Texas Department of Family and Protective Services
Advisory Council Meeting
October 6, 2006, 8:30 a.m.
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) Advisory Council met at the John H. Winters Building, Room 125-E, 701 West 51st Street, Austin, Texas. Council Members present were Chair Ommy Strauch, Imogen Papadopoulos, Gigi Edwards Bryant, Paul Furukawa, and Richard S. Hoffman. Also present were Commissioner Carey Cockerell and Department staff.
Agenda Item 1 – Call to Order
The meeting was called to order by Chair Ommy Strauch. Chair Strauch introduced and welcomed the newest Council member, Gigi Edwards Bryant from Austin, and noted that the Council looks forward to Ms. Bryant’s contributions.
Agenda Item 2 – Reading, Correction and Approval of Minutes of July 7, 2006*
Vice Chair Papadopoulos moved for approval of the minutes and noted some minor grammatical corrections. Chair Strauch also noted a question regarding the word incapacitated, whether or not the word should be incapacitated or emancipated. As requested by the Council, Gerry Williams will research, make the appropriate correction, and inform Council of the resolution.
Agenda Item 3 – Public Testimony
Irene Clements, First Vice President of the Texas Foster Family Association (TFFA) Executive Committee and Chairman of the TFFA Public Policy Committee, opened her comments by thanking Commissioner Cockerell and DFPS staff for attending TFFA’s conference the previous week; she thanked Dr. Furukawa for attending the September 29, 2006 TFFA awards banquet.
During a TFFA conference presentation regarding educational services for children in out-of-home care, it became evident that of the 150 or so foster families in attendance, none had received an educational portfolio for their children. Ms. Clements expressed concern regarding this and noted that information in the DFPS 180-day report, which was published on September 1, indicated that educational portfolios had been sent out to the DFPS regions in June.
Ms. Clements has since done some research and discovered that a few foster parents have gotten portfolios on some brand-new placements, but no one had gotten them on children already in care. She cited the instance of one provider who said she had actually gotten one portfolio that contained a folder and tabs but nothing else; the provider had expected it to at least have some information from the child's CPS file.
Ms. Clements concluded by stating that the 180-day report indicated that web-based training for people who can give medical consent came out in July; she noted that no one has received that training. There are 29,000 children in kinship care and the rest in foster homes and facilities with either staff or foster parents providing medical consent who have not yet had the web-based training. Chair Strauch asked Ms. Clements to contact DFPS staff to address these concerns.
Andrew Rivera addressed the Council regarding domestic violence and noted that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. He stated it isn’t enough to be merely aware of domestic violence and that action must be taken against domestic violence.
Mr. Rivera states part of the Agency’s mission is to protect children and that domestic violence clearly affects children; per the information provided in the supplemental reading provided to new DFPS employees, a review of 35 cases shows that children are likely to be maltreated in approximately 30 to 60 percent of families where the mother is known to be a victim of domestic violence.
Mr. Rivera cited a specific family’s situation of domestic abuse, and read into the Council meeting record both the wording of the resulting protective order and part of the transcript in that legal case in Bexar County. Mr. Rivera remarked the protective order alone should have “sent up red flags immediately” when reported to DFPS staff, but stated nothing was done to protect the children in this case.
Mr. Rivera applauds the Agency for recognizing the need to both audiotape and videotape investigations, but asked that the agency go further and record, audiotape and videotape every step of an investigation so there is no question of who said or did what.
Agenda Item 4 - Council Operations
4. a. Amendment to Council Bylaws* - Gerry Williams
Gerry Williams, DFPS General Counsel, reminded the Council that per discussion in the work session of Thursday, October 5, 2006, and per the Council’s request, a new Section 1.3 would be added to the Council bylaws to state, "The Council will nominate and elect a vice chair annually." Mr. Hoffman moved the recommendation, and Ms. Bryant seconded. The motion passed.
Agenda Item 5 - New Business
5. a. Recommendation to propose rule changes regarding Family-Based Safety Services and Family Reunification Services* - Liz Kromrei
Liz Kromrei, Director of Staff Services, informed the Council that these proposed changes separate family-based safety services rules from family reunification services rules. They clarify roles and responsibilities, delete portions that will be addressed in policy and contract, and clarify language through editorial changes.
Ms. Kromrei asked that the Council recommend to Commissioner Cockerell and Executive Commissioner Hawkins that these rules be proposed and published in The Texas Register for formal comment.
