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New Texas law favors parents in child abuse investigations

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Roz Brown

(Texas News Service) Texas parents under investigation for child abuse by the state will be informed of their rights before their children are removed from the family's home under a law passed by legislators this session. 

House Bill 730 requires that caseworkers notify parents accused of abuse or neglect of their legal rights, such as their right to an attorney and their right to refuse to answer questions. 

Andrew Brown - policy advocate with the Texas Public Policy Foundation - said from the first knock on the door, the family's rights will come first. 

"It may seem like a small change," said Brown, "but I think this will serve to revolutionize the way that child protective investigations operate in the state of Texas."

The bill also requires that child caseworkers document their efforts to keep a child with their family. In addition, the state abuse hotline will no longer accept anonymous tips against parents.

The law requires that a parent or person under investigation be provided a written summary by Child Protective Services of the allegations against them. 

Brown said the new law is centered on family preservation, and could reduce some of the trauma families often experience.  

"It hopefully will take some of the fear of having involvement with the CPS," said Brown. "You're never going to be able to remove it because it's a scary process. But knowing that you do have rights, you do have protections in the law."

Brown said Texas is one of the first states to expand Miranda-style warnings that must be given to parents in child welfare investigations.