When children need to be placed in loving homes, Child Protective Services (CPS) looks for relatives or other adults who are already close to the family or children, such as grandparents or godparents. Sometimes it’s for a short time. Other times, the children cannot return home and needs a new, permanent home.
If you are reading this, you are probably thinking
about providing a permanent and loving home to a child
now in state care through the CPS division of the Texas
Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS).
How can you help? This page has some basic information about the two possible permanent options:
- Permanent managing conservatorship (PMC)
This page will help you weigh your options. Each option has its own rights and responsibilities. Whichever is decided for the child, when he or she cannot be returned home, the goal is for the child to have a permanent, stable and caring home without involvement from CPS.
- What is adoption?
- What are the benefits of adoption?
- How can I become an adoptive parent?
- What is Permanent Managing Conservatorship? (PMC)
- What are the benefits of PMC?
- How Does PMC Affect the Rights of Parents?
- Choosing the best permanency option
What is adoption?
Adoption is the legal process through which a child joins a family different from his or her birth parents. Adoption is a permanent lifelong commitment to a child. In CPS cases, adoption becomes an option if CPS and the child’s birth parents cannot resolve issues that made it unsafe for the child to live at home. Then, CPS may suggest to the court to end the parents’ rights to the child and place the child with another family permanently. A child can also become legally free for adoption if both birth parents give up their parental rights.
When the new family is ready to adopt the child, DFPS and the family complete the adoptive placement paperwork. After children have lived in their new home for six months, the adoptive family and CPS can make the adoption permanent. In many cases, the children may have already been living with the family as a kinship care or foster home so they are familiar with their new family. The adoptive family can submit a document to court called a “petition to adopt” and if approved by a judge, the adoption becomes permanent (also known as “consummated”). At this point, CPS is dismissed from the child’s case, and DFPS will no longer be involved with the child or your family.
Once adopted, a child has the same legal and inheritance rights as any naturally born children.
What are the benefits of adoption?
Stable Home and Legal Protection
Adoption is the best choice for a child in CPS care when it’s not safe for the child to return home and for the relative or close family friend who wishes to be a permanent home for the child. It gives the child a stable and permanent home and lifelong support. It also gives the adoptive family legal protection because adoptive parents have the same legal rights as birth parents. Adoption can give children a sense of belonging and security because they know they will have a lifelong relationship with the adoptive family.
Right to Inherit
Adopted children may have the right to inherit from both adoptive parents and birth parents.
If approved, your adopted child may receive benefits such as:
- Reimbursement for certain adoption fees up to $1,200.
- Monthly adoption assistance payments and Medicaid coverage up to age 18. These benefits may last to age 21 if the child is age 16 or older when you sign the adoption assistance agreement, and the child meets certain educational vocational requirements.
To receive any adoption assistance benefits, you must sign an Adoption Assistance Agreement with DFPS before your adoption is finalized in court.
Post Adoption Services Program
Support training, therapy, and other services for your child and family may be available.
State College Tuition Assistance
If you adopted a child through DFPS, he or she may be eligible for free tuition and fees at a Texas state college if:
- You adopted the child on or after 9/1/09 and the child enrolls at a Texas state college by his or her 25th birthday.
- The child receives a monthly subsidy and Medicaid. There is not a time limit regarding enrollment at a Texas state college.
If you want to adopt a child, talk with the child’s caseworker to see if any other benefits are available.
How can I become an adoptive parent?
Before you can adopt a CPS child, you must first complete the training and approval process. You must be at least 21 years old, a responsible adult, and willing to share personal information.
You can start the process by calling CPS or going to an information meeting. Then you will need special adoption training and an in-depth home screening. The screening addresses such topics as your reason for adoption, health status, family relationships, childhood experiences, and expectations of and plans for the adoptive child. Meanwhile, CPS will complete criminal and abuse and neglect background checks on everyone in your home age 14 or older. The results of these background checks may prevent you from being approved. (Some of this information may have already been gathered if you are a foster parent who is a relative or close family friend.) Only after these steps are finished will DFPS decide if you may adopt a child from CPS.
What is Permanent Managing Conservatorship (PMC)?
Permanent Managing Conservatorship (PMC) is a legal term in Texas used in child custody cases. It means that a judge appoints a person to be legally responsible for a child without adopting the child. The court can give PMC to someone other than a parent, including DFPS, a relative, a close family friend, or a foster parent. PMC can only be given by a judge. The judge decides the rights and responsibilities, depending upon the specific situation. When someone other than a parent is named as "permanent managing conservator," he or she is given certain rights and duties about caring for the child such as:
- The right to have physical possession and to direct the moral and religious training of the child.
- The duty of care, control, protection, and reasonable discipline of the child.
- The duty to provide the child with clothing, food, shelter, education, and medical, psychological, and dental care.
- The right to consent for the child to medical, psychiatric, psychological, dental, and surgical treatment and to have access to the child’s medical records.
- The right to receive and give receipt for payments for the support of the child and to hold or disburse funds for the benefit of the child.
- The right to the services and earnings of the child.
- The right to consent to marriage and to enlistment in the armed forces of the United States.
- The right to represent the child in legal action and to make other decisions of substantial legal significance concerning the child.
- Except when a guardian of the child’s estate or a guardian or attorney ad litem has been appointed for the child, the right to act as an agent of the child in relation to the child’s estate if the child’s action is required by a state, the United States, or a foreign government.
- The right to designate the primary residence of the child and to make decisions regarding the child’s education.
- The right to consent to adopting the child and to make all decisions about the child that a parent could make, if the parent-child relationship has been terminated or if there is no living parent.
In addition to the ability to:
- Authorize immunization of the child or any other medical treatment that requires parental consent.
