Trial Day 2: Abilene CPS worker accused tampering with evidence


It is hard to believe it has already been two years since I last wrote about the Klapheke case. Harder still to believe that it has taken five and a half years for this case to come to trial. You can look back to my old article for some insight into the case.

Abilene Klapheke Case Continues To Haunt DFPS

 

An Abilene CPS worker implicated in a case that led to the death of 1 child and severe neglect of  2 others is standing trial for allegedly withholding a photograph of the dead child from medical professionals.

Source: Trial Day 2: Abilene CPS worker accused of withholding photo of

Day 2: Ex-CPS worker’s tampering with evidence trial continues in Abilene

On Monday,  350th District Court picked a jury and began the trial against a former Texas CPS program director Gretchen Denny who is accused of withholding evidence from the Abilene police during the investigation of 22-month old  Tamryn Klapheke’s death in August of 2012.

This investigation resulted in a major shake-up within CPS.

Posted in Eyes on Texas, Falsifying Records | 1 Comment

CliffsNotes: Family First Prevention Act #FFAOWN



Cliffs Notes have always been a life saver for those getting through High School or College.

We must recognize that this is the most “landmark” Title IVE legislation since its creation 38 years (1980) ago. It adds funding to prevention over foster care tipping the scales to slightly in favor of family. Which must be implemented and applied at whatever level. This means We the People must engage in watching for what does or does not happen ranging from community level through Federal.

Thank you to John Kelly from The Chronicle of Social Change for quickly coming up with his version of CliffsNotes on this legislature:

CliffsNotes on Family First Act, Part One: Services to Prevent Foster Care

CliffsNotes on Family First Act, Part Two: Limiting Support for Congregate Foster Care

CliffsNotes on Family First Act, Part Three: Adoption, Foster Home Recruitment, Reunification and More

What a wonderful head-start toward our work ahead which is needed for this legislation to progress.

As you will hear Texas State Representative Frank comment in the video below; passage is the beginning, because then comes implementation. He then describes a picture of a runner passing out on the starting line for a race. He also pointed out that even at state level it can take 2-3 years to implement new laws. It seems only natural that Federal laws will take longer.

The near passage of the FFPSA in 2016 offered states a preview of what was to come. many like Texas, passed legislation that was germane to the federal bill. It was so coincidental that this Texas Public Policy Foundation video was released perfectly timed with these Cliffs Notes. It appears the Texas 2017 wrote legislature directly for the FFPSA. Please skim Mr. Kelly’s Cliffs Notes and then watch the video; listen closely… you may want to take notes.

Did you hear the parallels? Did you pick up on things that you might need to watch for within your state?

We the People now must run the race.

Posted in 115th (2017-2018), Title IV-E Funding | Leave a comment

The Family First Act Is Law, Okay What Next? #FFAOWN


An interesting question.

Over the next few weeks, we will be seeing an array of articles and opinions on just what this legislation is and is not and what that means. Some of it will be accurate, some exaggerated and some downright wrong.

There will be those that will claim kudos for assisting in the authoring of this bill. All I can say is watch their timeline over several pieces that they write. Time becomes inconsistent when a falsehood is being perpetrated.

There was a delegation of parents and grandparents who made the pilgrimage to the Capital on this legislation. I don’t know all their names so I won’t do the ones that I don’t know disjustice by naming the ones I do. Over the last three years, there has been between 20 to 30. I don’t know exactly how involved any of them might have been in the actual legislation.

It has even been alleged that I helped author it. To that, I say, “While I champion the FFA, had I contributed there would be more accountability.”

I tend to agree with this first article.One of the earliest articles was by NCCPR’s Executive Director, Richard Wexler:
Don’t believe the hype. The Family First Act is a step backwards for child welfare finance reform

Along with one from The Intercept_:
While Everybody Slept, Congress Did Something Extraordinary for Vulnerable Children

Both fine sources but here are my thoughts. I agree that it is “Landmark” legislation. But not necessarily for the obvious reasons. You may find more of my thoughts near the end.

