TITLE 1. ADMINISTRATION

PART 15. TEXAS HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES COMMISSION

CHAPTER 351. COORDINATED PLANNING AND DELIVERY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

SUBCHAPTER B. ADVISORY COMMITTEES

DIVISION 2. OMBUDSMAN FOR CHILDREN AND YOUTH IN FOSTER CARE

1 TAC §§351.861, 351.863, 351.865, 351.867, 351.869, 351.871, 351.873, 351.875, 351.877, 351.879, 351.881, 351.883

The Texas Health and Human Service Commission (HHSC) adopts new rules in Subchapter B, new Division 2, Ombudsman for Children and Youth in Foster Care. Within the new division, HHSC adopts new §351.861, concerning Definitions; §351.863, concerning Creation of Program and Population Served; §351.865, concerning Contact Information; §351.867, concerning Confidentiality; §351.869, concerning Data and Reports; §351.871, concerning Contacts Outside FCO Scope and Referral to Other Offices; §351.873, concerning Telephone Communications; §351.875, concerning Allegations of Abuse or Neglect; §351.877, concerning Research Using DFPS Systems and Policies; §351.879, concerning Follow-up Communication with Youth; §351.881, concerning Substantiating and Closing Cases; and §351.883, concerning Retaliation. The new rules are adopted without changes to the proposed text as published in the August 26, 2016, issue of the Texas Register (41 TexReg 6307) and will not be republished.

BACKGROUND AND JUSTIFICATION

The Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) proposes new rules in new Division 2, Subchapter B, of Chapter 351 of the Texas Administrative Code, Title 1.

In 2015, the Texas Legislature adopted Senate Bill (S.B.) 830, which, among other things, enacts Texas Government Code Chapter 531, Subchapter Y, to create a new program for Ombudsman for Children and Youth in Foster Care, which is administratively attached to HHSC Office of the Ombudsman.

The Office of Consumer Affairs (OCA), the ombudsman office for the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), has been responsible for taking complaints and providing an independent investigation to ensure that policy and procedure is being followed. However, the Legislature concluded that the office is not independent in terms of budget, policy, or personnel; that it needs its authority and function strengthened; and that it must ensure that youth in state custody are aware of the protections the office is intended to provide.

S.B. 830 created the Ombudsman for Children and Youth in Foster Care under the purview of the Health and Human Services Commission. An ombudsman's office is responsible for protecting the rights of consumers and must be independent of the agency over which it has oversight in order to ensure that it can most effectively serve the children and adults who depend on its protections. The changes set out in S.B. 830 are intended to meet this goal.

COMMENTS

The 30-day comment period ended September 26, 2016. During this period, HHSC did not receive any comments regarding the new rules.

STATUTORY AUTHORITY

The new rules are adopted under Texas Government Code §531.033, which provides the Executive Commissioner of HHSC with broad rulemaking authority; and Texas Human Resources Code §40.0041, which directs the Executive Commissioner to adopt rules regarding the process whereby children and foster youth in the conservatorship of DFPS may file a complaint with the Ombudsman.

The agency certifies that legal counsel has reviewed the adoption and found it to be a valid exercise of the agency's legal authority.

Filed with the Office of the Secretary of State on December 27, 2016.

TRD-201606730

Karen Ray

Chief Counsel

Texas Health and Human Service Commission

Effective date: January 16, 2017

Proposal publication date: August 26, 2016

For further information, please call: (512) 424-6900