A new law in Texas will require child welfare workers and family courts to consider further medical opinions before removing children from their parents.
As NBC News reports, the law, which was signed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Friday, comes after a 2019 investigation conducted by NBC and the Houston Chronicle that looked into parents accused of child abuse based on mistaken reports from doctors.
The in-depth investigative project took place over nine months and looked into 40 cases in Texas and found that legal and medical systems, although mostly accurate in their determinations, can sometimes fail to differentiate between accidental injuries and abuse.
The reports focused on child abuse pediatricians, a subspeciality of doctors who work closely with welfare agencies to determine whether or not a child is a victim of abuse.
Under the new law, which goes into effect in September, caretakers accused of abuse based on a medical report can request another opinion from a doctor with experience relevant to a child's injuries, NBC reports. A judge will then take this second opinion into consideration before ordering a child be taken into Child Protect Services (CPS).
“False removals are traumatic for kids first and foremost, but also for their parents,” Texas state Rep. James Frank (R) said. “So we have to be more precise in the way we go through the removal process. I think sometimes when an expert in a white suit says something, there’s a tendency for CPS to go, ‘They're 100 percent right.’ But that’s not always the case.”
Texas state Rep. Gene Wu (D), a lawyer who works with CPS cases, said he supported the bill because it ensures that agencies and judges have more information and can make better decisions.
“Like all things that CPS does, there is a delicate balance,” Wu said, according to NBC. “If you tip it too far on one side, then you will have kids who are returning to families that are abusing them, and if you tip it too far the other way, then you have families that are having their kids stripped away because of a medical mistake.”