Intro

The Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) is a watered-down version the legislation created by Senators Hatch and Wyden known as Family Stability and Kinship Care Act of 2015 (FSKCA). Most who were in favor of the FSKCA also favored the FFPSA, including the Senators. a version of the FFPSA passed the House in June of 2016 but failed to pass the Senate. Passed this week tied to the tail of a funding continuing resolution. Reported as weak by many but that may be its strength.

History

The foundation for this legislation began with a BUZZFEED article in February 2015, Fostering Profits, which featured one of the largest for-profit child placement agencies MENTOR. That article drew the attention of the Senate Finance Committee.
US Senate Committee Probes Nation’s Largest For-Profit Foster Care

This probe along with testimony from former foster kids, families, and others prompted Finance Committee Chair Sen. Orrin Hatch [RUT] and Minority Leader Sen. Ron Wyden [D-OR] to author the Family Stability and Kinship Care Act of 2015 (FSKCA). A watered-down version of their bill was introduced by Rep. Vern Buchanan [RFL16] thus the reason he is getting credit for their bill.

About the best way to gain understanding of what this legislation is all about is to look back to the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance August 4, 2015, hearing

A Way Back Home: Preserving Families and Reducing the Need for Foster Care

On that page you will find a link to what appears to be the official record along with the written statements of both Senators Hatch, Wyden and invited witnesses. You may direct link to the video but skip to 29 mins due to dead air. Please listen with an open mind. We may not agree with the presenter but very often we want the same things only worded differently.

The FSKCA… S.1964 was introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden [D-OR] on August 5, 2015. This is the legislation which people keep asking about that is known to have been written by Senators Hatch and Wyden.

On October 21,2015, Rep Lloyd Doggett [DTX35] introduce the House companion H.R.3781 – Family Stability and Kinship Care Act of 2015.

Neither bill showed any movement during the 114th 1st session. The thing about this legislation that always bothered me was that it was introduced in the Senate and I have always been under the understanding that funding legislation Constitutionally must be introduced in the people’s House. Don’t know if that was the holdup or not.

Early in the 114th 2nd session rumors arose that a water down version of the FSKCA was to be introduced as the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA).

On May 18, 2016, the U.S. House Ways and Means, Human Services Sub Committee held a very enlightening hearing.

We got our first look at HR5456 when it was introduced by Rep. Vern Buchanan [RFL16] on June 13, 2016, and then debated in the Ways and Means mark up hearing on June 15, 2016. Listen carefully to Mr. Doggett’s comments.

Just days later, on June 21, 2016, the legislation went before the full floor where it was passed by unanimous consent.

The Senate version was presented as S.3065 by Sen. Orrin Hatch [RUT] on June 16, 2016; then sent to the Senate Finance Committee where it was met with opposition by three senators.

  • Senator Michael Enzi (R-WY)
  • Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
  • John Cornyn (R-TX)

As I understand it, Wyoming had some sort of problem with how some of the funding was calculated because due to their low population they did not qualify for anything. California and Texas had issues over the congregate care restrictions. I heard a rumor that California and Wyoming came around, but Gov. Abbott would not allow Cornyn to make it unanimous consent.

While there was a brief resurrection when the legislation was attached to a major medical research and mental health bill known as the 21st Century Cures Act. But a Baptist group home network in North Carolina convinced Sen. Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican to pressure Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) into keeping it out of HR34 allowing it to die at the end of the session.

We must praise Mr. Buchanan for his due diligence in refiling HR253 on January 4, 2017. While it appeared to lay there dormant it gained 8 Cosponsors and spawned 4 bills which passed the House on June 21, 2017, as standalone bills.

  • H.R.2742    Modernizing the Interstate Placement of Children in Foster Care Act
  • H.R.2834    Partnership Grants to Strengthen Families Affected by Parental Substance Abuse Act
  • H.R.2847     Improving Services for Older Youth in Foster Care Act
  • H.R.2866     Reducing Unnecessary Barriers for Relative Foster Parents Act

Only HR2742 drew a Senate companion bill S.1257.

