P.O. Box 12068, State Capitol
Austin, Texas 78711
Tel. (512) 463-0112
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 22, 2005
AUSTIN -- The Senate Committee on Health and Human Services today approved Senate Bill 6, the protective services reform bill authored by Texas State Senator Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville. The bill, which was approved unanimously, now moves to the full Senate for consideration.
"Our protective service agencies are supposed to serve as a lifeline to children and seniors who are being abused or neglected, and other vulnerable citizens. That lifeline is broken, which is why it is so important that we press forward with these emergency reforms," Senator Nelson said.
SB 6 has been declared emergency legislation by the governor, meaning it is eligible to become law in the first 60 days of the session. Public and written testimony on this issue has been received dating back to last fall when strike teams had to be assembled to respond to systemic breakdowns at Child Protective Services and Adult Protective Services.
SB 6 incorporates reform ideas from parents, caseworkers, law enforcement, and community organizations, as well as reports issued by the Office of Inspector General and the Health and Human Services Commission. Highlights include measures to:
- Reduce caseloads at APS and CPS.
- Overhaul training procedures and incorporate new technology.
- Create a special investigative division at CPS and require close coordination with law enforcement.
- Deter bad faith reporting by increasing the penalty of filing a false report to a state jail felony.
- Encourage co-location of CPS and law enforcement child abuse investigators at Child Advocacy Centers.
- Provide incentives to promote longevity at CPS.
- Support local efforts to prevent child abuse through grants for local organizations.
- Strengthen contracting guidelines for foster care providers and fully transition to local providers the role of recruiting, training and managing foster families.
- Encourage placements with grandparents and relatives by expanding kinship care benefits.
- Provide job skills training to teen-age foster children.
- Provides better training for APS workers to better identify the signs of dementia and mental incapacity.
"We could eliminate the need for many of these services if we could reduce child abuse in communities across Texas and encourage more people to do things like check in on their elderly relatives and neighbors," Senator Nelson said. "In those truly serious cases, we need our guardian services to be prepared to respond quickly and make a successful rescue."
If approved by the Senate, SB 6 must pass the Texas House of Representatives before being sent to Governor Rick Perry for consideration. The Texas Legislature is in session through May 30th.