TYLER (KYTX) – As of today, House Bills 915 and 1227 become law improving foster care in Texas.
"I am proud of the work lawmakers have done with these bills, and even more proud to be able to sign legislation that ensures we continue to provide a safe and caring foster care system in Texas," Governor Rick Perry said.
HB 1227 gives Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA volunteers, easier access to their appointed foster child's files electronically, instead of time-consuming visits at the CPS office.
"With better access, they can serve children better. They can spend more time with children instead of having to spend time going through hard copy records," said Patty Garner, Executive Director of CASA for Kids of East Texas.
Garner says HB 1227 will create an internet information system making things more efficient and effective. She says it will also help in recruiting volunteers by cutting down on the hours spent each month going through paperwork. They currently spend anywhere from eight to twenty hours a month on each case.
"These volunteers are unbelievably committed to these children." Garner goes on to say, "It's proven that those CASA volunteers help the children get out of the system more quickly and they can help the child access the services they need."
The other new law taking effect today impacts a foster child's medical care.
"House Bill 915 is going to give children more access to their own medical care and to their medical records. It's going to help them make decisions about the medications that they are on," explained Shari Pulliam with Child Protective Services.
Pulliam says HB 915 will also allow certain foster children to be their own medical consenters, instead of CPS. "So now at 16, as they are approaching adulthood, we want to make sure they are in control of their own medical care because that's only going to prepare them for once they leave care."
Some say these two bills show a commitment by the state to better care for our foster children.
Pulliam said, "What is most significant about these bills is that the Texas Legislature recognizes that children in foster care have a voice."
And now these new laws give a voice to the state's most vulnerable citizens.
Garner adds, "We all wake-up every morning knowing if we weren't there to make that difference for those children, what would happen to them?"
To learn more these new laws impacting Texas foster care, join Gillian Sheridan for her "Children are a Gift" report, Tuesday night on CBS 19 Ten @ 10. You can also find information on www.CBS19.tv and www.tylerpaper.com.
To inquire about an East Texas child waiting to be adopted call 903-533-4109 or for information on CASA go to www.casaforkidsofet.org.