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  H.B. No. 1556
 
 
 
 
AN ACT
  relating to the appointment of foster parents and other qualified
  persons to serve as educational decision-makers for certain
  children in the conservatorship of the Department of Family and
  Protective Services.
         BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
         SECTION 1.  Section 29.015, Education Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         Sec. 29.015.  SPECIAL EDUCATION DECISION-MAKING FOR
  CHILDREN IN FOSTER CARE [FOSTER PARENTS]. (a) [The school district
  shall give preferential consideration to a foster parent of a child
  with a disability when assigning a surrogate parent for the child.
         [(b)]  A foster parent may act as a parent of a child with a
  disability, as authorized under 20 U.S.C. Section 1415(b) and its
  subsequent amendments, if:
               (1)  the Department of Family and Protective [and
  Regulatory] Services is appointed as the temporary or permanent
  managing conservator of the child;
               (2)  the rights and duties of the department to make
  decisions regarding education provided to the child under Section
  153.371, Family Code, have not been limited by court order [the
  child has been placed with the foster parent for at least 60 days];
  and
               (3)  the foster parent agrees to:
                     (A)  participate in making special education 
  [educational] decisions on the child's behalf; and
                     (B)  complete a training program [for surrogate
  parents] that complies with minimum standards established by agency
  rule [; and
               [(4)     the foster parent has no interest that conflicts
  with the child's interests].
         (b)  A foster parent who will act as a parent of a child with
  a disability as provided by Subsection (a) must complete a training
  program before the next scheduled admission, review, and dismissal
  committee meeting for the child but not later than the 90th day
  after the date the foster parent begins acting as the parent for the
  purpose of making special education decisions.
         (b-1)  A school district may not require a foster parent to
  retake a training program to continue serving as a child's parent or
  to serve as the surrogate parent for another child if the foster
  parent has completed a training program to act as a parent of a
  child with a disability provided by:
               (1)  the Department of Family and Protective Services;
               (2)  a school district;
               (3)  an education service center; or
               (4)  any other entity that receives federal funds to
  provide special education training to parents.
         (c)  A foster parent who is denied the right to act as a
  [surrogate parent or a] parent under this section by a school
  district may file a complaint with the agency in accordance with
  federal law and regulations.
         (d)  Not later than the fifth day after the date a child with
  a disability is enrolled in a school, the Department of Family and
  Protective Services must inform the appropriate school district if
  the child's foster parent is unwilling or unable to serve as a
  parent for the purposes of this subchapter.
         SECTION 2.  Subchapter A, Chapter 29, Education Code, is
  amended by adding Section 29.0151 to read as follows:
         Sec. 29.0151.  APPOINTMENT OF SURROGATE PARENT FOR CERTAIN
  CHILDREN. (a) This section applies to a child with a disability for
  whom:
               (1)  the Department of Family and Protective Services
  is appointed as the temporary or permanent managing conservator of
  the child; and
               (2)  the rights and duties of the department to make
  decisions regarding the child's education under Section 153.371,
  Family Code, have not been limited by court order.
         (b)  Except as provided by Section 263.0025, Family Code, a
  school district must appoint an individual to serve as the
  surrogate parent for a child if:
               (1)  the district is unable to identify or locate a
  parent for a child with a disability; or
               (2)  the foster parent of a child is unwilling or unable
  to serve as a parent for the purposes of this subchapter.
         (c)  A surrogate parent appointed by a school district may
  not:
               (1)  be an employee of the state, the school district,
  or any other agency involved in the education or care of the child;
  or
               (2)  have any interest that conflicts with the
  interests of the child.
         (d)  A surrogate parent appointed by a district must:
               (1)  be willing to serve in that capacity;
               (2)  exercise independent judgment in pursuing the
  child's interests;
               (3)  ensure that the child's due process rights under
  applicable state and federal laws are not violated;
               (4)  complete a training program that complies with
  minimum standards established by agency rule within the time
  specified in Section 29.015(b);
               (5)  visit the child and the school where the child is
  enrolled;
               (6)  review the child's educational records;
               (7)  consult with any person involved in the child's
  education, including the child's:
                     (A)  teachers;
                     (B)  caseworkers;
                     (C)  court-appointed volunteers;
                     (D)  guardian ad litem;
                     (E)  attorney ad litem;
                     (F)  foster parent; and
                     (G)  caregiver; and
               (8)  attend meetings of the child's admission, review,
  and dismissal committee.
         (e)  The district may appoint a person who has been appointed
  to serve as a child's guardian ad litem or as a court-certified
  volunteer advocate, as provided under Section 107.031(c), Family
  Code, as the child's surrogate parent.
         (f)  If a court appoints a surrogate parent for a child with a
  disability under Section 263.0025, Family Code, and the school
  district determines that the surrogate parent is failing to perform
