AUSTIN – Today, a group of more than one dozen family rights activists submitted a letter to the commissioner of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services with nine recommendations for protecting the rights of parents and children during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Children in foster care are especially vulnerable to the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 outbreak and the actions taken by government,” said Andrew Brown, director of the Center for Families and Children at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. “Across the nation, visits with families are being canceled and children who were close to going home may have to remain in foster care for months longer than necessary. The coalition’s recommendations recognize that it is during times of crisis when children need family most.”
The recommendations include:
- Expedite reunifications of families and prevent prolonged separations by continuing to hold status and permanency hearings.
- Consider either suspending all new investigations with the exception of Priority I reports or conducting Priority II investigations virtually.
- Maintain in-person visitation to maximum extent possible in order to minimize additional trauma to children.
- Suspend the use of safety plans and Parental Child Safety Placements for all non-immediate or non-serious threats to child’s safety.
- Prevent removals for failure to comply with the terms of any safety or service plan. Encourage virtual Family Team Meetings to support the needs of families.
- Suspend or alter service plan requirements that expose parents to a significant risk of exposure to COVID-19 or would require violation of shelter-in-place orders.
- Suspend drug-testing requirements during the Governor’s state of disaster declaration. Waive requirements that parents submit to drug-testing as a precondition for visitation.
- Prohibit caseworkers from marking parents’ progress as “unsatisfactory” or “non-compliant” with service plan terms due to pandemic-related barriers.
- Prioritize reunification of the child with their parents via monitored return, fast-track relative or fictive kin placement approvals, and allow for temporary waiver of licensing and training requirements to facilitate placement with relatives.
To read the letter in full, please visit: