With Child Protective Services under a cloud of allegations for “abuse of power,” state representatives in the Texas House passed an important reform bill on Wednesday. An attempt by State Rep. Bryan Slaton (R–Royse City) to expand the bill’s protections to parents who refuse to modify their child’s gender was thwarted by the speaker of the House, while three other bills necessary to protect parent’s rights remain languishing in House and Senate committees.

On Thursday, an important bill bringing needed reform, House Bill 567 by State Rep. James Frank (R–Wichita Falls), passed the House 143-5. It now goes to the Texas Senate.

Frank told the House that his bill is meant to address the trauma of unnecessary removals.

“In some of your districts, children are removed at 10 times the rate of other districts. That kind of inconsistency shouldn’t happen,” he said. “We want to shorten the length of time parents and families are left in limbo.”

“There is language in this bill that would prevent non-offending parents from being punished,” Krista McIntire, a consultant on CPS cases, previously told Texas Scorecard. “We have a lot of non-offending parents out there that are having their children removed or put in services.”

The bill also has language that forces CPS to place children with family should a removal be warranted.

“HB567 creates a more just and compassionate child welfare system,” tweeted Andrew Brown, director of the Center for Families and Children at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

State Reps. Alex Dominguez (D–Brownsville), Gina Hinojosa (D–Austin), Celia Israel (D–Austin), Ana-Maria Ramos (D–Richardson), and Shawn Thierry (D–Houston) voted against the bill.

Twice, Slaton attempted to amend the bill so parents refusing to modify their child’s gender would also be protected from CPS.

“I met a man who is going through a divorce, and the spouse is trying to get the gender changed of his 3-year-old son,” Slaton said Thursday morning. “CPS was called on him five times because he wouldn’t put his son in a dress.”

Speaker of the House Dade Phelan ruled the amendment wasn’t germane on a point of order by State Rep. Joe Moody (D–El Paso).

“To clarify, Texas House GOP leadership just killed a measure that would prevent CPS from taking your children away if you refuse gender modification,” former State Rep. Matt Rinaldi tweeted.

On Wednesday, State Reps. Gene Wu (D–Houston) and David Cook (R–Mansfield) successfully offered four amendments, with Frank’s blessing.

Wu told the House his first amendment offers “a legitimate way” to extend court trials in CPS cases beyond the 90-day limit, which will trigger a court hearing.

“To get this extension, the court needs to find good cause, state it, and also provide a distinct [time] of when this case needs to end,” Wu said.

He said his second amendment offers another avenue for extension, so parents have more time to finish their services and get their children back.

“As long as a parent is making good efforts to finish their stuff and the court intends to return the child to the parents, that to us as a body is a really, really good reason for why the court should extend the jurisdiction,” he stated.

Cook said his amendments were brought at the request of the Texas Children’s Commission. He told the House his first amendment establishes “that the burden of proof for the findings required to remove a child from a custodial parent and a non-custodial parent are the same.” His second amendment would expand attorneys at litem—attorneys appointed by the court to represent minors—to include proceedings listed under child welfare cases in state law.

While this news is encouraging for families who have suffered under CPS, there are still more bills sitting stagnant in the Legislature, and an opportunity to protect parents refusing gender modification of their children has been missed.

House Bill 1895 by State Rep. Gary Gates (R–Rosenberg), House Bill 2737 by State Rep. Ina Minjarez (D–San Antonio), and Senate Bill 647 by State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R–Brenham) have not yet had hearings in their assigned committees.

Concerned citizens may contact their state representative and state senator. These bills may be tracked through Texas Legislature Online.

Robert Montoya

A former filmmaker, University of North Texas graduate, and one-time assistant language teacher, Robert Montoya misses Japan and the 1980s. He is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard.

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