October 2017, Senator Hatch did a press release relating to the Senate Probe.
Hatch, Wyden Respond to Significant Need to Improve Government Oversight Following Foster Care Investigation

The committee released a 660-page bipartisan report that includes responses from about 31 states to the letter sent to all state Governors. Very valuable information.

The Intercept_ responded with an article:
Children Are Dying at Alarming Rates in Foster Care, and Nobody Is

So did the Chronicle for Social Change:
Senate Report Slams Public Management of Private Foster Care

In true Hatch/Wyden style, they introduced the Child Welfare Oversight and Accountability Act of 2017. Read about it in:
Senate Foster Care Bill Would Incentivize Kin, Monitor Private Providers and Child Fatalities

About mid-morning, February 6, 2018, I received an email notice from the “Ways and Means” committee.
Brady, Smith on Policies Included in Continuing Resolution to Strengthen Families and Communities, same day,

Family First Act, Major Foster Care Finance Reform Bill, Included in House’s Initial Spending Deal

So, the table was set for the FFPSA to pass via the text from Mr. Buchanan’s 2016 bill HR5456 having been inserted into HR1892

And on February 9, 2018, the president signed the bill with an effective date of October 1, 2018. Mr. Buchanan’s press release:
President Signs Buchanan Bill to Help Kids

And here is where we find the cause of the confusion over the source text. Mr. Buchanan’s press release states HR253, but the Ways and Means notice states clearly that the bills inserted had already passed the house. If you look at HR253 above and you will find that it never got passed introduction. Therefore, the text had to come from HR5456. For brevity, I wish people would refer to the latter. It may save some Facebook rages.

My Thoughts

By far I would have loved seeing much stronger legislation. But in many ways, it may be just enough.

Over the years I’ve been involved in numerous heated debates over how the Federal law applies to the Child Welfare System. Many believe in the “Fed trumps State” philosophy, while I point out that the states must write legislation to apply the new legislation in that state.

In many ways, I see more importance in the fact that the FFPSA passed then in its content. The reason being it can serve as a “Training Run”.

While I may preach that when Federal legislation passes that is when We the People absolutely must get involved. But I am sure that a huge part of you will just wait it out and see what happens.

That is the beauty of the FFPSA it is strong enough to draw the attention of the public but not so strong to do any real damage should it fail.

The importance of We the People becoming involved can not be stressed hard enough over the next few days… weeks I will be talking more on this subject. #FFAOWN

Thank you

Posted in 115th (2017-2018), Title IV-E Funding, Ways and Means | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Orchestrating Legislative Action 101


All across America child welfare reform activist are pushing to get the “First Family Preservation Act of 2016” (HR-5456/S-3065) passed through the Senate.

The clock is ticking… session is getting short and we have 3 Senators holding it up.

  • Senator Boxer (D-CA) 202-224-3553
  • Senator Enzi (R-WY) 202-224-3424
  • Senator Cornyn (RINO-TX) 202-224-2934

From my understanding the main hold out is Cornyn.

The importance of this Act is really very simple. It moves funding from foster care to prevention. On top of that it is uncapped funding. This means states can start ACTUALLY funding preventative programs instead on snatching the children and placing them in foster care. You can read the latest text of the bill here.

As important as this legislation is, the real work relating to it begins after the President signs it. This is because that is when the states have to write legislation to actually apply it.

For many we do not actually know how to go about orchestrating new legislation. Luckily we had someone recently do a live Facebook broadcast.

On September 8, 2016 the Oklahoma Chapter of GRAUSA hosted a Facebook LIVE event featuring Mike Workman. Mike Workman, a friend of Charlotte, and a descendant of Oklahoma’s own Will Rogers, has been involved with politics for many years, offers his experience and suggestions as how to best get a bill passed through our legislatures. Mike and his wife have had their own issues and have succeeded in raising their own granddaughter and now have good relations with their granddaughter and great granddaughter. GRAOK welcomed the opportunity to have Mike take the time from his busy schedule to speak to us, helping us in our mission to change some of our family laws and get a bill passed through our legislature.

Please take about an hour to listen to what Mike has to say. There is a much greater message here than what one might think. All that he says can be applied to most any legislation one wants to get passed.

As advocates for reform our main battles are in the state houses. Mike lays out a template on how to approach state legislation.

We thank him for his efforts.

Posted in #OpExposeCPS, Congressional Legislation, Title IV-E Funding | 2 Comments

Family First Prevention Services Act of 2016


CPS reform legislation is steaming rapidly through Congress at a “damn the torpedoes” pace.

H.R.5456 was introduced on Monday June 13th.

It was reviewed and passed out of Ways and Means on Wednesday the 15th. The Congressional Budget Office report was ordered the same day.

The Senate introduced the companion bill S.3065 on Thursday the 16th.

The CBO report was received on Wednesday the 21st and the bill was passed without objection by voice vote later that evening. Reading and floor discussion can be found here.

This bill now rests in the hands of the Senate Finance Committee where it was reported:

Finance Senators Introduce Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPS)

on 19 June 2016. Posted in Featured Articles

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Committee members Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Michael Bennett (D-Colo.) introduced the Family First Prevention Services Act, a bill to combat the opioid addiction crisis, keep more children safely in their homes and reduce overreliance on group foster care homes.

The bill is the Senate companion to legislation reported by the House Ways and Means Committee on June 15, 2016.

“I’m proud to introduce the Senate version of this critical piece of bipartisan, bicameral legislation that will make a real difference for vulnerable children and families suffering from opioid addition across the country,” Hatch said. “I applaud the work of my colleagues in the House for moving the bill forward and will continue to work with my colleagues in the Senate to further advance this initiative and have it enacted into law.”

“The Family First Prevention Services Act offers parents the help they need to prevent the unnecessary trauma that occurs when children are ripped from their homes and it raises the bar for foster care providers to keep children who are in the system safe,” Wyden said. “I commend my House colleagues for passing the bill out of committee and I am committed to getting it across the finish line.”

“This bill moves the ball in the right direction for years to come,” Grassley said.  “The focus on prevention, kinship care, and supporting those with substance abuse challenges will help keep families together when possible.  The bill provides states the flexibility to use locally developed solutions in addition to encouraging the use of programs that have worked elsewhere.  This bill helps pave the way to help parents who suffer from mental or substance abuse and helps reduce the trauma borne by young people who are taken out of the home because of those challenges.   Foster youth have said they want help for their parents, and this bill delivers.”

“We have a responsibility to every single kid in Colorado and throughout the country to help ensure they grow up in a supportive and loving environment,” Bennet said. “While there is more to do, this bill takes a step forward to promote proven prevention services to keep children safe with their families so they don’t enter the foster care system in the first place. It addresses the urgent need to quickly and safely find children already in the system a loving family.”

The bill introduction follows an announcement from bipartisan Senate and House leaders that an agreement had been made on the legislation.  Additional information on the bill can found here.

Text of the bill can be found here.

The Family First Prevention Services Act has garnered strong, bipartisan support from a variety of groups including the Conference of Chief Justices, the Conference of State Court Administrators and the American Psychological Association. For a full list of supporters click here.

The Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over child welfare policy has held a number of hearings to examine the impact of evidence based solutions, reduce the need for foster care and reduce the reliance on group homes.

This Republican lead piece of legislation is moving at a very rapid pace compared to the Democratic lead “Preserving Families and Reducing the Need for Foster Care Act of 2015“(S.1964/H.R.3781) despite both pieces of legislation having been labeled bipartisan. The FFPS is greatly reduced in benefits. We really needed the $1.7 billion in Title IV-B funding.

Incremental Yes… but right now we will take most anything that slams the brakes on needless removals.

So please, write or call your Federal Senators and ask them to Co-sponsor this bill.

Posted in Congressional Legislation, Title IV-B Funding, Title IV-E Funding | 10 Comments

Alabama Child Protective Services Steals New-born Breast-feeding Baby from Rape Victim While Still at the Hospital


Juda Myers of Choices4Life calls her a “Hero Mom.”

A 14 year old Alabama girl became pregnant from a rape, but she courageously chose life for the baby that was conceived. She refused to consider the option of abortion, and told her grandparents, who are her legal guardians, that if they would help her, she would raise and love this baby.

(update 6/17/16 6:00 am)
We have word that Thursday evening Alabama workers took the mother and her twin brother into custody. Once again, no court order indicating why these children were being removed. Hearing for this case is set for 9am.

There has been talk that mother and baby have been reunited, but not confirmed.

Source: Alabama Child Protective Services Steals New-born Breast-feeding Baby from Rape Victim While Still at the Hospital

Family embraces newborn – loved no matter how he was conceived. Photo credit: Juda Myers.

While I have not found an opinion from the 11th Circuit Court almost every other Federal Circuit Court has ruled no imminent (or any other) danger requires a court order. Not only would this be considered a seizure under the 4th amendment as allowed by the 14th; it violates Art I, Sec 5 of the Alabama Constitution. Where is the due process of law?

 

How You Can Help

People are invited to rally outside the Shelby County Courthouse at 112 N Main St, Columbiana, AL, on Friday, June 17. The Shelter Hearing is scheduled for 1pm, and supporters are planning to be there by 12:30.

Call Alabama Governor Robert Bentley’s office at 334-242-7100. He may also be contacted here. He is also on Facebook.

Senator Cam Ward is the Senator for their district. He may be reached at 334-242-7873, or contacted here.

Representative April Weaver represents their district. She may be reached at 334-242-7731, or contacted here.

Posted in - by CPS, Abuse by Case or Social Workers, Alabama DHR, Eyes on Alabama | 3 Comments

Congressional Hearing Reviews Child Welfare Along With Health Issues


*** All hands on Deck ***

In less than 12 hours a Congressional Committee will be reviewing and marking up bills relating to Child Welfare and Health issues.

On Monday the “Family First Prevention Services Act of 2016” was introduced. While I have not had enough time to review the bill completely, but it looks Promising.

Just try to play the screen below. It should show you a count down to the hearing.

The Committee will consider the following:
H.R. 5456, Family First Prevention Services Act of 2016
Sponsored by Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL)
Strengthens families by promoting evidence-based prevention services to keep children out of foster care and reduces inappropriate group home placements

H.R. 5447, Small Business Health Care Relief Act
Sponsored by Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) and Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA)
Creates a safe-harbor for innovative employer payment arrangements, a type of Health Reimbursement Arrangement

H.R. 5458, Veterans TRICARE Choice Act
Sponsored by Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT)
Expands access to consumer-direct health insurance and provides more options for those eligible for TRICARE

H.R. 5452, To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to permit individuals eligible for Indian Health Service assistance to qualify for health savings accounts
Sponsored by Rep. John Moolenaar (R-MI)
Improves access to Health Savings Accounts for those who get services at Indian Health Service facilities

H.R. 5445, To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to improve the rules with respect to health savings accounts
Sponsored by Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN)
Makes changes to Health Savings Accounts, including raising the contribution limit, allowing spouses to make catch-up contributions to the same account, and allowing for more flexibility between incurring expenses and actually setting up an account

H.R. 3080, Tribal Employment and Jobs Protection Act
Sponsored by Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD)
Provides relief from Obamacare’s employer mandate for tribally owned businesses

H.R. 210, Student Worker Exemption Act of 2015
Sponsored by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC)
Provides relief from Obamacare’s employer mandate for universities that employ student workers

H.R. 3590, Halt Tax Increases on the Middle Class and Seniors Act
Sponsored by Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ)
Repeals a provision of Obamacare that makes it harder to deduct high cost medical expenses

Posted in Family Rights, House, Senate, Title IV-B Funding, Title IV-E Funding, Ways and Means | 4 Comments

Smokers Could Soon Lose Custody Of Their Children – The Free Patriot


Parents who smoke around their kids should be challenged for custody, according to the country’s leading anti-tobacco lawyer. John F. Banzhaf, a law professor at George Washington University Law Sc…

Source: Smokers Could Soon Lose Custody Of Their Children – The Free Patriot

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Unity… we are more powerful than you think


In general society does not understand the power of Unity and We the People.

