Texas Department of Family and Protective Services
Advisory Council Meeting

October 23, 2009

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) Advisory Council met in Public Hearing Room 125-E of the John H. Winters Building, 701 West 51st Street, Austin, Texas.  Council Members present were Chair Ommy Strauch, Vice Chair Imogen Papadopoulos, Gigi Edwards Bryant, Debbie Epperson, Paul Furukawa, Tina Martin, and Scott Rosenbach.

Also present was APS Assistant Commissioner Beth Engelking and department staff. 

Not present were Council members, Linda Bell Robinson and Mamie Salazar-Harper.

Agenda Item 1 – Call to Order

Call to order by Chair Ommy Strauch at 9:06 a.m.  Ms. Strauch introduced Beth Engelking, sitting in for Commissioner Anne Heiligenstein.

Agenda Item 2 –  Reading, Correction and Approval of Minutes

2.a. Reading, Correction, and Approval of Minutes of June 12, 2009 special meeting*

Ms. Bryant moved for adoption of the minutes as printed; Ms. Papadopoulos provided a second.  The minutes needed no corrections and were approved as distributed. 

2.b. Reading, Correction and Approval of Minutes of April 17, 2009 regular meeting*

Dr. Furukawa moved for adoption of the minutes as printed; Ms. Epperson provided a second.  Ms. Papadopoulos was not present at the April meeting and abstained.  The minutes required no corrections and were approved as distributed. 

2.c. Correction and Approval of Minutes of January 9, 2009 regular meeting*

Dr. Furukawa moved for adoption of the corrected minutes; Ms. Bryant seconded.  Ms. Epperson and Ms. Papadopoulos abstained since they were not present at the January meeting.  With no further discussion, the corrections to the minutes were approved.

Agenda Item 3 – Public Testimony

Brad Hudson, with Lassiter Bus & Mobility, described his business of selling school buses and multifunction school activity buses and provided a handout on transportation and booster seats.  He gave testimony about the booster seat law, referred to in Senate Bill 61.  As rewritten, the booster seat law now applies to 12 to 15-seat passenger vans.  Mr. Hudson explained that school buses built on van chasseys meet many federal standards that vans are not required to meet.  Mr. Hudson asked that DFPS consider the same standard and exempt school buses from the booster seat law.

Updates requiring lap and shoulder belts with school buses will become effective September 1, 2011, with local jurisdictions making the standards.  Some minimum standards use the term "bus" and do not clarify which of the three types of buses:  a 15-seat passenger van, a school bus, or a multifunction school activity bus.  Mr. Hudson asked for clarification in the standards.  DFPS General Counsel Gerry Williams questioned Mr. Hudson about the standard of 10,000 pound Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR).  This standard requires that a passenger vehicle weighing under 10,000 pounds have lap and shoulder belts.  Mr. Hudson stated that passenger vehicles that weigh over 10,000 lbs are no more or less safe than those weighing under 10,000 lbs because they meet the same safety standards.

Keith Davis provided testimony first on transportation and then testimony regarding the administrative review process.  Mr. Davis, with his brother, owns twelve daycare centers and thirty-three buses.  He provided a handout and testimony regarding child-care transportation safety issues and assuring compliance of vans under the new standards.  He suggested changing the wording of rule section 746.5607, to include removal of the GVWR reference and edits to make the standard easier to understand for daycare providers. 

Mr. Davis then provided testimony for a second topic; the administrative review process.  Child-care operators understand they can request an administrative review if they are cited for non-compliance of a minimum standard and do not agree with the citation.  However, in Mr. Davis' research, he has not been able to find where the administrative review process itself is listed. Mr. Davis suggested adding a standardized process for requesting/ receiving administrative reviews to the Minimum Standards in order for both providers and CCL representatives to understand the process. Mr. Davis suggested this topic, the administrative review process, be opened for public comment.

Ms. Strauch thanked Mr. Hudson and Mr. Davis for their testimony regarding transportation standards and encouraged public comment when the rules are posted to the Texas Register.

Ms. Strauch introduced Jake Cervantes, who provided a handout and public testimony regarding placement of child, Brendon Sallee.  He discussed CPS and its "family first" policy.  Mr. Cervantes stated the child came into CPS custody in August, and relatives have expressed interest in adopting him.  Ellis County CPS has not cooperated with relative home studies, transportation assistance for the father, or visitation requests from the mother and other relatives.  He suggested favoritism for the child's foster parents who are well connected within the community. 

