Texas Governor Greg Abbott held a news conference on May 31, 2017, at Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) headquarters in Austin to sign into law a package of bills he says will improve DFPS services and accountability.
One of those bills is HB 5, which makes DFPS a stand-alone agency apart from the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC). Before signing the new laws, Governor Abbott spoke directly to a large gathering of DFPS employees in the room and, by extension, thousands of employees throughout Texas.
Starting September 1, the DFPS commissioner will report directly to the Governor rather than to the Health and Human Services executive commissioner. HB 5 is designed to cut down on red tape and allow DFPS to make decisions and put them into action more quickly to respond to needs as they arise.
The bill also taps the brakes on consolidating DFPS functions into the Texas Health and Human Services Commission as part of HHS Transformation. While the Adult Protective Services (APS) Provider program and the most of Child Care Licensing (CCL) will still transfer to HHSC, those CCL staff who investigate abuse and neglect will stay at DFPS as a part of Child Protective Services (CPS).
HB 5 also affects the consolidation of many administrative functions into HHSC. Some functions now provided by HHSC will move back to DFPS. Others will continue to be provided by HHSC through interagency agreements.
"On behalf of thousands of DFPS employees I want to express our deep appreciation to everyone at HHSC who worked with us, for us, and for our programs and the hundreds of thousands of Texans of all ages those programs serve," said DFPS Commissioner Hank Whitman.
HHSC will continue to provide all the same services to DFPS clients that it does today, including Medicaid, Star Health, and Guardianship.
Another key piece of legislation was Senate Bill 11, which expands Community-Based Care, formerly known as Foster Care Redesign. One much-discussed aspect is transferring conservatorship case management from CPS to private providers. Whitman points out that will happen slowly over several years, as only three new catchment areas have been given the green light.