AUSTIN, Texas - Some Texas parents want to bring change to child welfare services, and they are hoping new legislation will help.
On Sunday, a group gathered in front of the state Capitol in support of recent bills filed this session.
"How we treat our children says a lot about us as a society," said Sarah Collins, organizer of the event. She's also involved in Parents Assisting Parents, a nationwide group that advocates for parents involved in child welfare services.
Collins and her husband, who live in Anderson County, haven’t seen their four children since August. She doesn’t think their removal is justified.
"There are children out there that need protecting, but there are children out there that get caught up in the system," she said.
Those children are the ones she’s fighting for - her own and others’ - like Tina Freeman’s grandchildren.
"I know that we have a need for CPS, but what’s been going on with my grandchildren has not been in their best interests," said Freeman on Sunday.
Freeman said her two grandchildren have been wrongfully withheld from her daughter, and she’s felt like her input on their current living situation hasn’t been heard.
"Your granddaughter carries a knife to school while living where they’re at, and that’s not even addressed in paper work or at the hearing?"
Along with missing information, she said there is not enough fact-checking. For example, if a family member lies about a situation with their own best interests in mind. She said that's happened in her family.
Additionally, for parents that are separated, the pandemic has only distanced them more.
"We haven’t been able to see our children face to face since the removal," said Collins. "The reason is always cited as COVID-19."
Multiple bills have been filed in the Texas legislature that address some of the issues voiced by Collins and Freeman: HB 567, HB 1098, HB 2308, HB 2200, HB 1895 and SB 190.
For example, if HB 567 were approved, the court would have to appoint an attorney for parents navigating the system.
"It would be so much better if parents did have that extra little backing and that support system," said Collins.
For them, the goal isn’t to dismantle the system but to reform it.
"We’re not here to get rid of CPS," said Collins. "We’re here to support the bills that will enhance and improve the lives of families involved."
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