Mr. Cervantes stated his intent to ask the Health and Human Services Commission to stop payments to CPS for not complying with "family first" federal mandates.  Ms. Strauch asked CPS representative, Michael Martinez, to meet with Mr. Cervantes and his family to address questions and concerns he has raised.

Later in the meeting Chair Strauch recognized one additional person who had registered to provide public testimony and arrived late due to travel complications.  Ms. Alexandra Nash Shipula spoke on adversary removal hearings, CPS removals, foster care, the Office of Consumer Affairs (OCA) oversight and her own case.

Ms. Shiptula thanked the Council for the opportunity to provide testimony.  The CPS investigation involving her children started February 2008, and her involvement with CPS has continued.  Ms. Shipula believes a miscarriage of justice occurs when the court awards custody to the wrong parent, the abusive parent.  CPS, courts and therapists will say the accusing parent is delusional and the child has been coached.  Ms. Shipula states this is what happened to her.  In her case, the adversary hearing happened fourteen days after her children were removed; however, the hearing did not result in a ruling due to a jurisdictional issue. Fifty-five days passed between removal and the show cause hearing.  Ms. Shipula has read of other CPS cases in the Houston area; she believes some children are removed when they should not be and are not removed when they should be.  Ms. Shipula has asked the OCA to review her case but believes neither they nor CPS is willing to say that CPS made a mistake in her case. Ms. Shipula wants the OCA to objectively her case.

Ms. Strauch thanked all who provided public testimony.

Agenda Item 4  - Agency Briefings

4.a. Legislative Update –  Beth Engelking

Beth Engelking provided the legislative update for Deputy Commissioner Joyce James who could not be present, reminding the Council that at the June Council Meeting, Cindy Brown and Katie Olse provided funding and legislative updates from the 81st Legislative Session.  Ms. Engelking provided the following updates. 

House Bill 704 by Representative Rose extends the courts' jurisdiction over a foster child until the age of 21 if requested by the youth or if application for guardianship by DADS is pending.  DFPS has met with Texas CASA and has worked with DFPS legal staff on drafting forms and court documents.  The bill also allows the Court to appoint a guardian or an attorney ad litem for a child over whom jurisdiction is extended, up to age 21.

House Bill 1912 by Rep. Rodriguez requires DFPS to expand transitional planning to youth down to age 14 and addresses experiential living services.  A statewide workgroup composed of external stakeholders, Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) staff, and other DFPS staff is working to develop the transitional living plan and rules.

House Bill 2225 by Rep. Parker created a nine-member adoption review committee that, along with DFPS, will conduct a review of the foster care system to identify obstacles to permanent placements and develop ways to improve the system.  DFPS has made recommendations for committee appointees to the HHS Executive Commissioner and Governor.

Senate Bill 983 by Sen. Davis requires DFPS to provide to youth aging out of care certain documents at least 30 days before they exit foster care.  Previous law and policy required these documents to be presented to the youth 30 days after they had aged out of care.  Driver's education and driver's license are to be provided if feasible.  The workgroup in connection with House Bill 1912 is also working on implementation of this legislation.

Senate Bill 1723 by Sen. Van de Putte requires the department to provide an information manual to voluntary caregivers of children.  The caregiver manual has been drafted and is under review. 

Senate Bill 2080 by Sen. Uresti creates a task force to establish a strategy to reduce child abuse and neglect and improve child welfare and health.  A plan is to be submitted by October 2010.

House Bill 3137 by Rep. Gallego requires DFPS to develop rights and responsibilities for foster parents.  Child Care Licensing is developing minimum standards rules that will list foster parent rights and responsibilities.  A meeting with key external stakeholders was held September 25, 2009.

Senate Bill 68 by Sen. Nelson places in statute exemptions from child-care licensure that are currently in rule.  This law follows an Office of the Attorney General's determination that DFPS does not have the authority to exempt programs by rule alone.  Child Care Licensing has begun identifying necessary rule changes, is drafting the rules and has also met with the Texas Council on Family Violence to discuss regulation of child-care programs in family violence shelters.

