FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 10/12/2016
SPEAKER STRAUS, OTHER STATE LEADERS CALL FOR QUICK ACTION TO PROTECT CHILDREN
AUSTIN – Top Texas leaders instructed the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) on Wednesday to develop a plan to immediately improve the state’s protection of children at risk of abuse.
Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus sent a letter to DFPS Commissioner Hank Whitman calling for immediate action to more quickly help vulnerable children. Recent data from Child Protective Services (CPS) show that the agency is struggling to see children in a timely manner.
“Protecting children from abuse is going to be a top priority in next year’s legislative session, but there is a need for action right now,” Speaker Straus said. “This is an urgent concern for the Texas House.”
The letter from the state’s leaders instructs Commissioner Whitman to:
· Develop a plan to hire and train more special investigators.
· Develop a plan to ensure that DFPS has the caseworkers to handle the increase in cases and to prioritize hires in the most critical regions of the state.
· Reinforce a culture of accountability within CPS.
· Build upon ongoing efforts to enhance partnerships with faith-based communities.
State leaders also called on Whitman to develop an innovative plan to address a shortage of foster homes and residential providers.
“We understand that additional resources are required in order for you to begin to address the increasing number of children requiring the state’s intervention,” the letter to Whitman says. “We are confident that the Texas Legislature will make judicious budgetary decisions in the 85th Legislative Session to address the ongoing resource needs for the future biennium. However, we must act now to protect our children who are in harm’s way.”
The Legislature has been adjourned since June 2015 and will return in January 2017. Speaker Straus has repeatedly highlighted child protection as a top priority heading into the next legislative session.