In February, THSC attended a workgroup meeting in Austin to discuss procedural changes for the CPS system to help protect Texas families from abuse in the legal process.
This workgroup meeting, hosted by the Texas Supreme Court Children’s Commission, was also attended by CPS officials and numerous judges, attorneys, and advocates from around the state who work in the CPS system.
Last year, we wrote about serial abuses taking place in the CPS system where families were routinely facing unfounded accusations which all sides knew to be false. The scope of these abuses came to light after THSC drafted legislation during the 2017 legislative session that prompted a new report from CPS, shedding light on the magnitude of the problem and showing that in 75% of cases families were facing one or more accusations that were known to be false.
This problem is the result of several procedural practices where attorneys will often file accusations against a family that they lack evidence for so that if and when evidence is discovered they are not required to perform the burdensome procedures for amending the pleadings and notifying all of the parties (which can often be extremely onerous in CPS cases especially, where multiple families can be involved and may be constantly moving).
The solutions which many attorneys have adopted range from adding on one or two extra accusations against the family which they believe are most likely to become relevant in the future to literally copying the entire list of available accusations from the family code and accusing the family of all of them.
THSC’s legislation in 2017 would have prohibited this practice in order to ensure due process protections for families. However, state budget constraints prevented THSC’s amendment from passing. In response, Gov. Greg Abbott and DFPS Commissioner Henry Whiteman vowed to work with THSC during the interim in order to develop new policies to allow CPS to do their job without ignoring due process for Texas families.
True to their word, CPS came to the table willing to talk and open to discussion on how to solve these problems. At the February meeting, as well as a prior meeting last fall, significant ground was covered when several key points were agreed upon early on, although other critical elements are still being discussed.
The workgroup will continue meeting through most of this year in order to finalize details on policies that will protect Texas families and children in the CPS process. Thankfully, all parties involved have been extremely willing to do whatever it takes to reach a resolution that will protect families and children and THSC is hopeful that final agreement can be reached.
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