FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 19, 2001
Permanency planning to ensure children grow up in families rather than in institutional settings was facilitated today (Thursday) as the Texas Senate passed Senate Bill 368 by Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo. SB 368 would require the Health and Human Services Commission and other appropriate agencies to develop uniform permanency planning procedures for institutionalized young people under 22 years of age. Many children in institutions do not have permanency plans, and, according to some providers, many institutions are unaware of permanency planning requirements or how to create one.
SB 368 requires community resource coordination groups, including the Health and Human Services Commission, the Department of Protective and Regulatory Services, and the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, to develop permanency planning for children in nursing homes. The bill also requires the primary agency and parents or guardians to be involved in permanency planning. SB 368 also allows agencies to appoint an advocate in certain cases. The bill mandates that a child be placed on a Medicaid waiver list within 24 hours of being placed in an institution. Additionally, to ensure that no child is abandoned in an institution, the Department of Human Services (DHS) must include permanency planning compliance as an item in the DHS survey process for facilities that serve children.
"The state must address conscientiously the problem of children in institutions," Sen. Zaffirini said. "The primary state agencies, facilities and parents or guardians must make long-range plans for children in their care. Permanency planning means striving to ensure that children grow up in nurturing family-based settings. It does not simply mean planning for their transition to an adult facility at the age of 18 or 22."
Sen. Zaffirini, who chaired the Senate Interim Committee on Human Services that unanimously recommended permanency planning for children in institutions, has spent years resolving the problem of institutionalized and abandoned children. "Senators added to the committee's interim charges the issue of institutionalized children--an issue that we unfortunately have had to address with too much regularity," Sen. Zaffirini noted. "It is my prayer that SB 368 establishes the procedures and accountability to ensure once and for all that all children are afforded the opportunity to live in a nurturing environment in a permanent family--not just a group home they share with staff and other children."
SB 368 must pass the House of Representatives before being sent to the Governor for his signature. House Bill 2717, by Representative Glen Maxey, D-Austin, is the House companion bill.