Senate Bill 572 by Sen. Shapiro requires two additional hours of training for child-care owners and workers who transport children who are chronologically or developmentally under the age of nine.  CCL has developed the rules addressing transportation to be proposed at this meeting. 

House Bill 3112 by Rep. Hartnett focuses on the guardianship program which was transferred to the Department of Aging and Disability Services in 2005.  It outlines a time frame of 70 days in which an application must be filed by DADS for guardianship, if appropriate, once a referral has been received from APS. It also allows a one-time 30-day extension, if appropriate.  The MOU between DFPS and DADS has been completed.

Senate Bill 643 by Sen. Nelson, known as the state-supported living center reform bill, has changes for the Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) and also for DFPS.  It added: a process of involving the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) in APS investigations that may involve criminal conduct in the commission of abuse or neglect; procedures for mortality review teams to be provided confidential abuse/neglect information; requirements that abuse/ neglect reporting information be posted in facilities; and increased penalties for not reporting abuse, neglect or exploitation.  It also requires DFPS to conduct investigations in private ICF-MR facilities.  Currently this responsibility is with DADS, and it is transferring to APS.  Senate Bill 643 enhances failure to report child abuse or neglect from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class A misdemeanor if the victim is a child or adult who resides in a public or private ICF-MR facility.  Failure to report increases the charge from a Class A misdemeanor to a state jail felony if the actor knew the victim suffered serious bodily injury as a result of the abuse or neglect.  The department has been working with HHSC, DADS and the OIG to complete the MOU, and we are working on training needs for staff as we move forward in implementing this law.    

SCR 77 by Sen. Nelson is the Department of Justice settlement.  The timeline for completing abuse/neglect investigations in a state-supported living center has been decreased to ten days from 14 or 21 days.  SCR 77 ensures management review and approval of every APS investigation and requires review of prior investigations involving the same alleged victims or same alleged perpetrators.  DFPS and DADS are collaborating; new rules will be presented to the DFPS Council in January 2010.  Staff policy and training is also being revised.

Ms. Engelking introduced Debra Emerson, Director of CPS Policy and Program, for an update on Fostering Connections.  Ms. Emerson presented information on the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, a federal act signed into law October 7, 2008.  It overhauls the federal child welfare structure by acknowledging that: foster care is not a viable long-term option for all children; adoption is not an option for every child; relative placement is in the best interest for many children in the care of CPS; and older youth in the system do need extra help and support. 

The legislation has two parts:  mandatory rules and optional components.  Texas is required to provide written notification to all adult relatives regarding a child's court-ordered removal from their home and placement in state custody and it supports options available to relatives to care for the child.  The legislation includes mandates regarding education and health and addresses keeping siblings together as much as possible.  It requires the department to make all efforts to ensure frequent visitation when siblings cannot be placed together.  DFPS is in compliance with mandatory federal requirements. 

Federal law allows and the Texas Legislature supported a permanency care assistance program that will provide assistance to relatives and other designated caregivers who serve as verified foster parents for at least 6 months and subsequently take permanent managing conservatorship of the child.  Funding will begin in September 2010, and relatives will receive reimbursement from $400 up to $545.

Federal law allows and the Texas Legislature supports extended foster care options for youth who are: attending school; participating in a program or activity that promotes or removes barriers to employment, or are employed for at least 80 hours a month; and for youth who have a documented medical condition that prevents them from doing the above mentioned activities. 

There will be opportunities for stakeholders to provide input and receive information about the Fostering Connections Initiative.  Opportunities include providing public testimony at DFPS Council meetings or submitting questions or comments to mailbox: fosteringconnections@dfps.state.tx.us.  Stakeholders can also visit the DFPS web site: www.dfps.state.tx.us for information, and they are invited to attend the November 16th Fostering Connections Stakeholder Forum.  Ms. Emerson introduced the project lead, Larry Burgess, senior program specialist, who has oversight for this initiative.

Ms. Papadopoulos asked Ms. Emerson about TANF payments.  Ms. Emerson responded the permanency care assistance program is in addition to the current kinship program that provides payments for qualified relatives. 

