Protection for children in foster system


Both houses of the Texas Legislature last week passed bills to improve the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) in response to Gov. Greg Abbott’s call for emergency action to improve child protection programs.

Tasked with protecting children, elders, and people with disabilities from abuse, neglect, and exploitation, the DFPS, part of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, has attracted attention in recent years for inadequate funding and staffing to meet obligations.

Senate Bill 11, whose primary author is Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, was approved by the Senate on March 1. The bill would shift to private contractors the DFPS’s foster care management mission, but the state would remain the ultimate guardian over foster children, Schwertner said. The bill also contains oversight and accountability provisions to enable close monitoring by the DFPS and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

Meanwhile, on March 2, the Texas House approved HB 4 by Cindy Burkett, R-Sunnyvale, to provide additional support for family members who care for a child who has been removed from his or her home.

Also approved was HB 5 by James Frank, R-Wichita Falls, to give the DFPS more autonomy by making it a separate agency with its own commissioner.

In passing HB 4 and HB 5, the House has taken “important steps toward providing better protection and care for children in terrible circumstances,” Speaker Joe Straus said.

Ed Sterling is the director of member services for the Texas Press Association in Austin.... Contact him at 512-477-6755 or