(February 16, 2018)—On February 9, 2018 the Bipartisan Budget Act (HR. 1892) passed the Senate and the House and was signed into law. Despite including large increases in non-defense appropriations, this funding still falls short of where it was eight years ago and further highlights the degree to which this part of the budget has been reduced in recent years. The bill does, however, include funding for several programs important for children and families including extending the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for four more years (on top of the six year reauthorization that occurred earlier this year), reauthorizing the Maternal Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program for five years, increasing funding for the Child Care Development Block Grant by $5.8 billion over the next two years and signing into law the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA), a bipartisan effort that marks an important move toward child welfare finance reform.
A primary objective of FFPSA is to keep children in their homes whenever safe and possible by allowing states to claim federal title IV-E reimbursement for prevention programs and services to support eligible children, youth and their families. This marks a significant policy shift and finally brings child welfare financing into alignment with what research tells us is best for children and families. Services and programs that will be newly eligible for federal title IV-E reimbursement include mental health and substance abuse prevention and treatment services and in-home parent skill-based programs that include parenting skills training, parent education and individual and family counseling. While there are 12-month time-limits on how long a state can claim reimbursement for a family’s involvement in a prevention service, states will be able to receive reimbursement for these strategies regardless of a family’s income – also a significant change. These changes come with a heightened focus on the quality of services provided to families. States will only be able to claim reimbursement for services that meet the definitions of well-supported, supported and promising practice. This has the potential to provide a compelling incentive to invest in innovation in order to build evidence for services and programs that improve child and family safety and well-being.
In addition to restructuring federal financing to support keeping families together whenever safely possible, FFPSA also includes many provisions to support children who are currently in foster care – once again, aligning financing strategies with the best available research about what works to support positive child and family well-being outcomes. Specifically, this includes:
Passage of FFPSA was a first, important step toward restructuring the ways in which child welfare agencies engage with children and families. Now there must be a commitment to ensuring effective implementation of these provisions – with particular attention to ensuring the children and families who often face disparate outcomes in these systems are effectively served. CSSP is committed to supporting this effort by providing guidance and resources to policymakers, administrators, advocates, families and our partners to ensure that FFPSA can positively and equitably impact the experiences and outcomes of children. FFPSA is a significant change in policy – and has the potential to better support children in their homes, with their families. It is movement in the direction of improved child well-being.
As we near our Gala celebration of 25 years since the Leeper case victory, I feel so much gratitude toward the pioneers of the modern homeschooling movement in our great state.
Key among those many brave souls are Kirk and Beverly McCord, attorneys and homeschooling parents who gave us the lasting legacy of Texas Home School Coalition.
THSC was established as a political action committee (PAC) in 1986 by Kirk McCord and the late Brad Chamberlain. Because of the numerous lawsuits against homeschoolers across the state and harmful legislation being introduced in Austin, they saw a need for a statewide political organization to work for the rights of homeschoolers in the state of Texas.
The THSC founders, believing government restriction could not be justified academically or socially, formed the THSC PAC to oppose any regulation of home education in Texas.
Watch this excerpt from “Taking a Stand in Texas: The Battle for Home School Freedom,” as Beverly McCord describes the hostile and sparse early days of Texas homeschooling.
Note that Beverly McCord talks about the fear of having her children removed by Child Protective Services… We’ve come a long way since the battle for homeschool freedom, but egregious injustices like the recent illegal removal of Drake Pardo by Child Protective Services are jarring reminders that the war on family freedoms isn’t over.
I’m so pleased that the Mc Cords will join us on October 12 at The Woodlands Resort and Conference Center for the 24th Annual THSC Gala and Fundraiser. I hope you’ll also be there to celebrate 25 years of homeschool freedom with speakers Dr. Helen Jackson and Shelby Sharpe, key figures in the Leeper case.
Tim Lambert, Presiden
As of Wednesday, September 18, 32 organizations and lawmakers had filed or co-signed briefs to the Supreme Court of Texas, asking the court to intervene on behalf of the Pardo family and send four-year-old Drake Pardo back home.
The case has been pending at the Supreme Court of Texas for the past three weeks. Yesterday was the deadline for Child Protective Services (CPS) to file its response to the family’s request for emergency intervention by the Texas Supreme Court.