 

There will come a time when team work will mean everything. Remember

We the People

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Texas’ 84th Interim Session: Child Protection


While interim charges are sent out near the end of ODD numbered years, the hearings generally don’t start until about April of EVEN numbered years.

Testifying at Interim hearings is slightly different than regular legislative hearings. During the regular session you are generally speaking on specific bills, but in the interim you are speaking on the charges that are set before the committee. Because the members had to come out of their districts to attend they tend to be less tolerant of testimony not germane to the charges. Please keep this in mind while planning your testimony.

On the subject of Child Protection, Texas has two House committees and one Senate that generally hear related testimony:

House Human Services

House Juvenile Justice and Family Issues

Senate Health and Human Services

Charges

Both House Committees share a joint charge relating to Human Trafficking.

Study and evaluate the practice of youth being recruited into human trafficking. Specifically, evaluate the scope of the pipeline of potential victims from foster care, including methods and means used to lure youth into trafficking. Evaluate the types of services that are available to support children and youth in the conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) who are victims of human trafficking. Make necessary recommendations to assist DFPS in identifying, recovering, serving, or caring for children and youth who are victims of human trafficking prior to placement in foster care.

The House Human Services has a separate charge relating to:

Examine the Department of Family and Protective Services’ policies and procedures, including prevention measures and resources, dedicated to eliminating child abuse and fatalities within the foster care system; explore ideas and strategies to increase the number of foster families and improve the delivery of services to children with high needs; review adoption policies, including disruptions, and make recommendations for possible improvements. Also, monitor and assess the continuation of foster care redesign.

Juvenile Justice and Family Issues has the following separate charges:

  • Examine data collection and sharing practices between the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD), and local juvenile probation departments regarding youth involved in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Determine any new data that should be collected and make recommendations to improve data-sharing between DFPS, TJJD and local juvenile probation departments that will improve delivery of services and outcomes.
  • Examine evidence-based practices around early education and parenting support and education programs. Assess the current capacity of community-based parent support programs, including funding sources, curricula, effectiveness, systems of delivery and cost effectiveness. Monitor the implementation of HB 2630 (84R) and assess the availability of parenting support and education programs and resources around the state.
  • Monitor juvenile justice regionalization planning and implementation of SB 1630 (84R). Identify appropriate outcome measures to evaluate success of keeping more youth closer to home. Make recommendations to increase community and regional options and strengthen community services to reduce commitments to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department.
  • Review juvenile justice penalties and sanctions determined by or disallowed by age of the juvenile. Identify best practices in other states relating to juvenile age. Determine if alternatives or changes, based on age or other factors, are required to address penalties and sanctions in the juvenile age population.
  • Examine the Texas Family Code’s treatment of grandparents in the parent-child relationship, including Chapters 32, 34, 153, 161, and 162 and suggest any changes that may be useful to address the growing population of grandparents and the best interests of Texas children and families.

Key issues relating to the Protection of Children in the Senate HHS Committee are:

  • Part I: Reducing Recurrence of Child Abuse and Neglect: Examine the current process that Child Protective Services uses to track recurrence of child abuse and neglect, and make recommendations to improve data tracking and the use of that data to assist in preventing recurrence. The study should examine the differences in recurrence among families who received services, families who received no services and had their cases closed, and families who had their children removed from the home.
  • Part II: Addressing High-Acuity Needs of Foster Care Children: Study the increase in higher acuity children with trauma and mental illness in the state foster care system, and recommend ways to ensure children have timely access to appropriate treatment and placement options.
  • Part III: Strengthening Adoptions: Examine the frequency, causes, and effects of disrupted foster care adoptions and make recommendations to improve the long-term success of adoptive placements. Study and make recommendations on ways to ensure a smooth transition for foster care children who are exiting the system.

Upcoming hearings:

On April 20, 2016 there will be two hearings.

There is an organizational hearing of the House Juvenile Justice and Family issues committee at 10 am in E2.016 No public testimony planned.

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee meets in the Senate Chamber at 9am. Public testimony limited to 3 minutes.

It appears that the proposed agenda is moving Part I to the end. It is unknown rather or not they will address the charges separately or as one.