  or is not properly performing the duties listed under Subsection
  (d), the district shall consult with the Department of Family and
  Protective Services and appoint another person to serve as the
  surrogate parent for the child.
         (g)  On receiving notice from a school district under
  Subsection (f), the Department of Family and Protective Services
  must promptly notify the court of the failure of the appointed
  surrogate parent to properly perform the duties required under this
  section.
         SECTION 3.  Section 107.031(c), Family Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         (c)  A court-certified volunteer advocate appointed under
  this section may be assigned to act as a surrogate parent for the
  child, as provided by 20 U.S.C. Section 1415(b), if:
               (1)  the child is in the conservatorship of the
  Department of Family and Protective Services;
               (2)  the volunteer advocate is serving as guardian ad
  litem for the child; [and]
               (3)  a foster parent of the child is not acting as the
  child's parent under Section 29.015, Education Code; and
               (4)  the volunteer advocate completes a training
  program for surrogate parents that complies with minimum standards
  established by rule by the Texas Education Agency within the time
  specified by Section 29.015(b), Education Code.
         SECTION 4.  Section 263.0025, Family Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         Sec. 263.0025.  SPECIAL EDUCATION DECISION-MAKING FOR
  CHILDREN IN FOSTER CARE [APPOINTMENT OF SURROGATE PARENT]. (a) In
  this section, "child" means a child in the temporary or permanent
  managing conservatorship of the department who is eligible under
  Section 29.003, Education Code, to participate in a school
  district's special education program. [If a child in the temporary
  or permanent conservatorship of the department is eligible under
  Section 29.003, Education Code, to participate in a school
  district's special education program, the court may, when necessary
  to ensure that the educational rights of the child are protected,
  appoint a surrogate parent who:
               [(1)  is willing to serve in that capacity; and
               [(2)     meets the requirements of 20 U.S.C. Section
  1415(b) and Section 29.001(10), Education Code.]
         (a-1)  A foster parent for a child may act as a parent for the
  child, as authorized under 20 U.S.C. Section 1415(b), if:
               (1)  the rights and duties of the department to make
  decisions regarding the child's education under Section 153.371
  have not been limited by court order; and
               (2)  the foster parent agrees to the requirements of
  Sections 29.015(a)(3) and (b), Education Code.
         (a-2)  Sections 29.015(b-1), (c), and (d), Education Code,
  apply to a foster parent who acts or desires to act as a parent for a
  child for the purpose of making special education decisions.
         (b)  To ensure the educational rights of a child are
  protected in the special education process, the court may appoint a
  surrogate parent for the child if:
               (1)  the child's school district is unable to identify
  or locate a parent for the child; or
               (2)  the foster parent of the child is unwilling or
  unable to serve as a parent for the purposes of this subchapter [In
  appointing a surrogate parent for a child, the court shall give
  preferential consideration to a foster parent of the child as
  required under Section 29.015, Education Code].
         (c)  Except as provided by Subsection (d), the court may
  appoint a person to serve as a child's surrogate parent if the
  person:
               (1)  is willing to serve in that capacity; and
               (2)  meets the requirements of 20 U.S.C. Section
  1415(b) [If the court does not appoint a child's foster parent to
  serve as the child's surrogate parent, the court shall give
  consideration to:
               [(1)     a relative or other designated caregiver as
  defined by Section 264.751; or
               [(2)     a court-appointed volunteer advocate who has been
  appointed to serve as the child's guardian ad litem, as provided by
  Section 107.031(c)].
         (d)  The following persons may not be appointed as a
  surrogate parent for the child:
               (1)  an employee of the department;
               (2)  an employee of the Texas Education Agency;
               (3)  an employee of a school or school district; or
               (4)  an employee of any other agency that is involved in
  the education or care of the child.
         (e)  The court may appoint a child's guardian ad litem or
  court-certified volunteer advocate, as provided by Section
  107.031(c), as the child's surrogate parent.
         (f)  In appointing a person to serve as the surrogate parent
  for a child, the court may consider the person's ability to meet the
  qualifications listed under Sections 29.0151(d)(2)-(8), Education
  Code.
         (g)  If the court prescribes training for a person who is
  appointed as the surrogate parent for a child, the training program
  must comply with the minimum standards for training established by
  rule by the Texas Education Agency.
         SECTION 5.  This Act takes effect September 1, 2017.
 
 
  ______________________________ ______________________________
     President of the Senate Speaker of the House     
 
 
         I certify that H.B. No. 1556 was passed by the House on May 8,
  2017, by the following vote:  Yeas 144, Nays 1, 1 present, not
  voting; and that the House concurred in Senate amendments to H.B.
  No. 1556 on May 25, 2017, by the following vote:  Yeas 142, Nays 0,
  2 present, not voting.
 
  ______________________________
  Chief Clerk of the House   
 
         I certify that H.B. No. 1556 was passed by the Senate, with
  amendments, on May 23, 2017, by the following vote:  Yeas 31, Nays
  0.
 
  ______________________________
  Secretary of the Senate   
  APPROVED: __________________
                  Date       
   
           __________________
                Governor