Ms. Bryant moved approval of the recommended rule changes, and Mr. Hoffman seconded the motion. The motion passed without further discussion.
5. b. Recommendation to propose the repeal of 40 TAC, §700.1341, Requesting Termination of Parental Rights* - Liz Kromrei
Liz Kromrei explained that this rule lists conditions, which must be met before terminating the parental rights of a child's parent. She noted that because of the existing federal Adoption and Safe Families Act and the Texas Family Code, the current DFPS rule is unnecessary and could potentially be contradictory. Ms. Kromrei requested that the Council recommend repeal of the rule to Commissioner Cockerell and Executive Commissioner Hawkins and that these changes be proposed and published in The Texas Register for formal public comment.
Ms. Papadopoulos moved that the Council recommend for proposal by the HHSC the repeal of Article 700.1341 concerning termination of parental rights, as reflected in the Council's October 6, 2006 Agenda Item 5.b., and Dr. Furukawa seconded the motion, and the motion passed without further discussion.
Agenda Item 6 – Old Business
6.a. Recommendation to adopt rule changes in 40 TAC, §700.409, Conducting Interviews or Examinations, and §700.522, Audiotaping or Videotaping Interviews of Children During Investigations*- Liz Kromrei
This rule change would repeal good-cause exceptions to audio- and videotaped interviews of children during investigations. Ms. Kromrei noted the change is required due to revisions to the Texas Family Code requiring DFPS to audio- and videotape all interviews with children.
The proposed rules were published on August 4, 2006, and DFPS received no comments regarding the changes. Ms. Kromrei asked that the Council recommend to Commissioner Cockerell and Executive Commissioner Hawkins that these rules be adopted, as indicated in the Council packet for today’s meeting, to be effective December 1, 2006.
Mr. Hoffman moved that the Council recommend for adoption by the HHSC an amendment to 700.409 and the repeal of 700.522, concerning audiotaping and videotaping interviews of children during investigations, as reflected in the Council's October 6, 2006 Agenda Item 6.a. Ms. Papadopoulos seconded that motion. There was no further discussion, and the motion passed.
6.b. Recommendation to adopt rule changes in 40 TAC, Chapter 700, Section 700.519, Voluntary Standards for Investigators of Child Abuse* - Liz Kromrei
Liz Kromrei presented these changes and noted they are required to implement the law intended to ensure the protection of children and the integrity of investigations by setting standards for training child abuse investigators, taping of interviews with children, and preservation of evidence.
The proposed rules were published on August 4, 2006, and DFPS received no comments regarding the changes. Ms. Kromrei asked that the Council recommend to Commissioner Cockerell and Executive Commissioner Hawkins that these rules be adopted, as indicated in the Council meeting packet, to be effective December 1, 2006.
Dr. Furukawa moved that the Council recommend for adoption by the HHSC the amendment to 700.519 concerning standards for investigators of child abuse, as reflected in the Council's October 6, 2006 Agenda Item 6.b, and Ms. Papadopoulos seconded. No further discussion was held, and the motion carried.
6. c. Recommendation to propose rule changes in 40 TAC, Chapter 705, Subchapter M, Confidentiality and Release of Records* - Debra Wanser
Debra Wanser, Assistant Commissioner of Adult Protective Services, explained that Senate Bill 6 requires that HHSC adopt rules to explain to whom and under what circumstances DFPS may disclose APS case records made confidential under Section 48 of the Human Resource Code. Ms. Wanser noted that this proposed rule change was published in The Texas Register and DFPS received no comments, and she asked that the Council recommend to Commissioner Cockerell and Executive Commissioner Hawkins that this rule be adopted.
Ms. Papadopoulos moved that the Council recommend for adoption by the HHSC the new sections concerning confidentiality and release of records, as reflected in the Council's October 6, 2006 Agenda Item 6.c., and Dr. Furukawa seconded. There was no other discussion, and the motion carried.
6. d. Recommendation to adopt a new rule in 40 TAC, Chapter 705, Section §705.8101, Public Awareness* - Debra Wanser
Debra Wanser stated that this new rule regards public awareness of the APS program, noting that SB 6 requires that, subject to the availability of funds, HHSC adopt rules to develop and implement a statewide public awareness campaign designed to educate the public regarding the abuse, neglect and exploitation of elderly persons and persons with disabilities.
