system.
SB 428 lays the foundation for CPS to establish mentoring programs in which foster parents can mentor biological parents as they prepare to be reunited with their children. Specifically, it deletes a requirement for a duplicative background check that currently creates an administrative and cost barrier to creating a mentoring program.
SB 429 requires judges, before approving the dismissal of a CPS suit, to consider whether any pre-existing child support, visitation or other orders affecting the children would continue to be in effect after dismissal and whether the dismissal would be in the best interest of the children.
Day care cost-sharing
SB 430 incorporates a recommendation from the Legislative Budget Board to ensure that the state is making efficient use of resources when paying for child care. Specifically, it requires that day care services provided by the Department of Family and Protective Services are a last resort for relative and foster caregivers.