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House Approves Two Bills to Improve Child Protection

The Texas House on Wednesday approved the first two major bills of the 2017 legislative session, unanimously passing legislation to improve child protection in the state.

The House approved House Bill 4, authored by Rep. Cindy Burkett, which would provide additional support for family members who care for a child who has been removed from his or her home. Members of the House also approved House Bill 5, authored by Rep. James Frank, which would give the Department of Family and Protective Services more independence by creating a stand-alone agency with a Commissioner appointed by the Governor. DFPS, which oversees Child Protective Services, is currently part of the state’s Health and Human Services Commission.
 
Both bills reflect months of study and deliberation by an informal workgroup of House Members that Speaker Joe Straus convened to focus on child protection last year.
 
“Today the House showed that improving child protection is among our highest priorities,” Speaker Straus said. “We have taken a couple of very important steps toward providing better protection and care for children in terrible circumstances, with more to come in the weeks ahead. Representatives Burkett and Frank, along with Chairman Raymond and the Human Services Committee, continue to provide strong leadership on these issues.”
 
Governor Greg Abbott has identified reforming Child Protective Services as an emergency issue in this year’s legislative session. In addition to the bills approved Wednesday, the House has proposed a budget that would fund additional staff and higher salaries at CPS, where annual turnover among caseworkers is around 30 percent.