No Papers? No Problem: Texas’ Official CPS Adoption Policy May Surprise You

Child Protective Services officials say it’s important to keep relatives together – no matter the adults’ immigration status.

By Joy DiazApril 28, 2016 11:44 am, , ,

In recent weeks there have been reports of the crumbling infrastructure of the state’s Child Protective Services – an agency responsible for the well-being of 12,000 of the most neglected and abused kids in Texas.

From preventable child deaths and heartbreaking stories of abuse at the hands of the very people charged with their care, to the resignation of caseworkers and kids sleeping in state offices with nowhere else to go, the system is so fundamentally broken as to have been declared unconstitutional and unsafe by a federal judge in December.

Despite this state of emergency, some may consider Texas CPS to be leading the rest of the nation in at least one respect. One of the responsibilities of Child Protective Services is to facilitate the adoption of children in its care who have no more ties with their biological parents. Reporters with the Chronicle of Social Change, a journal based in Los Angeles, noticed that Texas CPS allows people who are believed to have entered the country illegally to adopt children from the system.

John Kelly, one of the reporters, says these adoptions have been allowed since 2012, when the Department of Family and Protective services, which oversees CPS, gave waivers to relatives who may be undocumented for adopting children removed from their birth parents and put into foster care. The state has been moving towards keeping more kids with relatives who were not involved in the abuse or neglect.

Because of Texas’ hard line on immigration and immigrants who may be undocumented, Kelly says this policy was surprising. One of his first questions: is this policy federally allowable?

Kelly and his reporting partner Priscila Mosqueda found that Texas was not the first to allow these types of adoptions.

“Illinois has also adopted a similar policy and ascertained for certain from the feds that this was something that they could do,” Kelly says.

Not all states accepted this idea. A county in Michigan did not allow for this practice, Kelly says, even though there were families who may be undocumented stepping up who were interested in adoption.

In Texas, there is an important caveat – the adult who may be undocumented has to have some kind of pre-existing relationship with the child if they want to adopt.

“There is also a stipulation that there needs to be some sort of contingency plan in place in case this undocumented adult becomes involved in some sort of immigration proceeding,” Kelly says.

Prepared for web by Beth Cortez-Neavel.