The Texas Senate is poised to vote on a measure to reform the state's child welfare system. As reported by the Texas Tribune, the Senate's Health and Human Services Committee voted to move the legislation forward on Wednesday, February 21st.
Sponsored by the Health and Human Services Committe's Chairman, Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown), the legislation revamps requirements for contracts with outside care providers as well as alter reporting requirements for providers.
The measure has bipartisan support, with one Democrat co-sponsor noting that this reform is an issue that transcends party lines.
The Texas House is also considering legislation that would reform the state's child welfare system. One bill seeks to make Child Protective Services its own agency, and another seeks to make it more economically feasible for relatives to take in children who need care. A third piece of legislation seeks to improve coordination between the state and community-based care.
This action, noted attorney Jake Posey, to reform Texas' child welfare system is not a surprise, as Governor Greg Abbott named it his "number one emergency item" during his State of the State speech in January. In that same speech, Governor Abbott noted the urgency of dealing with the issue by citing that over 100 children whose families had ties to state services died in Texas last year, a statistic the Department of Family and Protective Services verified.
The calls to action and the legislation follow a 2015 federal court ruling that the Texas foster care system violated the rights of children in the system.