4.b. APS Reform Evaluation - Beth Engelking, APS

Ms. Strauch congratulated Beth Engelking on her appointment as Assistant Commissioner for APS.  Ms. Engelking reported on the recent APS in-home reform evaluation as a result of the 2004 executive order issued by Governor Perry to review the APS in-home program by HHSC and the OIG.  The report was released in November 2004, and identified 252 recommended corrective actions APS needed to take.  APS completed 100% of actions required by September 1, 2006.  The purpose of the recent evaluation was to review the implementation of the recommendations made in the reform reports.  Research asked the following questions:  what is the current APS policy in the areas identified during reform, what impact has the reform initiative had on APS performance and process, and what data is still needed to measure program performance and processes?  Evaluation methodology included documentation of reform efforts, analysis of existing performance data and a survey of field staff. 

The first intended improvement in organization and administration was to transfer the guardianship program to DADS which has been completed.  Second was the addition of staff in each region who specialize in exploitation, risk and self-neglect and community engagement.  Additionally, the department has established a performance improvement system that is based on centralized case readings for every worker - APS now has nine quality assurance staff who perform this task; and APS has improved the training that is required for new workers. 

Intended improvements in community engagement have included: enhanced relations with community partners and local community boards (APS currently has 23 boards); additional resource rooms; special task units to assist in difficult cases in counties that have populations larger than 250,000; the customer satisfaction survey; and increased public awareness campaigns. 

Intended improvements in policy and practice have included: expanded use of technology (tablet PCs); implementation of the CARE assessment tool to guide worker determination of service needs; increased use of capacity assessments to guide workers' determination of client's ability to refuse services; enhanced supervisory review of casework; and an improved process for documenting casework.

Our preliminary findings in organization and administration include improvements to staff accountability, casework, risk assessment, quality assurance, technology, policy, and protection of APS clients.  In 2009, 2,227 surveys were distributed and 382 responses were returned.  The response rate appears to be declining slightly.  While law enforcement and judicial survey responses are positive overall, satisfaction in some areas has declined slightly, and there is an issue in the area of attorneys being prepared for APS court cases.  Preliminary findings in the policy and practice area report an increase in tablet PC usage from 38% in January 06 to 71% in 2009.

Ms. Engelking concluded by presenting steps APS will take next to include continuing our attention to turnover and ensuring consistency in casework practice.  Ms. Papadopoulos asked about the primary issues in cases that go to court.  Ms. Engelking stated that capacity is one of the most common issues and exploitation of elderly is the other.  Ms. Papadopoulos asked if APS works closely with the DA's office on the exploitation issues, and Ms. Engelking answered yes. 

Dr. Furukawa asked about the increased use of tablet PCs and the use of templates.  Ms. Engelking called on Terri Ware, Chief Operations Officer, who explained that all of the PCs run on XP.  All investigators and Family Based Safety Service caseworkers have tablets and one half of conservatorship caseworkers have tablets; all caseworkers use the IMPACT application.  Mr. Rosenbach asked about on-the-job field training for tablet use.  IT will prepare a presentation describing tablet training for caseworkers for a future council meeting.

4.c. Commissioner’s Report to include: Administrative Changes, Program Realignment and Other Major Initiatives, Regional Staff Meetings and Notification of Rule Adoptions - Beth Engelking, APS

Ms. Engelking presented Commissioner Heiligenstein's report to the Council.  Ms. Engelking welcomed Scott Rosenbach as the new Council member from Amarillo, Region 1. 

Recent administrative changes that were announced was the selection of Katie Olse as the new director for the Center for Consumer and External Affairs, replacing Jennifer Sims; and Allaina Nelson-Lang as the director for the Center for Program Coordination.  Ms. Nelson-Lang was already and will continue to be the director for the Center for Policy and Innovation. Director positions for these two centers have been combined in the interest of maximizing resources.  Consolidation of the centers has been seamless and will not impact services provided by these two teams.

Ms. Engelking reminded the Council members of the proposed rule changes brought for their consideration in June.  The Intensive Psychiatric Transition program was presented as well as rules on rate changes to 24-hour residential care by HHSC.  Both rule packets received no comments during the public comment period; upon recommendation of the Council, they were submitted to Executive Commissioner Suehs and have been approved for adoption.

