Earlier this week, LSS officially launched www.TheNewLSS.org, heralding the powerful changes ahead for this agency in 2015. Our own exciting changes are not without company, however, as the State of Texas will consider some of the most sweeping changes to human services delivery in state history during the upcoming 84th Texas Legislature.
From convening on January 13 to adjournment on June 1, Texas lawmakers will tackle a wide array of issues that reflect the extraordinary size and diversity of this state. At times in the past, attention to new developments in human services could be lost amidst the noise of other issues. That is unlikely to be the case in 2015.
What Lies Ahead?
First, we have the sweeping proposal by the Sunset Advisory Commission to collapse the present five health and human services agencies, including the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), into a single, combined agency named the Health and Human Services Commission. Supporters believe streamlining the agency along functional lines will improve service delivery, but detractors are concerned with the extraordinary consolidation of power that would occur.
Second, we have the ongoing transformation efforts by DFPS that will proceed whether it remains a separate agency or not – inclusive of the agency’s response to many hours of hearings by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and the House Select Committee on Child Protection, among others, during the interim. The agency’s efforts to redesign the foster care system will also garner attention.
Third, we have consideration of the adoption of a budget for the 2016-2017 biennium at a time when the state begins with a strong fiscal surplus, but uncertainty prevails – resulting from the potential impact on tax revenues of the recent decline in oil prices, coupled with a fiscally conservative legislative majority that may be reluctant to invest additional dollars into human services.
Finally, we have a wide array of other issues that impact how Texas builds protective services around its more than seven million children – particularly those nearly 17,000 children removed from their homes each year due to severe abuse and neglect – including how they are treated within the system and how they fare once out of it.
Of particular significance will be legislation to build “normalcy” into foster care by applying a reasonable and prudent parent standard to foster parent decision-making.
From time to time, as we move through the legislative session, we plan to highlight some of the important work happening at the Capitol, while working with our advocacy partners to educate members and staff on the issues. At the same time, we’ll be introducing them to “The New LSS.” It promises to be quite a ride!