A strong push for parental rights legislation is expected in this year’s legislative session, as both the Republican Party of Texas and an influential advocacy organization have targeted the issue as a top priority.
The Family Freedom Project, an offshoot of the Texas Homeschool Coalition and a vehement advocate for parental rights, hopes to see the passage of a constitutional amendment providing broad protections for parental rights as well as a comprehensive bill implementing a number of long-needed reforms to Child Protective Services, which some critics have labeled as “out of control.”
In a conversation with Texas Scorecard, Family Freedom Project identified House Joint Resolution 58 and House Bill 730, both authored by State Rep. James Frank (R–Wichita Falls), as their top two legislative priorities.
HJR 58 would enshrine federal case law in the Texas Constitution, restricting judicial discretion in cases stemming from parental decisions regarding “the care, custody, control, education, upbringing, moral and religious training, and medical care of their child.”
Since amending the Texas Constitution requires agreement from two-thirds of each legislative body and a majority of voters in the state, a constitutional amendment providing protections for parental rights would be a strong safeguard against future attempts to undermine them, which have occurred all too often in recent years.
According to Jeremy Newman, FFP’s vice president of policy and engagement, “HJR 58 represents a powerful statement of support for a simple idea: Parents have the right and responsibility to raise their children, and this must be protected.”
HB 730 would implement several reforms to CPS that parental rights advocates have wanted for a long time. Among the most consequential are requiring CPS to present probable cause of abuse or neglect to obtain a court order to search a residence or interview children, requiring CPS to notify parents of their rights when interacting with the agency, and prohibiting a court from ordering the removal of a child simply because the judge disagrees with a parenting decision.
In a statement about the bill on FFP’s website, the organization asserts that “family and freedom should come first” and that this legislation “will enforce greater accountability standards on CPS.”
Over the past decade, FFP’s team has been instrumental in advancing legislation that produced significant changes to CPS, and they have successfully represented families in several high-profile child custody cases that created precedent governing how judges should rule in such cases.
After legislators passed major CPS reforms nearly unanimously during the last regular legislative session, Newman is optimistic about the prospect of success for his organization’s priority items this year, saying the appetite for reform remains strong.
Newman says lawmakers “don’t want to be the one who votes against parental rights.”
The 88th Legislative Session begins today.