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Abbott: Reform CPS So ‘No More Children Die’

“Last year, more than 100 children died in our Child Protective System. You can vote to end that,” said Texas Governor Greg Abbott during his State of the State Address on Tuesday.

“We can reform the system so that no more children die in it,” he urged.

Reforming Child Protective Services (CPS) was the first of four emergency items that Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared during his address before the State Senate and House.

Abbott challenged the legislators gathered, “The primary goal of government is to keep its citizens safe and secure. That goal is even more important when it comes to our children.” “You will cast thousands of votes this session. Few will involve life or death decisions. Your vote on CPS is one of them,” he said.

Breitbart Texas reported this week that elected officials in the Texas House announced on Monday that they intend to make major changes to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (TDFPS). They will be introducing legislation in the next few days, they said.

Those specially charged to study the problems say the best solution for CPS and the foster care system is to move the department out of the umbrella of the Health and Human Services Commission and make it “a stand-alone agency.” Under the new proposal, the agency would answer directly to Governor Abbott. The commissioner of the department would be appointed by the governor and the agency would be operated more locally.

A member of that legislative workforce, Texas State Representative Rick Miller (R-Sugarland) told Breitbart Texas, “I am especially strong in my support of making DFPS/CPS a stand-alone entity with the commissioner being appointed directly by the governor. There are many corrective changes and fixes that must be made to this system that has not functioned well since its inception, and especially now. The State of Texas is responsible for over 24,000 children in this dysfunctional system.”

During his State of the State Address, Governor Abbott said what was needed to safeguard children was “more workers, with better training,” and “smarter strategies and real accountability.”

“The Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas is encouraged that Governor Abbott has elevated child welfare as a top priority for the 85th Texas Legislative Session. The 70 children’s advocacy centers that serve over 43,000 Texas children involved in investigations of abuse and violence each year are by his side in this fight for our most vulnerable citizens,” said Joy Rauls, executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas.

While CPS is charged with protecting Texas’ children, Governor Abbott noted “we must also remain vigilant in protecting parental rights.” Breitbart Texas reported in September that a Texas judge sanctioned Child Protective Services and ordered the agency to pay $27,500 in attorneys fees. Harris County Family Court Judge John Schmude also ordered CPS personnel to read the United States Constitution, and the Bill of Rights in the Texas Constitution. The judge sanctioned the agency for “groundless” removal of the child from their family, among other things.

Abbott said, “We must remember that the best place for a child, if at all possible, is with their parents.” He also encouraged others to become foster and adoptive parents.

Breitbart Texas reported in mid-January that First Lady Cecilia Abbott, and the commissioner over the state’s child welfare system, DFPS Commissioner Hank Whitman, asked faith partners in the state to help the youth and their families in the system. They announced the “Network of Nurture Initiative” by asking faith leaders to join in a partnership with the agency to help find loving homes for children, and to lend support to the youth in the system.

Governor Abbott ended the part of his speech calling for CPS reform as the first emergency item by urging legislators, “If you do nothing else this session, cast a vote to save the life of a child.” He told them, “Do not underfund this rickety system only to have it come back and haunt you. Do it right. If ever we’ve had an emergency item, this is it.”

Rep. Miller told Breitbart Texas, “The changes of increasing the number of people in certain positions, such as case workers, and paying them a more reasonable compensation, are very important. But the Commissioner must have the authority to make critical decisions regarding staffing and budgetary issues that will speed up the decision-making process to make the needed changes internally.”

Miller said he is working on a bill that “will change the training of everyone who in fact ‘touches’ a child.” “We must also realize that we can make all of these changes and fixes in the system, that will help in the management of the system, but if everyone who ‘touches’ a child is not equipped with the understanding of how to talk with the children, work with the children, and develop them into having a sense of purpose with direction in their lives, then perhaps none of these other changes will really make a difference.

Miller says his bill will include training that will incorporate trauma and trust evidenced-based training for all who are directly involved with these children.

Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock) shared the following statement with Breitbart Texas:

I stand with the Governor on the urgent need for CPS reform, and the protection of parental rights. During the interim, the County Affairs Committee hearing showed me we can, and should be doing a much better job for the children in the system.

Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. She has served as a prosecutor and associate judge in Texas. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2.

This article has been updated to reflect additional information.

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