May 13, 2019

If this blog title invokes a sense of unease, it should. To be clear, this is not an apocalyptic message about why parents should lie awake at night for fear they may lose their children.

Most people never get a call from Child Protective Services (CPS). However, I once described this to someone as the difference between minor surgery and major surgery. It feels like minor surgery when it happens to someone else, but it’s major surgery when it happens to you.

Right now, in the state of Texas, a parent does not need to have ever committed abuse or neglect in order to have their children removed and their parental rights terminated. This may never happen to you, but it is currently happening to others. THSC is working to fix that.

The Child Trauma Prevention Act (HB 3331 by Rep. Frank and SB 2091 by Sen. Hughes) will implement specific due process protections within the Texas CPS system, thereby protecting children and families from the trauma caused by unnecessary child removals.

The House bill passed out of the House Human Services Committee with near unanimous support but did not get scheduled for the House floor before the required deadline. The Senate bill was heard in committee last week and will hopefully make it through the rest of the process in time.

Some people aren’t quite sure whether major reforms in the CPS system are really necessary. Here are a few examples of what this bill would fix. Under current law:

  • If a mother and father are separated and live in separate homes and the mother is accused of abuse and neglect, the father can still lose his child based solely on the evidence against Mom.
  • Even if the parents, CPS and the judge all agree that most of the evidence indicates no abuse or neglect has occurred, a child can still be removed from the home. This is a result of the incredibly low standard of evidence required for the judge to approve a removal.
  • Even if CPS has no evidence that a parent actually abused or neglected a child, a court can force a family into CPS services based only on CPS’s belief that abuse or neglect may be committed in the future. If a family fails to complete the services, their children can be removed as punishment.

For many years, the fear of a CPS visit and investigation has been on the forefront of homeschool families’ minds. In fact, THSC represents about two dozen families each year who are the targets of such investigations which are most often generated by anonymous allegations.

As a result of these cases, we have focused for many years on efforts to change the law to restore protections for Texas families.

Last legislative session we had great success in making many changes that have been beneficial to innocent Texas families. We have now been working with Governor Abbott’s office, CPS, the Texas Supreme Court’s Children’s Commission, the Texas Public Policy Foundation and countless others over the last two years to make additional changes that were not made in 2017.

HB 3331 and SB 2091 are the way to do that. This year’s legislative session is drawing to a close within the next few weeks. Lawmakers still have the chance to deliver critical reforms to protect Texas families.

The House bill was stalled in the Calendars Committee, which controls which bills will be scheduled for the House floor. It’s not clear who blocked the bill, but it is now too late for the House bill to keep moving.

The Senate bill still has a path forward. THSC is working hard to get the bill through in these closing weeks of the legislative session. Please pray that the Senate bill will move quickly through the remainder of the legislative process and ultimately pass into law.

If you’ve never been investigated by CPS, you likely know someone who has. Stay tuned on what’s happening during these last few weeks of the legislative session. Lawmakers can still come through for Texas families if they want to.

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