AUSTIN, TEXAS — During the 2017 Texas Legislative session, the Texas Home School Coalition (THSC) realized several successes advocating for needed reforms to Child Protective Services (CPS).
These successes came in two forms. The first was identifying and advocating against bills that could harm Texas families. The second was passing CPS reform bills to protect Texas families from unnecessary trauma in CPS investigations.
– THSC specifically identified House Bill 1549 as a harmful bill. THSC and its team of home school graduates—the THSC Watchmen—worked with legislators in Austin to remove language that would have allowed CPS to make home visits to any family they determined to be “at risk” of abuse or neglect, even without any accusations of abuse or neglect.
This language also would have allowed CPS caseworkers to make their own evaluation of what puts a family “at risk” of abuse or neglect outside the normal investigation process, subjecting the family to regular checkups without an accusation of wrongdoing.
After countless calls and emails from around the state in opposition to HB 1549, the bill was amended to remove the offending language. THSC also worked with several Senators to successfully prevent the language from being added back into the bill later in the process.
– On the second front, THSC succeeded in passing the following CPS reform bills to protect Texas families:
House Bill 7: The THSC added language to House Bill 7 that prevents the removal of a child or termination of parental rights based on the parent’s choice to home school or decline vaccinations.
HB 7 also includes landmark protections for families against CPS’ attempts to terminate parental rights due to a parent’s failure to comply with court-ordered services, as opposed to actual evidence of abuse or neglect.
Many families are unable to complete court-ordered services due to financial constraints, work conflicts or poor access to services. Previously under the law, parents could have parental rights terminated if they did not complete court-ordered services—even if completion of the services was impossible for the family—and regardless of whether there was evidence of abuse or neglect.
“We’re glad to say that THSC was able to get our language in the bill that would prohibit the removal of a child or the termination of parental rights based on home schooling or vaccination issues,” says THSC president Tim Lambert. “That’s a huge win for Texas children and families. Parental rights are enhanced and now the bill is going to the governor (Greg Abbott) for his signature.”
Senate Bill 999: THSC added language to SB 999 that raises the evidence requirements for a child to be removed from their home in a non-emergency situation. The law will now require actual risk of harm to the child prior to removal. Previously, the law allowed removal in non-emergency situations without needing proof there was a risk of harm to the child.
SB 999 also includes language requiring all cases involving the same sibling group and the same CPS incident to be heard in one court. Previously, some families were required to defend themselves in multiple courts for the same allegation—one court for each child. This created substantial logistical challenges, undue financial burden and stress on Texas families, and allowed for conflicting rulings.
Senate Bill 11: The THSC helped pass Senate Bill 11 to enforce the current one-year deadline on CPS cases.
Before SB 11 was passed, CPS and Texas courts often ignored statutory deadlines, leading to cases dragging on for years without resolution. Specifically, THSC was involved in a case that went on for three and a half years—two years past the statutorily required dismissal date. These prolonged cases drain Texas families of resources to defend themselves in court and leave children in limbo with no permanent home.
THSC worked with legislative offices, organizations, state agencies, judges, CPS attorneys, advocates and families to pass these historic reforms to the Texas CPS system. Advocating for the home school community and defending parental rights is central to THSC’s mission of Keeping Texas Families Free.
For Immediate Release:
Texas Home School Coalition (THSC)
Contact: Stephen Howsley
phone: (469) 759-0375