Overview of the 88th Legislative Session
The Texas Legislature recently concluded the 88th Regular Session, and some of the new laws they put in place will have an impact on the children, youth, and families Partnerships for Children serves.
Services for At-Risk Families
Senate Bill 24 will transfer some specific programs at the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) into a more streamlined and coordinated division at the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) and require HHSC to administer family support services. This change will serve more at-risk families and provide more capacity with the services offered to those families.
Kinship families were prioritized this legislative session, and that means additional resources will be available to provide funding for the concrete needs of relative placements for children in care as well as reimbursements for the costs associated with licensure for those families. Legislators directed DFPS to update the rates paid to relative caregivers and to update rules and standards for relative kinship foster family homes to allow more families to qualify for foster care payments.
Foster Care & Adoption Rules and Regulations
Senate Bill 593 requires an independent third party to conduct an assessment of foster care and adoption rules and regulations and provide recommendations for how the state may streamline regulations while both prioritizing child safety and reducing barriers to entry for potential child placing agencies, residential child-care facilities, foster families, kinship families, and adoptive families.
One of the actions taken by the Texas Legislature that is the most exciting for PFC is the funding for the expansion of the Heart Galleries statewide. Through a $12 million appropriation to the University of Texas at Austin, the model set by PFC’s Heart Gallery of Central Texas will be expanded to every region throughout the State of Texas in the hopes that the increased rate of adoption achieved here in Central Texas can be replicated throughout the state so that more children may be adopted into a forever family.
Other important funding provisions include:
- Funding to expand Community Based Care (CBC) into four new regions, meaning only our Region 7 and Region 11 will exist outside the CBC model by 2025. (CBC is a model based on contracting out foster care housing placements and transferring case management services from DFPS to community-based nonprofit and local government entities who will provide child welfare services in accordance with state and federal goals and laws.)
- $62 million to sustain supplemental rate increases for foster care, and another $54 million to increase rates for basic and moderate care
- $61.2 million in increased funding for child maltreatment prevention programs
- $47 million for mental health programs, including $21 million for the Intensive Psychiatric Stabilization Program, and $15 million for an innovation grant program to support community-based organizations that improve access to mental health services for children
A sampling of some other changes that impact those Partnerships for Children seeks to serve include:
- HB 4233 provides training and guidance for runaway prevention for foster and adoptive parents of children and youth aged 10 and older
- HB 3765 requires DFPS to maintain and distribute a supply of luggage for use when transporting the personal belongings of foster children and to maintain a record of each time a trash bag is used for this purpose.