Effort to keep at-risk children with parents gets tentative House OK


Highlights

House Bill 7, 31-pages long, would protect parents in certain situations from having their children removed.

Children removed from their homes have increased over the last eight years.

The state does not have enough foster homes for children.

As the state grapples with finding enough foster care homes, the Texas House passed a bill on Tuesday that would keep with their parents children at risk of entering foster care.

House Bill 7, filed by Rep. Gene Wu, D-Houston, would among several other provisions, bar a court from taking children away from parents on the grounds that they home schooled their children, were economically disadvantaged, had reasonably disciplined their children or had been charged with a nonviolent misdemeanor.

“What remains in this bill is what we believe will help the system respond better to child abuse and neglect,” Wu said of his 31-page bill on Monday during second reading of the bill. “This is what we think will do a better job of preserving families, this is what we think will do a better job in having children return to their families, if at all possible.”

Under the bill, a case against a parent can also be dropped if the court hasn’t made a ruling within a year.

Other provisions of the bill include requiring the state to notify child welfare stakeholders if a foster child moves homes, and the court to review a foster child’s placement at every hearing and get a doctor’s evaluation before ordering medical treatment of a foster child.

Other House members tacked on three dozen amendments to Wu’s bill, including one that would allow an attorney assigned to represent the interests of the foster child to know the child better.

The debate became heated on Monday when Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, added an amendment that would also bar removal of a child if the parent chooses not to vaccinate him or her. Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, and other members argued that the amendment wasn’t necessary because the law protects parents who choose not to vaccinate and suggested not vaccinating children endangered them. Leach responded that he wanted government to butt out of such family decisions.

The number of children the state has removed from their parents has grown over the last eight years by 33 percent. In fiscal year 2016, the state removed 19,079 children, according to Child Protective Services.

HB 7 is among a handful of priority bills that lawmakers are considering this session to address problems plaguing the state’s child welfare system. High caseworker turnover rates, lack of foster homes, and children dying while in the state’s care have become some of the worst problems.

House Bill 6 filed by Rep. James Frank, R-Wichita Falls, which the chamber was supposed to consider on Monday but was postponed until Wednesday, is another large measure that would turn over many key foster care services to private entities. A similar bill in the Senate — Senate Bill 11 — passed in March.

The House on Monday also approved House Bill 1542, filed by Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo, to allow foster children to be placed in so-called cottage homes. Such homes allow groups of up to 12 children. Supporters said that it would relieve the shortage of foster homes while opponents said that such homes are unsafe and are not a family-like environment.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Texas News & Politics

Hutto Economic Development Corporation under criminal investigation
Hutto Economic Development Corporation under criminal investigation

The Hutto city manager announced Thursday night at a City Council meeting that the former Hutto Economic Development Corporation is under criminal investigation. It was immediately unclear what the subject of the investigation is, but the revelation came several minutes after Mayor Pro Tem Tom Hines had said that the EDC — against the wishes...
AUSTIN POLICE CONTRACT: Deadline passing as civic groups wade in
AUSTIN POLICE CONTRACT: Deadline passing as civic groups wade in

Months-long negotiations between Austin police and city officials reached a heightened pitch Thursday as both sides brushed against a deadline to develop a proposed employment agreement. The stakes were being raised on multiple fronts: Community and political groups, including some leaders of the Travis County Democratic party, were opposing any possible...
‘Horns up’ in the Children’s Hospital
‘Horns up’ in the Children’s Hospital

University of Texas football players Tim Yoder, Michael Wilson and Kendall Moore get their “horns up” with future Longhorn Dylan Martinez at St. David’s Children’s Hospital. The football players visited sick children and their families to lift their spirits.
Poll: 49% of Texans disapprove of Trump, but GOP support strong
Poll: 49% of Texans disapprove of Trump, but GOP support strong

Nearly half of Texans disapprove of Donald Trump’s performance as president, but Republicans overwhelmingly support him, according to a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll released Thursday. Among Republicans, 79 percent said they approved of Trump’s performance, while 15 percent disapprove. The rest of the GOP respondents said they...
DPS: Driver, 18, dies in crash after police chase near Granite Shoals

BURNET COUNTY Police chase ends with fatal crash A police chase ended with the death of an 18-year-old driver near Granite Shoals early Thursday, authorities said. According to a Texas Department of Public Safety statement, a preliminary investigation found that Cruz Grimaldo Suarez was fleeing from police around 3:30 a.m. in Burnet County. He was...
More Stories