Gov. Rick Perry today ceremonially signed House Bills 915 and 1227, which help improve the care children receive in Texas' foster care system. The governor was joined by Reps. Lois Kolkhorst, Dawnna Dukes, Naomi Gonzalez and Elliott Naishtat at the signing ceremony.
"Texas is committed to ensuring our foster care system provides a safe environment that meets the needs of and protects these vulnerable Texans," Gov. Perry said. "I am proud of the work lawmakers have done with these bills, and even more proud to be able to sign legislation that ensures we continue to provide a safe and caring foster care system in Texas."
HB 915 monitors the prescription and usage of psychotropic medicine for foster children in Texas. The bill gives children in the foster care system the opportunity to provide an opinion on their medical care, allows foster care youth at the age of 16 and older to act as their own medical consenter, and requires attorneys and guardians to evaluate any medical care a youth in foster care receives. It also increases the youth and medical consenter's awareness of side-effects and alternatives to prescribed psychotropic medicine.
"This bill brings new safeguards into the way we care for our foster kids," Rep. Kolkhorst said. "It's a new approach to how our state treats some its most vulnerable children. I've been working with CASA to create new options to help foster parents and children heal from abuse and neglect."
HB 1227 gives court appointed special advocates, or CASA volunteers, better access to their appointed foster child's information. Currently, the CASA volunteer must stay inside the child protective services office to access any information on their foster child. This bill will lay the foundation to create an internet information system permitting the CASA volunteer to view and enter information on their foster child while still maintaining confidentiality.
"It is an honor to join Gov. Perry today as he signs House Bill 1227," Rep. Dukes said. "CASA volunteers have proven to be significant partners with the state in ensuring our most vulnerable children are safe and secure by prioritizing their well-being. No longer will CASA have to expend time-consuming visits to child protective services offices to review paper files. By providing electronic access to certain case files we are able to welcome a more efficient and effective system. This system provides the necessary tools for caseworkers to have the most up to date and accurate information; ensuring that every child's best interest will be represented by his or her advocate."
Both bills become law on Sept. 1, 2013.