Every legislative session is unique and the 88th was no exception. For 140 days, the Legislature deliberated a historic number of filed bills and debated issues like property tax reform, school choice, the power grid, and much more. And like every other session in recent memory, funding and policy for the child welfare system were carefully considered.
Although the Regular Session ended on Memorial Day, the House and Senate both adjourned without passing priority legislation and Governor Abbott immediately called the first of several expected special sessions.
While the Legislature continues to debate, many of the critical child welfare issues were resolved during the regular session and are not anticipated to be included in special session conversations. The TACFS advocacy team spent this session walking the halls of the Capitol, meeting with members and staff, advocating for TACFS’ priority issues to improve provider’s ability to serve the children and families of Texas. The team consistently heard support for the continued rollout of Community-Based Care, empowering families to stay safe together, and the need for high-quality, child centered services and regulation.
TACFS focused on four main priorities this Session:
1 – Strengthen Families Across the Continuum of Care
2 – Mental Health Care for Texas’ Most Vulnerable Youth
3 – Focus Ongoing Oversight and Regulation on Children’s Safety and Needs
4 – Build and Sustain High Quality Placements and Services
While TACFS worked to accomplish these key priorities, several themes emerged from the legislature as well:
1 – Limit new entries to the system, use foster care as a last resort.
2 – Support for mental health needs across the continuum.
3 – Rollout Community-Based Care quickly and efficiently and contemplate additional programs for CBC Providers.
4 – Continue to support high-quality, time-limited, residential care, only when less-restrictive settings aren’t appropriate.
5 – Texas envisions a child welfare system that can meet a child’s individual needs, rejecting the “one size fits all” approach.
6 – Improved hiring and training processes are needed as the desire for a professional and trusted workforce is needed to care for Texas’ vulnerable children.
7 – Focus on oversight and regulatory scheme that prioritizes children’s safety and outcomes over mere compliance.
Funding is always critical to the success of the child welfare system and to TACFS’ members ability to fulfill their missions. While the legislature passed a robust budget for fiscal years 2024-2025, the system saw a historic investment in services across the continuum. In an unprecedented step forward, the Legislature fully funded DFPS’ request to implement a modernized Foster Care Rate Methodology (FCRM). This new methodology will move the state away from a limited “leveling” system for children and move to specific service packages built on a child’s individual needs and diagnoses. This child- and outcome-centered approach to funding foster care provides a sustainable path forward to funding Community-Based Care by closer balancing the rates with the actual costs of care.
In addition to funding DFPS’ administrative needs to implement the new methodology, state representatives funded the new rates beginning in January 2025 and provider transition grants to help fund the transition to the new methodology. Finally, the legislature sustained the supplemental rates funded in Summer 2021 and added additional “bridge” funding for basic and moderate settings to sustain capacity until rate modernization is implemented.
Other critical budget highlights include:
- An additional $65 million for Prevention and Early Intervention programs, which will be moving to HHSC per Senate Bill 24.
- Funded Community-Based Care expansion to four new regions, with 11 regions operating this biennium and an estimated 78% of children served by 2025.
- Additional $15 million to continue Family Preservation Pilots.
- Additional funding and direction to make DFPS’ case management systems more interoperable and eliminate barriers to information sharing.
- Massive expansion of mental health services and access for children and their families, including more than $30 million for DFPS exceptional items.
Several significant, non-budget statutory changes were included in bills passed this Session as well:
- HB 730 (Frank): PCSP Limitations and Parent’s Miranda Rights
- HB 4233 (Zwiener): Runaway Training
- SB 24 (Kolkhorst): Moves PEI to HHSC and combines with Alternatives to Abortion
- SB 26 (Kolkhorst): Mental Health Innovation Grant Program
- SB 593 (Sparks): Requires a Third-Party Assessment of all standards/rules/contracts
- SB 1379 (Parker): Foster Youth Financial Pilot
- SB 1447 (Miles): Improved Investigations Training at DFPS
- SB 1469 (Bettencourt): Prospective Employee Affidavits on Inappropriate Relationships
- SB 1849 (Kolkhorst): Multi-Agency Offense Database
- SB 1930 (Kolkhorst): Court/Attorney review of residential placements
While the 88th Regular Session may have concluded, the state has a biennial budget and new statutory direction, and the work is far from over. TACFS members will now begin the work of implementing all of these changes, along with our many state partners. Community-based providers will continue to lead the way in evolving our approach to care and development of quality capacity. And TACFS will be focused on helping to ready the provider community to chart a course for the future with the continued rollout of Community-Based Care.
View our 88th Regular Session Toolkit to find details and resources from this Legislative Session. TACFS’ Policy team created a bill tracker, bill summary, budget snapshot, and slide presentation.