Testimony to the House Committee on State Affairs
Several bills have been filed this session that are intended to protect the conscience rights of child welfare service providers who have deeply held religious beliefs. Of those bills, HB 3859 has the most protections in place to assure children’s rights will not be harmed in protecting providers. However, there are still a number of concerns that should be addressed in considering how this bill could be applied that could affect the rights or wellbeing of children in foster care. We recommend some changes to the sections regarding definitions and the effect on rights/construction of law to further protect children if the concerns raised about this bill arise in its implementation. Following the federal lawsuit, which held that many children in Texas’ custody face an unreasonable risk of harm, the Legislature must ensure that it does not pass a bill that would impugn children’s rights or allow children to be placed in harm’s way.