New Texas Foster Care Bill Aims To Fix A Broken System

Scrutiny over foster care in the United States is an increasingly important issue that sometimes does not get the attention it deserves, but the Texas Senate is ready to help do something about that. It just unanimously approved a bill that will amend the foster care system to reduce the number of children thrust into it by adding a wealth of provisions designed to protect children and their parents from unjust court rulings.

Prior to the new bill, children could be taken away from their parents for factors mostly out of the parents’ control. The Texas Senate agreed that courts should not have the authority to take children from loving parents simply because those parents are disadvantaged at no fault of their own. Circumstances under which this practice was common include economic or financial concerns, homeschooling, controversial forms of discipline, or nonviolent crimes that don’t even amount to a felony.

Although some parents are not perfect and changes can and should often be made in the home, putting children into the foster care system can have a disastrous effect on the families broken apart, and those kids can be led down an even worse path.

Another stipulation of the new bill commands that cases against a parent must be dropped if the court can’t rule within the space of a year–a time frame many would say is already much too long to begin with.

Another controversial amendment that would have been made if one senator had his way failed to make the cut. It would have allowed parents to hold onto kids if they had given their children medicinal marijuana for debilitating conditions like epilepsy or autism. Those children can still be taken away, even if the child’s doctor agrees that the treatment should be administered. Luckily, children who have been given low-THC dosed marijuana are protected under the bill.

Other additions seem even more obvious. Before, children could be placed in facilities catering to mental health issues even without the recommendation of a doctor. Now, a doctor’s advice is factored into the ultimate decision.

There were a number of other provisions added and amendments made at the last minute, mostly seemingly uncontroversial.

The reasoning behind the new bill is sound: caseworkers don’t keep their jobs long enough to follow children throughout their run in the foster care system, and that lack of stability and routine can damage a child’s chances of remaining healthy and happy while they’re in the care of the state.

To help fix this problem, case management will begin to be privatized. Whether or not this will solve any of the aforementioned issues is a huge question on the minds of those who are paying attention to the new bill. This is because these private contractors are to be granted immunity from litigation unless it can be proven they were grossly negligent in a child’s injury or death or covered up information. Any Texan personal injury attorney knows this is a recipe for disaster.

If that weren’t bad enough, there simply aren’t enough homes to take in all the children who were being placed into the system. Worse still, the state is under intense scrutiny because of a number of children who have died while in its care. Although the new bill is far from perfect by any accounting, it’s definitely a start.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.