Foster children will rally at Capitol for lawmakers to change CPS

Lawmakers plan to make cuts that could negatively affect foster families and low income people (KXAN Photo)
Lawmakers plan to make cuts that could negatively affect foster families and low income people (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Lawmakers are fast-tracking a bill designed to overhaul the state’s child protective system.

This comes just a few days after the governor says the agency is on his top-priority list. On Friday, current and former foster children will rally for lawmakers to make swift changes to Child Protective Services.

Lawmakers backing this bill say they have to act fast, as more than 100 children died in the state’s care last year. Senator Charles Schwertner, R-Texas, wrote the bill, SB 11, which falls under emergency legislation, allowing the legislature to vote on it in the first 60 days of the Legislative Session.

If passed, here’s a look at what the bill will do:

  • It requires social workers to provide timely services for kids in foster care. Within three to five days of entering the system, children must see a doctor.
  • Boosts the number of independent agencies working with the system – the would include faith-based organizations to help find new foster families.
  • Strengthens investigations — forcing social workers to see a neglected or abused child within two to three days after the abuse is reported.
  • Increases accountability among social workers – social workers who perform well get financial incentives.

“We need to do better by the case workers. They’re our front line workers. We need to make sure that they have the right — not just compensation — but also the right leadership, the right culture. The right policies,” said Schwertner.

As lawmakers try to fast-track this bill through the legislature, former and current foster children will rally on the South side steps. They will tell lawmakers the changes they want to see.

“The most important things on the bill are intervention in the cases of abuse, because I experienced so much abuse in the system and out of the system,” said Natalia Hazelwood, who was adopted at 10 years old.

But, she still experienced abuse within her adopted family, that included being kept in a room in the family’s garage and only fed sandwiches. Hazelwood said attention from social workers was gone.

“CPS was out of the picture and I wasn’t checked-up on anymore,” said Hazelwood.

Parts of the bill that require specialized care for children with mental and physical disabilities is critical.

“My biological brother is special needs and he did not receive the care that he needed when he was in the system,” said Hazelwood. “These kids are not case numbers, they have names. They have faces and they deserve to be heard.”

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