Instead, CPS filed a request for a 10-day extension. The Texas Supreme Court has not yet ruled on whether that extension will be granted.
In the agency’s brief at the Fifth Court of Appeals, CPS made a bizarre and jaw-dropping argument: that Ashley and Daniel Pardo have nothing to complain about because CPS is giving Drake the same medical care that Ashley and Daniel would have given him.
CPS bases this argument on the theory that there is no reason for the court to intervene provided that Drake is receiving the medical care everyone agrees that he needs. To support its argument, CPS outlined in extreme detail how Ashley and Daniel were already planning to give Drake the medical care he needs and how the two parents have stated repeatedly that they planned to follow the recommendations of Drake’s doctors.
However, rather than coming to the rather obvious conclusion that Drake should be returned home, CPS argued instead that they might as well be allowed to keep Drake if he is receiving the medical care he needs. A more calloused view of family rights can hardly be imagined.
The Supreme Court of Texas has also requested a brief from the Texas solicitor general’s office to explain the opinion of the state of Texas regarding the relevant laws in the Pardo case. This type of invitation is only extended one to five times per year and indicates that the Supreme Court of Texas is taking the issue very seriously (although it does not indicate which direction the court may be leaning). Although CPS is a state agency, they represent themselves in CPS cases and are not represented by the solicitor general. Thus, the solicitor general, who works for the Texas attorney general, will be filing a brief as a third party.
The solicitor general’s office requested and was granted a 30-day extension to file their brief by Oct. 18. In light of the excellent attorney general opinion in defense of parental rights released back in February, we are hopeful that a brief from the solicitor general would be beneficial to the Pardo family. However, the 30-day delay in the case unnecessarily adds to the trauma that the family is already experiencing, requiring them to continue pursuing additional burdensome and costly trial strategies.
Today, the Houston Chronicle released the first in a series of articles detailing how cases similar to the Pardo’s case often lead to the destruction of families based on little to no evidence against the family. The problem has become systematic and statewide.
The Supreme Court of Texas has the chance to set right the severe abuses in this case that no other court or state employee has been willing to correct thus far. We are praying that they will intervene on behalf of the Pardo family and do so quickly.
To date, nearly 40,000 people have signed the petition demanding that Drake be returned home. More than 2.2 million people have viewed the viral video of Drake’s case. Thirty-two state lawmakers and organizations have intervened in the case to defend the family. People around the world have heard about the case and expressed their shock that these abuses could happen in Texas.
Hopefully the Supreme Court of Texas will add their name to that list, end this family’s three-month nightmare, and set a precedent that these abuses are not permitted in the state of Texas.
It is yet to be seen whether CPS will maintain this argument at the Supreme Court of Texas, where a flurry of support for the family has arisen through the filing of the following briefs:
1. Brief by Texas Home School Coalition on Aug. 30, joined by 22 state lawmakers and five statewide and national organizations.
2. Brief by Heritage Defense Foundation on Sep. 4.
3. Brief by Alliance Defending Freedom on Sep. 17.
Brief by Texas Public Policy Foundation on Sep. 18, joined by 12 state lawmakers
On September 4, the Supreme Court of Texas asked the solicitor general of Texas to submit a brief by September 18 to “express the opinion of the state” regarding the Pardo family’s request for emergency relief.
Why is this significant?
The solicitor general of Texas works in the office of the attorney general (AG) of Texas. Although Child Protective Services (CPS) is a state agency, the Texas AG’s office does not represent CPS in local or appellate court. CPS has its own attorneys who represent the agency.
So why is the Supreme Court of Texas asking for a brief from the attorney general?
As a former Supreme Court of Texas justice explained, this development means that the Supreme Court of Texas recognizes the importance of this case and wants the executive branch to weigh in and give the court its opinion.
You may recall that Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office issued an opinion just this past spring which was essentially an eight-page treatise defending the rights of parents to raise their children. THSC submitted a brief to the attorney general’s office as part of that process as well.
While this development does not give insight into whether the court is leaning one way or the other, it does indicate that the court is taking the issue seriously. Since the court was not required to hear the case at all, this is certainly a good development.
Please continue to pray for the Pardos and the safe return of Drake and encourage your friends to visit BringDrakeHome.com to take action and defend this family.