The Texas Young Lawyers Association PSA on Child Abuse
Updates from Margaret Hester Child Abuse and Neglect Issue Chair (Austin)
CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT + 1990, 1995, 2009
The League of Women Voters of Texas supports the development and implementation of adequate legislation, policies, services, and programs to protect children from abuse and neglect. Measures the League supports include, but are not limited to the following:
During the Periodic Program Review process in 1993-95, wording changes that enhance format consistency and reflect changed circumstances were suggested by the PPR Committee and received final approval at the 1995 Convention. A substantive addition to the position was also approved: support for stringent correctional measures for persons who abuse or neglect children, including mandatory specialized treatment and counseling, as well as enhancement for repeated offenses. The re-worded position is set forth above.
In Statewide Conference, March 2009, delegates voted to drop our position's limitation to abuse "in their families and homes" so that we could support bills that would reform the Texas Youth Commission.
1999: During the legislative session, funding to Child Protective Services (CPS) was increased significantly. Foster care received a 7% increase. 220 new CPS staff, which had been authorized by an emergency-spending bill, was augmented by an additional 160 caseworkers in order to lower caseloads and to improve the effectiveness of child abuse investigations.
2003: During this legislative session Children's Protective Services was reorganized and will continue to be impacted as the result of a huge human services reconsolidation law. Several prevention programs lost funding in the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services, including Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Healthy Families, Family Outreach, and the Children's Trust Fund.
2005: Although LWV-TX did not set a priority for this issue, reform of Child Protective Services (CPS) was an important aspect of this session for legislators. The omnibus bill relating to child abuse, as passed and signed by the Governor, decreases worker case loads, strengthens ties between CPS and law enforcement, and provides other protections for children. A last minute attempt to ban gay foster parenting was ultimately unsuccessful. The bill does institute privatization of services for children over the next 6 years, beginning with one region. In the budget battles, CPS received a 12% increase in funding (state and federal), which will be used to reduce caseloads.
2009: Three bills supported by the League were passed and signed by Governor Perry. SB 1646 (Van de Putte) creates a Council of Children and Families. SB 2080 (Uresti) creates a Task Force whose task would be to form a strategy for reducing child abuse and neglect and improving child welfare, including providing assistance for adoptive parents and foster care parents. HB 1041 (Parker) relates to school districts policies on addressing sexual abuse and establishes a state agency to reduce child abuse and neglect and to improve child welfare. In addition, the overall budget of CPS received a 8.1% increase over 2008-09 General Revenue expenditures including funding for an additional 118.6 Family Based Safety Services Staff to increase face-to-face contact with children and their parents, therapy for abused children, treatment and other services for parents/families, an increase in foster care services, and funds to strengthen services to youth transitioning from foster care.
2011: There was some success in this area with the passage of six bills supported by the LWV. These included bills by Senators Nelson, Uresti, and West which related to the operation of child protective services and the foster care system, mental health services for children in foster care, and the establishment of a task force to study the relationship between domestic violence and child abuse. Also school districts are required to expand their policies to include all types of abuse and to require training of new staff.
2013: With the passage of two bills supported by LWV-TX, progress was made on recognition and reporting of child abuse and penalties for not reporting it: SB 939 (West) relates to training to recognize child abuse in schools and reporting it. HB 1205 (Parker, Raymond, Zerwas, Fallon) relates to the offense of failure to report abuse or neglect of a child in schools or institutes of higher learning.
Other bills also supported by LWV-TX passed: SB 44 (Zaffirini, West) provides mental health services in certain child abuse or neglect cases. SB 66 (Nelson) relates to studying the causes of and making recommendations for reducing child fatalities, including those from abuse or neglect. SB 245 (West) relates to eligibility of children's advocacy centers to provide services for children and family members in cases of child abuse and neglect. SB 1758 (Uresti) establishes a task force to examine hiring and management practices of the Department of Family and Protective Services. HB 1228 (Dukes) relates to consideration by the court of sex abuse and conduct that constitutes sexual assault in certain suits affecting the parent-child relationship.