Ms. Wanser remarked that the proposed rule addition was published in The Texas Register and DFPS received no comments, and she requested that the Council recommend to Commissioner Cockerell and Executive Commissioner Hawkins that this new rule be adopted.
Ms. Papadopoulos moved that the Council recommend for adoption by the HHSC the new Article 705.8101 concerning public awareness, as reflected in the Council's October 6, 2006 Agenda Item 6.d., and Dr. Furukawa member seconded. Following no further discussion, the motion passed.
6.e. Recommendation to adopt rule changes in 40 TAC, Chapter 702, General Administration* - Carolyn Bivens
Carolyn Bivens, of the Center for Policy and Innovation, noted that this rule change is a requirement of SB 6, which passed during the 79th legislative session, the rule implements an incentive program to encourage APS employees to obtain professional credentials if they do not already possess such.
The rules were published in The Texas Register and no comments were received. Ms. Bivens requested that the Council recommend to Commissioner Cockerell and Executive Commissioner Hawkins that this rule be adopted.
Dr. Furukawa moved that the Council recommend for adoption by the HHSC the amendments and new section concerning general administration, as reflected in the Council's October 6, 2006 Agenda Item 6.e., and Ms. Bryant seconded. There was no other discussion, and the motion carried.
6.f. Recommendation to adopt rule changes in 40 TAC, Chapter 704, Prevention and Early Intervention Services* - Carolyn Francis
Carolyn Francis, Prevention and Early Intervention Division of Purchased Client Services, presented this rule, noting that it is related to the implementation of the Community-Based Family Services Grant program in the Prevention and Early Intervention Division. Ms. Francis stated that Section 1.53 of SB 6 directs the Agency to administer this program to provide funding to lower priority cases of abuse and neglect, and explained that some additional changes were made to the rules at the same time to reflect changes in the Agency's name and to update references.
The rules were published in The Texas Register on August 19, 2006, and no comments were received. Ms. Francis requested that the Council recommend to Commissioner Cockerell and Executive Commissioner Hawkins the adoption of these rules.
Ms. Bryant moved that the Council recommend the adoption by the HHSC the amendments and new sections concerning prevention and early intervention, as reflected in the Council's October 6, 2006 Agenda Item 6.f., and Dr. Furukawa seconded. There was no other discussion, and the motion passed.
6.g. Recommendation to adopt rule changes in 40 TAC: Chapter 745, Licensing; Chapter 746, Minimum Standards for Child-Care Centers; Chapter 747, Minimum Standards for Child-Care Homes* - Diana Spiser
Diana Spiser, Assistant Commissioner of Child Care Licensing, presented these rules and stated that they concern adoption of proposed rules to implement legislation passed during the 79th legislature and to provide necessary clarification to existing rules. All comments received have been addressed and are listed in the meeting packet; Ms. Spiser asked that the Council recommend to Commissioner Cockerell and Executive Commissioner Hawkins that these rules be adopted with minor, non-substantive changes, as indicated in the Council’s meeting packet, to be effective January 1, 2007.
Ms. Papadopoulos moved that the Council recommend for adoption by the HHSC the amendments, repeals and new sections in: Chapter 745, licensing; Chapter 746, Minimum Standards for Child-Care Centers, and; Chapter 747, Minimum Standards for Child-Care Homes, to implement licensing legislation, as reflected in the Council's October 6, 2006 Agenda Item 6.g., and Mr. Hoffman seconded. There was no other discussion, and the motion carried.
6.h. Recommendation to adopt rule changes in 40 TAC Chapter 745, Licensing, supporting the revision of Residential Minimum Standards* - Diana Spiser
Diana Spiser presented these rules and explained that they are necessary to support the implementation of the new residential minimum standards. All of the public comments received were addressed and are listed in the Council’s meeting packet. Ms. Spiser requested the Council recommend to Commissioner Cockerell and Executive Commissioner Hawkins that these rules be adopted, with the minor non-substantive changes indicated in the Council’s meeting packet, to be effective January 1, 2007.
Mr. Hoffman moved that the Council recommend for adoption by the HHSC the amendments, repeals and new sections of Chapter 745, licensing, to support the revision of residential minimum standards, as reflected in the Council's October 6, 2006 Agenda Item 6.h., Ms. Bryant seconded. There was no further discussion, and the motion passed.
