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The executive commissioner is currently authorized to adopt rules necessary to carry out Section 261.002 (b) of the Family Code. If the executive commissioner decides to adopt rules, the bill would require the rules to prohibit the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) from making a finding of abuse or neglect against a person whose child is under the conservatorship of DFPS only because the child's family was unable to obtain mental health services for the child.
The adopted rules would also have to establish a procedure for reviewing and removing records from the registry where DFPS was named managing conservator of a child only because the child's family was unable to obtain mental health services for the child. Regarding the aforementioned cases, DFPS would be required to report by November 1st of each even-numbered year on the:
The bill would also repeal statute requiring DFPS and the Department of State Health Services to study and develop recommendations to prevent the practice of parents relinquishing custody of children with a severe emotional disturbance and placement of children in the conservatorship of the department solely to obtain mental health services for the child.
The legislation represents a step towards joint conservatorship for children with mental illness whose parents cannot afford to pay the high costs often associated with mental health services. Current law authorizes parents of children with intellectual developmental disabilities who cannot pay for their care to effectively relinquish their children to the state through a joint conservatorship without being placed on the abuse and neglect registry. This option is currently not available to parents of children with mental illness.
This bill would not establish joint conservatorship for parents of children with mental illness. It would simply prohibit parents from being categorized as persons who abuse or neglect children when they relinquish their parental rights.
However, HB 2039 is, in our view, primarily a social issue. Because we do not make recommendations on social issues we remain neutral on HB 2039.