Ms. Engelking referenced yesterday's work session when Commissioner Heiligenstein outlined the department's immediate plans to strengthen Family Based Safety Services (FBSS) and the CPS program as a whole with a three-part solution to include: the hiring of additional FBSS staff, increasing the number of CPS caseworkers through realignment of CPS staff, and redesigning recruitment to increase adoptive homes. 

Commissioner Heiligenstein has visited with staff in six regions across the state and has been responding to issues specific to each region and program.  Staff has been asking about tablets, cell phones and other technological advances.  In addition to answering questions from staff, Commissioner Heiligenstein has been most interested in relaying her appreciation for their work and commitment.

Ms. Engelking recognized Phoebe Knauer and Cindy Brown for 30 years of service.  She thanked them and presented their service plaques on behalf of Commissioner Heiligenstein. 

4.d. Plaque Presentation and Chair's Report - Ommy Strauch

On behalf of the DFPS Council, Ms. Papadopoulos presented a plaque of appreciation to Tom Vick, attorney from Weatherford, Texas, for his selfless commitment and service to Texas children and families.

Ms. Strauch presented highlights from the Chair's report and welcomed the two newest council members.  She reported on addressing the DFPS Tomorrow leadership graduates at their graduation ceremony and addressing the youth participating in the annual Community Youth Development teen summit.  She also reported on the Public Private Partnership and the October Council Chairs meeting with Executive Commissioner Suehs that included a briefing on healthcare reform issues and the state's preparation for the flu vaccine and distribution.  Ms. Strauch noted that additional council members' activities are listed in their binders.

Agenda Item 5 - Council Operation - Ommy Strauch

5a.  Selection of Meeting Dates :  2010-2011 Calendar Year

The Council considered meeting dates for 2010 through 2011.  Dr. Furukawa moved approval of the dates; Ms. Epperson seconded.  Motion passed.

Agenda Item 6 - New Business

6.a. Recommendation to propose rule changes in 40 TAC, Chapter 702, Section 702.425 regarding CPS youth in TYC placements or under TYC supervised release or parole* - Debra Emerson, CPS
Ms. Emerson asked the Council to consider changes to rules as a result of legislation passed by the 81st Legislature.  Requirements in HB 1629 is designed to facilitate coordinated planning between DFPS and the Texas Youth Commission to ensure provisions of continued and appropriate services to youth who are in DFPS conservatorship and committed to TYC or on TYC supervised release or parole. 

Ms. Emerson requested that the Council recommend to Commissioner Heiligenstein and Executive Commissioner Suehs that the rules be proposed and published in the Texas Register for public comment. 

Ms. Papadopoulos moved that the Council recommend for proposal by the Health and Human Services Commission new 40 TAC, Chapter 702, Section 702.425 regarding CPS youth in TYC placements or under TYC supervised release or parole, as reflected in the Council's October 23, 2009, agenda item 6.a.  Ms. Bryant seconded.  The motion passed.

6.b. Recommendation to propose rule changes in 40 TAC, Chapter 700, Sections 700.316, 700.320 and 700.1604, relating to extended foster care benefits and transitional living services* - Debra Emerson, CPS

Ms. Emerson presented rule amendments resulting from the 81st legislative session.  Provisions of House Bill 1151 and Senate Bill 2080 implemented optional elements of the federal Fostering Connections Act to extend foster care benefits.  The legislation expands the eligibility criteria to allow youth who age out of care at age 18 to remain in care up to their 21st birthday, provided that the youth is engaged in education or employment activities or is unable to do so due to a documented medical condition.  In addition, House Bill 1912 amends transitional living services rules to allow youth who have aged out of care at the age of 18 to be eligible for transitional living services when the youth has returned to a former family member who has committed abuse or neglect in the past, provided the Department determines that the family member no longer poses a threat to the young adult's health or safety. 

Ms. Emerson asked the Council to recommend to Commissioner Heiligenstein and Executive Commissioner Suehs that the rules be proposed and published in the Texas Register for public comment. 

Ms. Epperson moved that the Council recommend for proposal by the Health and Human Services Commission amendments to 40 TAC, Chapter 700, Sections 700.316, 700.320 and 700.1604, relating to extended foster care benefits and transitional living services, as reflected in the Council's October 23, 2009, agenda item 6.b.  Dr. Furukawa provided a second.  The motion passed. 