Our issues

While it remains important to remain germane, we also must keep in mind what we want to accomplish in 2017.

General Information

We want to make sure that the legislature knows that we know about Texas losing the Federal Class Action where DFPS violated the Constitutional rights of 12,000 foster children.

For close to 3 decades Texas’ Child Protection System has been known for failing to follow its own policies.

Only 77 days before President Clinton signed the ASFA Texas had passed some of the most comprehensive Family Preservation legislation ever in SB359 (75R). In 2005, SB6 (79R) stripped most of it from statute. Then finished it off with SB206 (84R) last session.

The Flexible Response System for Service Delivery as created in 1997 as a part of SB359 (75R) but was never implemented.

The two part system presented in Texas Administrative Code 40 TAC §700.511 which is used for labeling allegations and final Overall Disposition can be confusing to improperly trained employees. Often a RTB finding for Disposition is applied to an Allegation that was never proven.

An Ombudsman review does not have to take place once a Judge rules on a worker’s allegations. Texas Administrative Code 40 TAC §702.841

While SB830 (84R) became effective on September 1, 2015 the position of Ombudsman for Foster Care has yet to be filled.

We want it known that “We the People of Texas” are no longer going to tolerate it.

Transparency

Texas’ “Open Records Act of 1973” set up the standard that information generated for and by government entities is owned by the people of the state.

Under the fundamental philosophy of the American constitutional form of representative government that adheres to the principle that government is the servant and not the master of the people, it is the policy of this state that each person is entitled, unless otherwise expressly provided by law, at all times to complete information about the affairs of government and the official acts of public officials and employees. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created. The provisions of this chapter shall be liberally construed to implement this policy.

  1. On February 14, 2015 DFPS stripped more than 450 pages containing close to 670 topics from the CPS handbook. Officials claim they were policy changes. Most familiar with the data knows that it was procedures which included full descriptions of the various stages of service such as FBSS, Substitute care (CVS) and Reunification (FRE). We parents need to be able to determine what is and is not a DFPS employee’s job without having to file a “Freedom of Information Request.”
  2. The new “Resource Guides” are cumbersome and a pain to use. Their PDF format does not expose content to Search Engine Optimization (SEO). It is not understood why they failed to use the same dynamic format used by the Supreme Court Children’s Commission when they created the “Child Protective Services Parent Resource Guide” which is fully SEO compliant. DFPS also fails to notify anyone of updates on these new guides either.
  3. Same holds true for the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) Human Resources handbook that is often referenced from the DFPS handbooks. Texas parents have the right know the job function of every state employee that comes in contact with their children.

Accountability

One of the items that was part of SB-359 included raising the bar on DFPS employees’ Immunity. By setting a higher standard than Federal “Good Faith” and creating “preexisting law” Texas defined a way to hold DFPS employees accountable. Problem is the law is not being enforced. We are seeing caseworkers regularly violating not only Constitutional Rights but both state and Federal laws without punishment.

Sec. 40.061. IMMUNITY. (a) A department employee, a member of a multidisciplinary team established under Section 40.0524, or an authorized department volunteer who performs a departmental duty or responsibility is immune from civil or criminal liability for any act or omission that relates to the duty or responsibility if the person acted in good faith and within the scope of the person’s authority.

(b) In this section, “volunteer” means a person who:

(1) renders services for or on behalf of the department under the supervision of a department employee; and

(2) does not receive compensation that exceeds the authorized expenses the person incurs in rendering those services.

(c) This section does not provide immunity to a department employee who, in a suit affecting the parent-child relationship in which child abuse is alleged or that arises out of a child abuse investigation, in a criminal prosecution for an offense in which child abuse is an element, or in the preparation of the suit or prosecution:

(1) commits or attempts to commit perjury;

(2) fabricates or attempts to fabricate evidence;

(3) knowingly conceals or intentionally withholds information that would establish that a person alleged to have committed child abuse did not commit child abuse; or

(4) violates state or federal law in the investigation or prosecution of the suit.

We need to strengthen this statute.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment