Child protection has emerged as a priority issue for this legislative session after a number of interim hearings, policy reports, and child deaths put a spotlight on the subject.
The legislature will have to move forward on several fronts if it is serious about keeping kids safe. It will have to provide CPS with the resources it needs to reduce unmanageable caseloads for caseworkers who keep foster kids safe, investigate child abuse, and play other critical roles. It will have to get the Sunset bill right and stay away from distracting CPS officials with the creation of a health and human services mega-agency.
And it will have to pass a number of important individual bills or include them in any broader CPS legislation it passes. Below are six child protection bills we are prioritizing this session.
You can email your legislators about any or all of these priorities with a few clicks in our Action Center.
Priority child protection bills:
- SB 125 by Senator Royce West, which would mandate trauma screenings for children who are removed from their homes by CPS and improve the overall assessment process. Often, children in foster care are incorrectly prescribed psychotropic drugs; experience multiple placements; and never find stability, permanency, and healing. This bill would ensure children receive a high-quality front-end assessment that will allow them to be matched with the right services and placed in appropriate settings right from the start.
- SB 294 by Senator West, which provides support for current and former foster youth pursuing a college degree. Children who age out of our foster care system face tough odds—like high rates of homelessness and substance use. Connecting them with higher education supports will do a lot to help put them on a path to success.
- HB 781 by Rep. Cindy Burkett, which would establish basic standards for the screening and training of foster parents. After a spike in child deaths with the very foster families the state’s contractors selected to keep them safe, it’s clear that the Legislature must strengthen these safeguards so they are adequate and uniform across the state.
- HB 993 by Rep. Armando Walle, which would direct DFPS to develop a plan to bring caseloads for CPS caseworkers down to manageable levels. Caseworkers are currently assigned many more children than recommended by national best practices, limiting their ability to keep kids safe and contributing to high rates of staff turnover.
- HB 1143 by Rep. Dawnna Dukes, which would improve services provided to pregnant and parenting youth in the state’s foster care system. Foster care youth are at a high risk of becoming teen parents and having their own children removed by CPS.
- HB 1217 by Rep. Senfronia Thompson, which would improve reporting on foster care youth who fall victim to human trafficking. Sixty-seven percent of likely child trafficking victims reported missing ran away from either foster care or a group home. Understanding this issue better will allow us to better safeguard abused and neglected children from being victimized again through trafficking.