HB 132 expands eligibility for the one-time $1,000 cash assistance payment to aunts, uncles, and siblings of the child and reduces the age requirement from 45 to 25. About 30 percent of kinship placements in Texas are with relatives other than grandparents.
Research has shown that kids placed with relatives go through fewer placement disruptions, fewer behavioral problems, fewer mental health disorders, all while maintaining a sense of continuity in family support.
Because we know that kinship placements are better for kids and less costly for the state we should allow aunts, uncles and older siblings to apply for the one-time cash payment.
Because of our firm commitment to families where reunification with birth parents is not possible, we support DFPS’s policy to prioritize kinship placements over non-relative foster care and support policies to improve utilization of kinship care in Texas.
HB 122 raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18, while maintaining prosecutorial and judicial discretion to transfer or certify those with the most violent offenses.
We believe Texas should join the 41 other states in the US who treat 17-year-olds as minors and include them in their juvenile justice system. Most 17-year-olds are arrested for nonviolent and misdemeanor offenses, per the Department of Public Safety, 96 percent in fact.
Because 17-year-olds are treated as adults should they be out with the youth group and get into some mischief and are picked up by the police, their parents do not have the right to be notified. This is true even if they live at home and their parents must bail them out or hire lawyers. A 17-year-old cannot vote, buy a lottery ticket, join the military, decide on medical treatment, or get married without parental consent. Yet in Texas parents have no rights to intervene in the court process.
Wherever possible we think it’s important to treat 17-year-olds as juveniles and provide them access to educational services, counseling and other rehabilitative programs that offer them a second chance to redeem themselves and make better choices. In the adult system, they would be subject to a lifetime of consequences that create barriers to future employment and educational pursuits.
We support HB 122 because we believe it is a just approach to ensuring kids are held accountable for their actions, while also preventing future crimes, protecting them from violence, and honoring parental rights.