6.c. Recommendation to propose rule changes in 40 TAC, Chapter 700, Subchapter J, relating to the Permanency Care Assistance Program* - Debra Emerson, CPS

Ms. Emerson presented rule changes for the implementation of revisions of House Bill 1151 and Senate Bill 2080 enacted during the 81st legislative session.  This legislation mandates the creation of a program the meets the requirements of the optional Guardianship Assistant Program as authorized by the federal Fostering Connections Act.  The program is similar to the Adoption Assistance program in that it provides monthly assistance and Medicaid benefits to relatives and fictive kin who become verified or licensed foster parents and meet other eligibility criteria as specified in the rules, and ultimately assume permanent managing conservatorship of a foster child.  In addition, persons who assume managing conservatorship of a child between the child's 16th and 18th birthdays, will be eligible for continued monthly assistance and Medicaid benefits on behalf of that child until the child turns 21, provided the child meets certain eligibility criteria. Ms. Emerson noted a correction to the rule packet on page 13 of 14 in section 700.1053: subsection (a)(1) should read, "The permanency assistance care agreement was first entered into on behalf of the child after the child's 16th birthday and prior to the child's 18th birthday;"  The correction will be made prior to the posting of the rules. 

Ms. Emerson asked the Council to recommend to Commissioner Heiligenstein and Executive Commissioner Suehs that the rules be proposed and published in the Texas Register for public comment. 

Dr. Furukawa moved that the Council recommend for proposal by the Health and Human Services Commission the new sections concerning the Permanency Care Assistance Program, as reflected in the Council's October 23, 2009, agenda item 6.c.  Ms. Epperson seconded.  The motion passed.

6.d. Recommendation to propose rule changes in 40 TAC, Chapter 700, Subchapter H,  relating to the Fostering Connections Act and Adoption Assistance, Including Extended Adoption Assistance Benefits* - Debra Emerson, CPS

Ms. Emerson asked the Council to consider rule changes to the mandatory provisions in the federal Fostering Connections Act that will enhance Texas’s ability to claim federal reimbursement for adoption assistance benefits.  She also asked the Council to consider rule changes to implement the optional elements of the Federal Fostering Connections Act as enacted in House Bill 1151 and Senate Bill 2080, which allows Texas to provide extended adoption assistance benefits for youth between 18 and 21 years of age.  Beginning October 1, 2010, Title IV-E funding will be available for extended adoption assistance on behalf of these youth who are the subject of an agreement that is entered into between their 16th and 18th birthdays, provided they meet certain eligibility requirements related to education or employment.

Ms. Emerson asked that the Council recommend to Commissioner Heiligenstein and Executive Commissioner Suehs that the rules be proposed and published in the Texas Register for public comment. 

Ms. Bryant moved that the Council recommend for proposal by the Health and Human Services Commission the amendments, repeals, and new sections, concerning the Fostering Connections Act and adoption assistance, as reflected in the Council's October 23, 2009, agenda item 6.d.  Ms. Martin provided a second.  The motion passed. 

Ms. Emerson recognized Graham Keever with Senator Royce West's office and Pamela McPeters with Representative Dawna Dukes' Office who were both involved in the passing of Fostering Connections Act during the 81st legislative session.

6.e. Recommendation to propose rule changes in 40 TAC, Chapter 746, Licensed Child-Care Centers and Chapter 747, Registered and Licensed Child-Care Homes to implement legislative changes regarding gang-free zones, child safety seats, transportation training, and unsafe child products* - Sasha Rasco, CCL

Sasha Rasco, Assistant Commissioner of Child Care Licensing, thanked Michelle Adams for presenting CCL rule packets during the work session. Ms. Rasco also addressed Mr. Hudson's and Mr. Davis' comments regarding child safety seats and said they have valid concerns.  Historically, the agency has used 10,000 pounds of gross vehicular weight as a distinction in vehicles that need child safety restraint systems and those that do not.  However, in the rule to be presented to Council, the agency is merely addressing the new law that requires children under the age of 9 to remain in booster seats.  Ms. Rasco stated that DFPS is an expert in child safety but not in vehicular safety.  She understands that child-care centers are increasingly transporting children to and from school and to and from home and that the safety of those children is of the utmost importance.  Ms. Rasco encouraged stakeholders and providers to use the public comment period to provide more information on this matter.  She assured the audience that the agency will consider child safety first but will not require anything of child-care facilities during these hard economic times that would be an unnecessary financial burden if there is no appreciable difference in child safety.

