The bill filed by Texas State Representative Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) relating to the expansion of notification requirements relating to the deaths of children who are under the supervision of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) moved one step closer to a vote on the House floor this week. The bill, (HB 1309), was sent to the Local and Consent Calendar on April 1.
“Recent reports contend that the rate of child deaths resulting from abuse and neglect is higher in Texas than in other states,” Turner wrote in an analysis of the bill obtained by Breitbart Texas. “Concerned parties emphasize that the deaths of children in the custody of the DFPS are particularly troubling and warrant legislative priority and prompt review. HB 1309 seeks to increase the awareness, oversight, and review of deaths of children within the custody of DFPS by establishing notification requirements relating to the death of such a child.”
Public testimony on the bill was heard by the House Committee on Juvenile Justice and Family Issues March 18th and March 25th. The bill was approved by the committee on March 25th with a bi-partisan 7-0 vote. It was then referred to the Local and Consent Calendars Committee.
On March 25th, Breitbart Texas’s Bob Price reported that Texas Governor Greg Abbott sent a letter to DFPS Commissioner John Specia, Jr., directing the department to implement changes in many of the basic operational aspects of the department. “Texas urgently needs comprehensive reforms to the state’s struggling foster care and child protection systems to ensure we put children in safe environments, provide them with a sense of permanency, and learn from the tragedies of the past,” Abbott wrote.
HB 1309 will amend the Family Code to require the DFPS to notify state officials of the death of a child under their supervision within five days. The notification must be sent to the State Senators and State Representatives who represent the county where the death occurred. It would also require notification of the Senators and Representatives in the county or counties where any civil suits regarding the parent-child relationship is pending.
The agency would be required to include the following in the report: the age and sex of the child, the date of death, whether the state was the managing conservator of the child at the time of the child’s death, and whether the child resided with the child’s parent, managing conservator, guardian, or other person entitled to possession of the child at the time of the child’s death.
The committee’s report states that this bill does not grant any additional rulemaking authority to any state officer, department, agency or institution. It also does not create any additional criminal offense, increase any punishments for existing criminal offences, or change any eligibility of a person for community supervision, parole, or mandatory supervision.
The bill, if passed by a 2/3rds majority in both houses of the legislature would become law immediately upon the governor’s approval. If it is passed by less than a 2/3rds majority, the bill would become law on September 1st, 2015, following approval by the governor.
Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2