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Relating to child protective services suits, motions, and services
by the Department of Family and Protective Services.
The bill would make no appropriation but could provide the legal basis for an appropriation of funds to implement the provisions of the bill.
Certain provisions of the bill would only take effect if the Eighty-fifth Legislature appropriates money specifically for the purpose of implementing those provisions; otherwise, the provisions would not take effect.
HB 7 is a lengthy bill with many specific provisions for updating procedures, processes, and substantive aspects of the Department of Family Protective Services (department) with respect to the judicial removal of a child from the child's home. For the sake of brevity we will point out a few of the highlights rather than cover an exhaustive list of the bill's provisions. Under HB 7:
The voluntary agreement to place a child in the temporary managing conservatorship of the department would be inadmissible as evidence that the parent engaged in conduct that endangered the child.
The department must notify a child’s parent, attorney ad litem, guardian ad litem, volunteer advocate, foster parent, prospective adoptive parent, relative caregiver, and any other person determined by the court to have an interest in the child’s welfare of an intent to change the placement of the child.
The bill would conditionally prohibit a court from ordering a parent of a child to make periodic payments while a suit filed by DFPS to be named managing conservator of the child is pending.
A court would be prohibited from making a finding and ordering termination of the parent-child relationship based on evidence that the parent homeschooled the child, is economically disadvantaged, engaged in reasonable discipline of the child, or has been charged with a nonviolent misdemeanor offense other than an offense involving family violence, administered medical cannabis to the child, or declined to immunize the child for reasons of conscience. The department would also be prohibited from taking possession of a child based solely on the above evidence. Termination of the parent-child relationship would only be allowed to be ordered by the court if the court finds by clear and convincing evidence grounds for termination of the relationship.
A suit affecting the parent-child relationship filed by the department requesting termination would be terminated and automatically dismissed without a court order after a year unless the court has commenced the trial or granted an extension.
The bill also calls for a family drug court study and revises requirements for the department to recommend a minor be put in an inpatient mental health facility.
This bill would further limited government, individual liberty, and personal responsibility by strengthening the protection of parental rights in a way that balances the need for the state to retain authority to remove a child from a home if the circumstances warrant removal. We are particularly pleased that this bill would prohibit a child from being removed or parental rights terminated based on things such as homeschooling, economic status, and reasonable discipline. The parent-child relationship is sacred and should be protected with vigor. A child should only be judicially removed under circumstances that truly require removal and not because a social worker disagrees with homeschooling or thinks a family is too poor. We support HB 7.