Last week the THSC Watchmen ran across an unintentional threat to parental rights buried in Senate Bill 219, a bill filed by Sen. Charles Schwertner that cleans up inconsistencies in the family code. After closer inspection, it was discovered that in the midst of over 2,000 pages of the bill there was a change that could have unintentionally removed some of the basic protections for families. This particular change could have allowed judges to issue temporary restraining orders for the removal of a child before a hearing, without having to prove any type of emergency circumstances.
By Wednesday morning, THSC Policy Director Jeremy Newman and family law attorney Cecilia Wood were discussing strategies in which to bring this issue to the attention of the bill authors and the committee. By 2 p.m., both were sitting in the Senate Chamber waiting to testify against the bill in committee.
Representing Texas families, Ms. Wood and Mr. Newman explained that the changes would allow a judge to issue a restraining order for the removal of a child from his or her parents without necessitating that the child be in any type of imminent danger, and without requiring CPS to have exhausted all other avenues for protecting the child.
Once this issue was brought to the attention of the committee, lawmakers gave immediate consideration to THSC’s concerns by calling CPS back to the stand to explain the intended impact of the changes.
Two days later, staff from the author of the Senate bill and the House companion bill met with THSC and came to an agreement that would fix the potential problem. THSC commends Senator Schwertner and Rep. Four Price for so quickly addressing this concern and agreeing to a solution that settled the issue.
It is instances like these that show that the THSC Watchmen are doing so much more than just trying to pass legislation. They are in Austin day in and day out working to protect the rights of the family and Texas parents during the 84th Legislative Session.
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