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FOSTER CARE REFORMS ADVANCES IN TEXAS SENATE
AUSTIN — Late yesterday evening the Senate Committee on Health & Human Services approved three bills authored by State Senator Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, to improve outcomes for abused and neglected children and to provide better support for individuals aging out of the foster system.
"These are children who have been through unimaginable hardships," said Senator Nelson, who authored major reforms to Child Protective Services in 2005 and the foster system in 2007. "Far too many of our foster children are becoming homeless after they age out of the foster system. We need to support them, ease their transition into adulthood and give them the best possible chance to lead successful, responsible and fulfilling lives."
Specifically, the committee approved SB 69, supporting foster families and for foster children aging out of the system, SB 493, improving services for children in the CPS system and expanding tuition benefits; and SB 1332, requiring courts to consider previous foster placements for children re-entering the system.
Key Provisions of SB 69:
- Enhances Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) classes to ensure that foster children aging out of the system have access to community resources (e.g., food stamps, low income housing, job opportunities, local charitable services) that can aid in their transition to adulthood;
- Establishes a mentoring program at the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) in which foster families serve as advisers to biological families in preparation for the return of a child to the biological parents;
- Requires 5 days notification for non-emergency placement transfers of children to give them more time to prepare for the move and minimize stress;
- Requires exit surveys with foster parents who decide to leave the system;
- Requires DFPS to consider co-locating offices with child placing agencies; and
- Directs the Department to study the feasibility of a financial incentive program for foster youth who achieve goals under treatment and service plans.
Key Provisions of SB 493:
- Increases the age limit for a foster child tuition exemption from 21 to 25 years of age;
- Requires DFPS to fully consider alternatives to Permanent Managing Conservatorship, which tends to be the least successful placement option for a child; and
- Requires a child's permanency plan to include long-term goals, such as transitional housing and career planning, to help them better transition into adulthood.
SENATOR JANE NELSON represents District 12, including portions of Tarrant and Denton Counties. She is Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health & Human Services.