2023 Legislation: Family Justice and Child Welfare

SB 1930 (Author: Kolkhorst | Sponsors: Dutton; Garcia; Campos; Oliverson; Sherman, Sr.), Relating to policies and procedures regarding children placed by the Department of Family and Protective Services in a residential treatment center or qualified residential treatment program. Under SB 1930, if a child is or may be placed in a residential treatment center, a qualified residential treatment program, or a similar treatment setting, the guardian ad litem appointed for the child must: review any available information regarding whether the placement is appropriate to meet the child’s needs; meet in person with the child before providing a recommendation; and provide the court a recommendation regarding the placement that is in the best interest of the child. The guardian ad litem must also attempt to elicit, in a developmentally appropriate manner, the child’s own opinion of and concerns regarding their current or proposed placement.  

In these situations, the attorney ad litem must review any available information related to the child’s needs (including psychological evaluations and counseling notes), and review information regarding whether the placement is appropriate to meet the child’s specific needs. The attorney ad litem must also meet with the child before any hearing to prepare for the hearing in accordance with the child’s expressed representation objectives, and elicit the child’s own opinion and concerns about the placement. Additionally, the attorney ad litem must: advise the child regarding a request or recommendation for placement by the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), as well as the likelihood of that request being granted; and advocate to the court for the child’s specific desires regarding the requested placement. 

As appropriate, both the guardian ad litem and attorney ad litem can request a placement conference, and can participate in any conferences conducted by DFPS or the child’s treatment team related to an initial or ongoing placement. 

If a child is placed or referred to and awaiting placement in a residential treatment center, the court must determine whether: the child’s needs can be met through placement in a family-like setting; the recommended or existing program can provide the most effective and appropriate level of care; the program is the least restrictive setting consistent with the child’s best interest and individual needs; and the placement is consistent with the short-term and long-term goals for the child. In making this determinization, the court may consider medical and mental health assessments; the child’s current treatment plan and progress being made; any significant medical, legal, or behavioral incidents involving the child; reasons for the child’s removal from any previous placement; the programs available at the facility to address the child’s needs; the program’s plan to discharge the child after treatment; and whether there are other programs that more effectively meet the child’s needs. The court must also ultimately determine whether continued placement in the particular setting is appropriate. Effective on 9/1/23 

During the 2023 session of the Texas Legislature, the Texas Center for Justice and Equity tracked around 40 youth and adult justice bills that made it to the Governor's desk. You can find links to all of our analyses in our 2023 Bill Analysis Guide.