At this time, Chair Strauch announced they would go off-agenda and re-open public comment, as a question had been raised by a constituent regarding whether a three-minute or five-minute comment limit should have been observed. Mr. Williams stated that in the interest of the question, both speakers would be given the opportunity to speak for two minutes more each. Mr. Rivera accepted the offer of additional time.
Mr. Rivera applauded the agency’s initiating the audiotaping and videotaping of investigations. He asked that DFPS go one step further and audio/video tape every portion of the investigation so there is no “he said - she said, etc.” He concluded his comments by thanking the Council for their attention. Ms. Clements declined the offer of additional time, and public testimony was closed.
Agenda Item 7 – Agency Briefings
7.a. Commissioner’s Report - Carey D. Cockerell
Commissioner Carey D. Cockerell welcomed new Council member Gigi Edwards Bryant. The Commissioner noted that the Agency has enjoyed a very robust hiring initiative this year in further implementing SB 6; more than 2,000 new employees have been hired since September 1, 2005. These staffing efforts have continued. The Agency is working diligently to fill new caseworker positions for the field and their support staff.
Because of high caseloads of conservatorship staff, the Agency worked with HHSC and legislative leadership and is able to add 100 new conservatorship positions to be allocated across the state; in addition, the Agency will be filling more than 200 positions in the APS Division. Hiring for both divisions has occurred since September 1, 2006, and new positions will be phased in over the year. The Commissioner noted work in attempt to decrease employee turnover through a refined application, interviewing and selection process. The result has been a decrease in turnover rate of new staff during first six months from 15 percent to approximately 7 percent.
The Commissioner apprised the Council of a series of articles by a large state news outlet concerning exploitation and abuse of elderly and disabled adults; the articles generated over 40,000 hits on the news outlet’s website, an indication of the need and the issues our state is facing.
Commissioner Cockerell drew attention to invitations to the October 25, 2006 “CPS Delivers,” provided in the Council’s meeting packet, noting that the event will be held in the Winters Hearing Room in this building, in celebration of CPS’s accomplishments since implementation of SB 6. He also congratulated CPS for their PUSH initiative and removing barriers from children being adopted and moving forward to permanency.
The federal government report on statewide adoptions has been received. Because of an increase in adoptions in Texas this year, the Agency has received $4 million in adoption assistance payments. This amount is more than double that received by any other state.
The legislature reconvenes in January 2007, and the Agency is preparing for the upcoming session. The Commissioner concluded his report by noting that the Legislative Appropriations Request has been submitted, and the Council would be apprised of developments.
7.b. Chair’s Report - Ommy Strauch
Chair Strauch drew the Council’s attention to her letter in the meeting packet, where she set out guidelines for the continuing Council liaison program. She stressed the importance of visiting with staff members, either in person or via telephone, and taking care to not disrupt any staff member’s work or overstep the Council’s authority over Agency operations.
The Chair updated the Council on the Transitional Committee working in San Antonio on issues related to Outsourcing. She noted this committee is made up of individuals from virtually every field that could have an interest in how the Outsourcing model is going to work in future. The committee has been meeting regularly.
Vice Chair Papadopoulos was recognized for her work in Houston with APS and other community activities. Council member Castle held his first meeting on Wednesday with the Parental Advisory Committee. Council member Dr. Furukawa has been very active in meetings the Department has held. Chair Strauch and Dr. Furukawa attended a recent stakeholder meeting in San Antonio and were impressed with the report given by CPS regional director Sherry Gomez: it was very pragmatic and celebrated things that are going well, while making attendees aware of areas where there is still much work to do. Although this particular stakeholder meeting was in Region 8, Council members are encouraged to attend any and all stakeholder meetings, because staff in all of the regions are extremely dedicated and committed. Council member Hoffman has also been quite active, attending functions in the Valley.
Chair Strauch reminded the Council of the upcoming APS conference in early November in San Antonio, encouraging attendance at as many presentations and sessions as possible.
In closing, Chair Strauch mentioned the annual Partners in Prevention training held by the PEI division, set for November in Round Rock; she reiterated the importance of the Council being supportive of and committed to the work of the Agency and, in any way feasible, being of assistance in our communities.
Agenda Item 8 - Adjourn*
Chair Strauch adjourned the meeting at 9:23 a.m.