Family Reunification in Texas

During Texas’ 2021 legislative session, the Texas Center for Justice and Equity helped pass new legislation that gives formerly incarcerated parents a path to regain custody of their children. This law, HB 2926, passed with bipartisan support and went into effect on September 1, 2021.

  • TCJE created various materials during the legislative session as we fought for HB 2926. Check out our fact sheet here and our infographic here.
  • And here’s a blog post by TCJE’s Cynthia Simons on the consequences of family separation and the importance of family unity.

Getting HB 2926 passed was just the first step. Now, it’s time to make family reunification a reality in Texas.

This page includes background information and resources to help Texas parents and caregivers navigate the state’s new family reunification process. And stay tuned to this page for additional resources from TCJE!

Bill Context & Brief Analysis

A parent’s incarceration can have a devastating impact on their family: Their parental rights can be terminated, and their children can be placed in the custody of the state.

Although this issue affects many incarcerated people, its impact on system-impacted women is particularly noteworthy. In Texas, 81 percent of women are mothers, and women are generally more likely to be the primary caretakers of their children.

When a formerly incarcerated parent returns to the community and has taken steps to create a safe, stable home, it is important to provide them a pathway to reinstate their parental rights and reunite with their children.

HB 2926 creates a path for formerly incarcerated parents to regain the rights to their children. More specifically, people whose parental rights were involuntarily terminated – including due to imprisonment and inability to care for their children – can file a petition requesting the court to reinstate their rights.

Petition to Reinstate Parental Rights

Who can file the petition?

  • A former parent whose rights were involuntarily terminated
  • An appointed attorney (ad litem) for the child
  • The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS)
  • A single source continuum contractor (SSCC)

Under what circumstances is a petition permitted?

  • The termination of parental rights resulted from a suit filed by DFPS;
  • at least two years have passed since the rights were terminated and there is no appeal pending;
  • the child has not been adopted and is not the subject of an adoption placement agreement; and
  • the petitioner has notified DFPS of their intent to file the petition at least 45 days in advance of filing it.

What must the petition include?

  • a summary of why the court ordered termination of parental rights;
  • a summary statement of the facts and evidence that the petitioner believes demonstrate that the former parent has the capacity and willingness to perform parental duties; this includes steps the former parent has taken toward personal rehabilitation since the order terminating rights – like mental health and substance abuse treatment, employment, or other personal history that demonstrates rehabilitation;
  • a statement by the former parent requesting the reinstatement of parental rights;
  • a statement of the intent or willingness of the child to consent to the reinstatement of parental rights, if the child is 12 years of age or older; and
  • a summary of all prior requests or motions for reinstatement by the former parent.

Who must be served the petition?

  • the child or the child’s representative;
  • the county attorney;
  • the child’s attorney ad litem;
  • DFPS or a single source continuum contractor, if applicable;
  • the former parent whose parental rights are sought to be reinstated, if that former parent is not the petitioner; and
  • if the child is subject to the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, the designated tribal service agent of the child’s tribe and any other person required by federal law.

For TCJE’s full analysis of HB 2926 click here.

DFPS Forms

The Department of Family and Protective Services has various forms related to foster care, adoption, and other family-related matters.

See Number 3800 to open and complete the form relating to “Notice of Intent of Former Parent to Petition Court to Reinstate Parental Rights.”

Helpful Resources

  • Comprehensive guide from "I want to reinstate my parental rights after termination." Per the guide, this "is intended for use when your parental rights were terminated by the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), and you want to ask the court to reinstate (give back) your parental rights."
  • Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid (TRLA): TRLA handles family law cases and offers an intake process. They may be able to help parents in need of an attorney who are petitioning to get their children.
  • Austin Community Law Center: This Center handles family law cases and charges sliding-scale fees based on clients' income. They may be able to provide an attorney for parents dealing with CPS and child custody cases.
  • Texas Legal Services Center (TLSC): TLSC offers a family helpline, where parents can speak with an experienced child welfare attorney about CPS issues in Texas.
  • Webpage on family preservation: As part of a larger campaign around keeping families together, TCJE has published a new webpage that includes stats on family preservation, a video series including a "know your rights" discussion, and more.