- Obtain and maintain health insurance coverage for the child and automobile insurance coverage for the child, if appropriate.
- Enroll the child in a day-care program or school, including prekindergarten.
- Authorize the child to participate in school-related or extracurricular or social activities, including athletic activities.
- Authorize the child to obtain a learner's permit, driver's license, or state-issued identification card.
- Authorize employment of the child.
- Apply for and receive public benefits for or on behalf of the child.
- Obtain legal services for the child and execute contracts or other legal documents for the child.
For more information, see the Texas Family Code, Section 153.371.
Once the court names you permanent managing conservator, the judge will dismiss DFPS from the case. This means DFPS will no longer be involved with the child or your family.
This also means you will not receive services such as case management, day care, and post placement services from DFPS.
If you are the child’s foster parent, you will not continue to receive foster care payments after you become permanent managing conservator. (“Foster parent” means that you have completed the process to become a foster parent through a child placing agency.)
If you are permanent managing conservator and decide to adopt later, you will not receive adoption assistance.
What are the benefits of PMC?
Stable Home and Legal Parent
If you become a child’s permanent managing conservator, you become that child’s permanent home. You may be able to receive the following benefits if you are approved.
Permanency Care Assistance
Permanency Care Assistance (PCA) includes monthly financial help and health care coverage for the child up to age 18. These benefits may last until age 21 if the child is age 16 or older when you sign the Permanency Care Assistance (PCA) Agreement, and the child meets certain educational/vocational requirements. The PCA Agreement provides details about the financial help and health care coverage.
Kinship families who become permanent managing conservators may get PCA if:
- DFPS and the courts rule out returning children to their birth families.
- DFPS rules out adoption as an option.
- You are approved.
To be approved, kinship caregivers must:
- Complete the verification process through a child placing agency to become foster parents for their related child.
- Serve as the child’s foster parents for at least six months.
- Negotiate and sign a PCA Agreement with DFPS.
- Go to court and receive PMC.
The Strengthening Families Act, federal legislation passed by U.S. Congress on September 29, 2014, allows for the preservation of a child's eligibility for Permanency Care Assistance (PCA) payments in the event the caregiver dies or becomes incapacitated if a PCA-Successor (a person appointed to permanently care for your child in the event that the caregiver is no longer able) replaces the caregiver as the child's legal guardian.
PCA payments may continue to a PCA-Successor if all of the following conditions are met:
- The kinship caregiver completes an amendment to the Permanency Care Assistance Agreement to name a potential PCA-Successor to receive PCA benefits on the child's behalf in the event of their death or incapacitation.
- The PCA-Successor submits to DFPS the required background check information and that information meets DFPS standards.
- The PCA-Successor signs a Permanency Care Assistance Agreement with DFPS.
- The PCA-Successor submits to DFPS proof demonstrating that he or she has been given legal custody of the child by the court.
The PCA-Successor cannot begin receiving PCA payments from DFPS until he or she has signed a Permanency Care Assistance Agreement and has assumed legal custody of the child. If the PCA-Successor signs the Permanency Care Assistance Agreement after being given legal custody of the child by the court, DFPS may grant retroactive benefits back to the date legal custody was granted, for a period not to exceed 12 months.
The terms and conditions of the PCA Agreement originally signed by the kinship caregiver will also apply to the PCA-Successor.
Kinship Program Financial Assistance
If you are a relative or close family friend who is not a foster parent, you may be approved for limited support through the Kinship Program. Ask your child’s caseworker for details.
If you become a permanent managing conservator, you may apply to get Medicaid for the child, unless the child already receives Medicaid as part of a Permanency Care Assistance Agreement with DFPS.
You may be able to receive benefits other than Medicaid such as SNAP food benefits (formerly called “Food Stamps”) and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). For more information, you must apply and be approved by your local Health and Human Services Commission office.
State College Tuition Assistance
If you became permanent managing conservator on or after 9/1/09, the child may be eligible for free tuition/fees at a Texas state college. The child must enroll by his or her 25th birthday.
If you think you may be interested in pursuing PMC, then talk with the child’s caseworker about the benefits that may be available.
How Does PMC Affect the Rights of Parents?
Parents’ rights are always affected when a court names someone other than the parent as the Permanent Managing Conservator of a child. However, the biggest effect comes from the court’s decision whether or not to terminate their parental rights.
PMC with Termination of Parental Rights:
- Birth parents have no legal rights or duties regarding the child.
- As permanent managing conservator, you have the duty to protect the child from the birth parents, if applicable.
PMC without Termination of Parental Rights:
- Birth parents may continue to have contact with the child as determined by the court order.
- Birth parents or relatives can come back at any time until the child’s 18th birthday and petition the court to obtain certain rights, including custody of the child.
- As permanent managing conservator, you can petition the court to issue additional orders as needed with regard to the birth family.
- As permanent managing conservator, you may apply to get Medicaid coverage for the child. You must be approved to get any other benefits such as SNAP food benefits and TANF.
- The birth parents may be ordered by the court to pay child support.
- As permanent managing conservator, you are responsible for enforcing and attempting to collect child support if the parents are ordered to pay. You may need to hire an attorney and petition the court.
- If birth parents are not court ordered to pay child support, you and the birth parents may decide that the birth parents will informally provide financial assistance or support the placement in other ways, such as by transporting the child to doctor’s appointments.
Choosing the best permanency option
If you are a relative of or family friend to a child in DFPS care and are thinking about providing that child with a permanent home, we hope this pamphlet has helped you to understand your options. Remember, each case will have special circumstances that need to be addressed. We urge you to discuss this information with the child’s caseworker.
To learn more about becoming an adoptive parent, call 1-800- 233-3405 or visit www.adoptchildren.org.
For more information, visit the Children In Our Care page of the DFPS website.