Ms. Rasco asked the Council to consider changes to minimum standard rules in Chapter 746, Licensed Child-Care Centers, and Chapter 747, Registered and Licensed Child-Care Homes, to support and implement new legislation passed during the 81st legislative session.  Rules are being added or amended to be consistent with changes in the law related to House Bill 2086, regarding the establishment of gang-free zones around child care centers; Senate Bill 61 regarding child safety passenger seats; Senate Bill 572, regarding child transportation safety; and Senate Bill 95, regarding unsafe children's products.

Ms. Rasco asked the Council to recommend to Commissioner Heiligenstein and Executive Commissioner Suehs that the rule be proposed and published in the Texas Register for public comment. 

Mr. Rosenbach moved that the Council recommend for proposal by the Health and Human Services Commission licensing amendments and new sections, concerning changes in child care centers and child care homes to implement legislation, as reflected in the Council's October 23, 2009, agenda item 6.e.  Ms. Martin seconded.  Ms. Bryant would like Ms. Rasco's comments to be included in the public comment notice, as she feels it is important that people understand the department is an expert in child care safety; Child Care Licensing's primary focus is child safety and all aspects of such were considered before posting the rules for public comment and will continue to be considered during the public comment period.  With no objections or further comment, the motion passed. 

6.f. Recommendation to propose rule changes in 40 TAC, Chapter 745, Licensing, Chapter 748, General Residential Operations and Residential Treatment Centers, and Chapter 749, Child-Placing Agencies relating to legislative changes regarding child safety seat requirements, posting a revocation on the DFPS website, and transportation training* - Sasha Rasco, CCL

Ms. Rasco asked the Council to consider changes to the minimum standard rules as a result of legislation passed during the 81st legislative regular session.  Rules are being amended to be consistent with changes in the law related to House Bill 1012, regarding exemptions for who may complete court-ordered social studies; Senate Bill 61, regarding child safety seat requirements; Senate Bill 68, regarding the definition of a general residential operation and the option of posting a revocation, denial, or suspension notice on the Department's public website; and Senate Bill 572, regarding transportation safety training.

Ms. Papadopoulos moved that the Council recommend for proposal by the Health and Human Services Commission residential child care amendments concerning changes in general residential operations, residential treatment centers, and child-placing agencies to implement legislation, as reflected in the Council's October 23, 2009, agenda item 6.f.  Dr. Furukawa provided a second.  The motion passed.  Ms. Papadopoulos requested that the Council be briefed on any public comment received pertaining to social studies and changes in the qualifications. 

6.g. Recommendation to propose rule changes in 40 TAC, Sections 700.209, 702.301 through 702.317, and 745.8485, regarding the release of certain information relating to child fatalities* - Phoebe Knauer, Legal

Phoebe Knauer, Special Projects Attorney, presented a rule that implements legislation enacted during the 81st legislative session.  Senate Bill 1050 requires the Department to release certain summary information to the public in response to a request from the public in the event of a child fatality that is being investigated by the department.  The department must release that information in two stages.  At five days following the death of a child, the department must release the age and gender of the child, the date of death, whether the child was in state conservatorship or not, and whether the child was living in the child's own home or in a foster care environment.  Following completion of an investigation in which abuse or neglect is confirmed, a summary of the abuse/neglect investigation must be released, as well as a summary of the agency's interaction with the family or foster care environment.

Ms. Knauer requested that the Council recommend to Commissioner Heiligenstein and Executive Commissioner Suehs that the rule be proposed and published in the Texas Register for public comment. 

Dr. Furukawa moved that the Council recommend for proposal by the Health and Human Services Commission amendments and new sections, concerning the release of certain information relating to child fatalities, as reflected in the Council's October 23, 2009, agenda item 6.g.  Mr. Rosenbach seconded.  The motion passed. 

Agenda Item 7 – Adjourn

Ms. Strauch adjourned the meeting at 10:59 a.m.