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Proposed Texas CPS fix would make DFPS a stand-alone agency

A bipartisan team of state representatives have a strategy to fix Texas' broken CPS system. They announced plans Monday to remove the Department of Family and Protective Services out from under the Health and Human Services Commission.

Texas House Speaker Joe Strauss put the workgroup together, after reports of children who were abused, killed, or simply never checked on. The CPS crisis has been named a priority for Governor Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick as well.

"The way that we as a state protect children from abuse and neglect is not working well, and it hasn't for some time," said State Representative James Frank, (R-Wichita Falls).

He plans to file a bill that would make DFPS a stand-alone agency. It's just one of many reorganizational proposals announced by the Texas House workgroup at the State Capitol.

"We think it's important enough that it ought to be an agency by itself, where the governor can directly appoint the commissioner, and where we, as a legislature, can deal with it more directly," said State Representative Richard Pena Raymond, (D-Laredo).

A pilot program for community-based care has been underway in Fort Worth few a few years now, and State Representative Stephanie Klick, (R-Fort Worth), says they've already seen progress in keeping siblings together and keeping kids close to home.

Klick says another benefit of making decisions locally has been knowing the best placement fit in the community for specific types of children.

"Having decisions made in Austin on the wellbeing of children really does not make sense," said State Rep. Klick.

The workgroup says the change would still mean oversight and would ultimately help with caseload issues, by breaking down communication and decision-making barriers.

"Those silos are gone, and you focus on the needs of the child," said Klick.

A decentralized DFPS would report directly to the governor and would no longer have to go through the HHSC for decisions.

"We have people of all faiths and backgrounds ready to help, but they have trouble getting through the state bureaucracy, and we believe they can get through it if it's more of a community-based model," said Representative Frank.

The team also plans to introduce other bills that would help families afford kinship care, and also give the agency the resources it needs.

"But not keep doing the same things, because the same thing hasn't worked very well," said State Rep. Raymond.

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