Protecting Texas' most vulnerable children with the help of law enforcement became a law this past legislative session. "Colton's Law", also known as HB2053, was passed in memory of 2 year-old Colton Turner. The toddler was found buried in a grave in a South East Austin field nearly 2 years ago.
The toddler's mother, Meagan Work, and her boyfriend, Michael Turner both charged in connection to his death. As Fox 7 first reported at the end of February, Turner, pleaded guilty for his role, was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
After Colton's remains were discovered, a Child Protective Services report showed the toddler and his mother had multiple cases open with the agency. CPS admitted to failing the child. His case was closed, according to the report, because they CPS could not locate the two.
Work had been on law enforcement's radar. But because there was no law requiring CPS to notify law enforcement they were looking for her, police had no way of knowing Work disappeared, or that her child was in danger.
A Fox 7 investigation revealed there were many CPS cases like Colton's. In 2014, CPS was forced to close 2,493 cases as "Unable To Complete" because the families could not be found.
Colton Turner's Great Aunt, Raquel Helfrich and long time family friend, Liz St. Clair pushed to change that by taking their fight to the Texas Legislature. State Representative Marsha Farney filed HB2053 and pushed it through until it was signed into law.
It now requires CPS to alert law enforcement immediately when a child in danger falls off their radar. CPS sends the information to the Department of Public Safety. The DPS in turn enters it into the C.S.C.A.L. database (The Child Safety Check Alert List). That record remains open for all law enforcement and CPS to see. Once the family is located, CPS is notified so they may make a visit to determine if the child (children) are okay.
Fox 7 filed an Open Records Request with The DPS on the progress of "Colton's Law". Their report shows from the time it went into effect, on September 1, 2015 - April 20, 2016:
-2,379 children were being looked for (1,012 already in the database, 1367 added to the database)
-423 children were located (CPS located 398, Law Enforcement located 25)