Overview of the 87th Session
The Texas Legislature recently concluded the 87th Regular Session, and as mentioned above in reference to HB 567, some of the new laws they put in place will have an impact on the children, youth, and families Partnerships for Children serves.
As legislators entered this session, two major things influenced their priorities for reforms and funding: 1) a federal foster care lawsuit challenging the state’s capacity and ability to care for children in the greatest need; and 2) the policy change first adopted in 2017 to transition the state to a community-based care (CBC) program. CBC is a model based on contracting out foster care housing placements and transferring case management services from the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to community-based nonprofit and local government entities who will provide child welfare services in accordance with state and federal goals and laws.
When it was all said and done, state leaders approved funding to support the changes necessary to ensure changes put in place by the federal lawsuit would continue. These changes include increased staff, monitors, awake-night supervision, and temporary emergency placements to help with the capacity crisis.
Additionally, legislators solidified their commitment to the Community-Based Care (CBC) model. Funding was provided for a rate increase for regions and areas currently using CBC, and four new areas were designated to transition to the CBC model. However, legacy programs not yet transitioned to the CBC model will not receive a rate increase for care. Central Texas is a legacy program, not yet using the CBC, so the increased rates will not benefit families in our region.
Senate Bill 1896 enacted some major reforms to the state’s foster care system, including:
- Requires greater collaboration and the development of a plan to increase capacity for children in care, particularly children with mental health issues
- Requires the health benefits provider for foster care to ensure capacity to meet mental health and behavioral health needs within the facilities with which they contract
- Expands and provides greater flexibility for treatment in foster care
- Strengthens human trafficking screening in residential treatment centers
- Develops an “early warning system” for at-risk foster care providers
- Creates Office of CBC Transition within DFPS and a Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on CBC Transition
A sampling of some other changes that impact those Partnerships of Children seeks to serve include:
- The Legislature utilized significant amounts of federal funding to support prevention and early intervention programs, while maintaining previous state funding levels for these programs. These programs are important as they seek to keep children safe and supported within their family of origin.
- HB 700 allows children to receive college credit for completing the PAL curriculum while in care, which assists youth prepare to age out of care. The PAL curriculum is taught through PFC’s YES Mentoring Program, so now these youth will benefit by being prepared to age out of care and receive college credit at the same time.
- SB 1059 implements a streamlined process for determining a former foster care youth's eligibility for health care benefits with the intent to prevent unnecessary interruption and provide automatic enrollment and recertification for the maximum time allowed under federal law. This will also help some of the YES Mentoring youth PFC strives to serve.
This is a brief overview of legislation passed that affects the children, youth, and families we serve. If you are interested in learning more about the details of legislation passed during the 87th Legislative Session, please check out some of the resources and information provided by our friends at the Texas Alliance of Child and Family Services.