AUSTIN – Today the Texas Public Policy Foundation filed to challenge a state statute sometimes used to compel families to submit to unwanted and unnecessary government interventions, even when an immediate risk to a child cannot be established.
“Any time government interjects itself into the family and parent-child relationship should be treated with great caution by the courts,” said Robert Henneke, general counsel and director of the Center for the American Future at TPPF. “The constitutional problem with this part of the Texas Family Code is that it allows CPS to seek judicial micromanagement of the family without adequate evidence of abuse or neglect. In our lawsuit, TPPF seeks to restore the minimal constitutional protections for families facing investigation.”
Under Section 264.203 of the Texas Family Code, a court may issue an order requiring a family to comply with the open-ended and arbitrary demands of the Department of Family Services if the court believes that “abuse or neglect that has occurred” or there is a “reasonable likelihood that the child may be abused or neglected in the immediate or foreseeable future.” Additionally, the code allows for custody of a child to be removed for punitive, not safety, reasons.
TPPF joins local attorney Patrick O’Fiel as co-counsel to represents the Eads family, which the Department of Family Services tried to require to endure additional months of oversight, intrusive interviews and separation despite the fact that sufficient evidence of abuse or neglect could not be established.
“Child Protective Services fulfills the vital function of protecting children from immediate risk. However, the innate desire to protect children at all costs can lead to well-intentioned government overreach that is ripe for abuse,” said Brandon Logan, Ph.D. and director of TPPF’s Center for Families & Children. “After an extensive investigation, CPS found ‘no risk indicated’ in the Eads’ home. Continuing to expend state resources on determined safe homes is not only unfair to that family, it means children who need immediate help don’t get it.”
Unlike traditional legal proceedings where families like the Eads would have the full benefits of due process, Section 264.203 of the Family Code wrongfully denies them this opportunity.
“Before the government can take even minor liberties or private property, the Texas Constitution requires that individuals have their day in court, with all the procedural protections that entails,” said Chance Weldon, an attorney for the Center for the American Future at TPPF. “Here the law at issue gives the Department of Family Services the authority to interfere with one of the most intimate rights protected under the Constitution—the parent-child relationship—with almost no procedural protections at all. That’s not just unfair, it's unconstitutional.”
For more information or to request an interview, please contact Alicia Pierce at [email protected] or 512-472-2700.