For many families in Texas, Child Protective Services (CPS) can seem like an unstoppable force, taking children away without warning and with no due process protections. But that could be about to change.
With our priority CPS reform bill, HB 730, we are leading the charge to implement significant reforms in the CPS system, protect parental rights, and ensure accountability for this powerful agency.
The bill has been the product of months of work with numerous parental rights organizations and advocates coordinating together on the bill language. FFP partnered with organizations like the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Parent Guidance Center, and the Texas Association of Family Defense Attorneys to draft the original concept and language of the bill.
Chairman James Frank, a longtime parental rights advocate and the recognized expert on CPS in the Texas House carried the bill and passed it through the Texas House with near unanimous support.
In the Senate, Chairman Bryan Hughes, another parental rights champion, passed the bill unanimously.
Key Issues Addressed By Bill
- Hidden Foster System – The bill limits the duration and usage of PCSPs and requires tracking and reporting on these placements. In Texas, CPS has a process known as a “Parent-Child Safety Placement” (PCSP), known inside the legislature as the “hidden foster care system.” Under a PCSP, CPS tells families to “voluntarily” place their children in another household under threat of CPS taking the family to court. Families often comply to avoid losing their children. No outside regulatory body tracks PCSP placements, and very few due process protections exist in the program. Some policy experts estimate that if you counted the number of children taken from their homes under the PCSP program, it would double the size of the foster care system in Texas.
- Notification of Rights – This bill would require CPS to provide written and verbal notification of parental rights to parents, such as the parent’s right to an attorney and their right to record the interaction. In the example of the Pardo Case, these rights played a critical role when the family’s recorded interaction with CPS drew national attention to their case as the country watched CPS forcibly remove the family’s four-year-old son, Drake, from his home. This bill would prevent CPS caseworkers from using evidence that was obtained in violation of the bill’s due process rules.
- CPS “Warrants” – This bill adds due process protections so that a CPS “warrant” can be typically obtained only with probable cause of abuse or neglect. Currently, CPS can request a special court order, which is the CPS equivalent of a warrant. This can be used to search a house or interview the children. However, the due process protections required for warrants are not applied in orders in aid of investigation cases.
- Accountability In CPS Hearings – The bill states that, in orders in aid of investigation hearings, CPS may only speak to the judge alone, without the parent present, if there is an emergency. It also requires that a record of the hearing must be kept and made available to the parents. Normally, a judge cannot speak to one party in a case without the other party being present. However, in CPS cases, CPS is often allowed to meet with the judge without notifying the parents, even if the parents are represented by an attorney.
- Notification of Report Changes – This bill requires the department to inform parents and parents’ attorneys about any and all changes or edits made to the written report of a CPS investigation. This change in statute resolves the problem of parents being unaware of information directly related to their family and children. By ensuring parents are given adequate information, this bill protects the due process rights of parents during CPS investigations.
Why This Bill is Necessary
CPS protects thousands of children from horrific crimes. But when CPS operates without accountability, they become the source of harm to children by unnecessarily removing them from safe homes. These changes will help protect and preserve family rights in Texas and ensure all families are respected within CPS.
Family Freedom Project’s Involvement
With decades of experience in the Texas legislature and judiciary, working alongside thousands of parents, we take action on any piece of legislation that threatens Texas parents. We do this in the following ways:
- Testifying on behalf of bills that affect parental rights.
- Collaborating in work groups to promote bill language that supports Texas parents.
- Meeting with Texas legislators to emphasize the importance of CPS accountability.
As we stand on the precipice of change, our commitment to Texas families continues to drive us forward. The issues addressed in this bill, from combating the hidden foster system to ensuring due process and parental involvement, are necessary measures to protect the well-being of Texas families. With the Family Freedom Project’s continued involvement, together with the tireless efforts of legislators and the advocacy of parents, we strive for a future where every family is respected and protected in Texas.