3000 Stakeholder Relations
FBCE August 2022
As a part of the larger Texas community interested in protecting vulnerable citizens, DFPS must responsibly engage stakeholders in the planning, delivery, and evaluation of its programs and services. Community stakeholders provide DFPS clients with access to a much broader range of resources than DFPS alone can provide. Stakeholder participation and input are critical to improving client outcomes.
To ensure that community engagement progress is informed by community partners, DFPS seeks the following opportunities:
- To involve stakeholders in community engagement planning.
- Ongoing stakeholder involvement in various initiatives.
This might include conducting focus groups for identifying solutions to problems and developing ways to include stakeholders in policy development.
Employees throughout DFPS interact regularly with stakeholders. Employees should ensure purposeful stakeholder participation by researching and employing best practices in stakeholder engagement.
These practices include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Participation in collaborative exchanges, not just when DFPS needs assistance, but also when stakeholders need DFPS assistance.
- All roundtables, public meetings, or other stakeholder exchanges DFPS conducts should have meeting protocol or guidelines that include the following, tailored to meet specific goals:
- Agenda development
- Examination of all stakeholder planning processes for opportunities to include faith-based or senior citizen participants.
- Inclusion of stakeholders at the beginning of a planning process, rather than after a solution is identified.
- Clear identification of the issue.
- Being open to stakeholder ideas.
- Understand goals and create a plan to reach them.
- Ask stakeholders for feedback – Was the goal clearly defined? How could participation have been increased? What would make the event more meaningful?
To build and strengthen external relationships, FBCE staff follows these general best practices:
- Ensures two-way communication between DFPS and the stakeholder.
- Remains aware of the stakeholder’s capabilities and limitations.
- Informs the stakeholder of DFPS’s capabilities, limitations, and needs.
- Asks the stakeholder what can be done to build and strengthen the relationship.
3100 Memorandums of Understanding
FBCE August 2022
A memorandum of understanding (MOU) is a non-financial agreement DFPS enters into with an external party or stakeholder. An MOU must be developed and maintained as described in the DFPS Contract Handbook, Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
3200 Advisory Committees and Informal Workgroups
3210 Establishing an Advisory Committee or Informal Workgroup
FBCE August 2022
DFPS has the legal authority to establish advisory committees.
The law defines an “advisory committee” as a committee, council, commission, task force, or other entity with multiple members that has as its primary function advising a state agency in the executive branch of state government.
DFPS may also establish advisory workgroups, which are time-limited and less formal than advisory committees.
A workgroup or committee composed entirely of DFPS employees is not considered an advisory committee and is not required to follow the procedures outlined below.
3220 Determining the Need for an Advisory Committee
FBCE August 2022
Before establishing an advisory committee or workgroup, DFPS employees should determine which of the following are true:
- The stakeholder group will be needed to provide input to DFPS for a one-time project or short-term program or initiative.
- DFPS would benefit from establishing a long-term stakeholder group to give ongoing advice to the agency.
Consult with the council liaison for guidance if necessary.
3230 Convening a Workgroup for Stakeholder Input
FBCE August 2022
If the associate commissioner for the program area determines that the stakeholder group will need to provide input to DFPS regarding a one-time project or short-term program or initiative, the program may establish a workgroup.
Examples of when a workgroup may be appropriate include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Obtaining stakeholder input while developing DFPS rules or policy.
- Soliciting input regarding a research or pilot project.
A workgroup may develop a charter that describes its purpose and basic operation if necessary.
3240 Commissioner Approval for Establishment of an Advisory Committee
FBCE August 2022
If the associate commissioner for the program area determines the stakeholder group will need to advise DFPS on an ongoing basis, with a plan to meet regularly over a period of two or more years, an advisory committee must be established in the Texas Administrative Code (agency rules). The associate commissioner must submit an action memo to the Commissioner outlining the need for the committee and its proposed duration.
The memo should include the following information:
- The proposed advisory committee’s purpose and tasks, including how the committee will report its recommendations to DFPS.
- The proposed size, membership categories, and qualifications.
- The expected duration of the committee and the members’ terms of office.
- Whether travel reimbursement of member expenses is recommended.
- The DFPS employee position that would act as the liaison for the committee.
The program liaison for the committee will work with council liaison and the legal department to propose rules for the new committee. The rules should follow the format found in 40 TAC §§702.501 – 702.515 and should contain the following information about the committee:
- Purpose and tasks.
- How the committee will report or make recommendations to DFPS.
- Number of members.
- Appointment procedures and terms for members.
- Membership categories and qualifications, including requirements relating to experience and geographic representation.
- Meeting schedule quarterly).
- Decision-making process (for example, consensus or majority vote).
- Applicability of the Open Meetings Act.
- Date of abolishment.
The following legal requirements must be considered in establishing a committee:
- The advisory committee should be composed of a reasonable number of members, not to exceed 24.
- The committee members should represent diverse geographic, experiential, and cultural backgrounds from across the state.
- The committee should be subject to the Open Meetings Act, Texas Government Code Chapter 551, unless there is a reason why it should be exempt.
- Advisory committees should keep attendance records, take minutes, and adopt bylaws regarding how the committee will operate.
- The advisory committee must comply with the other provisions outlined in TAC §702.501 – §702.505 regarding the following:
- Election of a presiding officer.
- Conflicts of interest.
Reimbursement of Members’ Expenses
A member of the advisory committee may be reimbursed only for his or her expenses by DFPS through either of the following avenues:
- The General Appropriations Act.
- The budget execution process. However, the budget execution process is used only if the advisory committee is created after it can no longer be addressed in the General Appropriations Act.
Evaluation and Reporting
Texas law requires a state agency that has established an advisory committee to annually evaluate the following:
- The committee’s work.
- The committee’s usefulness.
- The costs related to the committee’s existence, including the cost of agency employee time spent in support of the committee’s activities.
DFPS must also report the information developed in the evaluation required above to the Legislative Budget Board.
The committee liaison should be prepared to submit information regarding the evaluation and reporting to the council liaison upon request.
3250 Process for Recommending Advisory Committee Members to the Commissioner for Approval
FBCE August 2022
DFPS adheres to this guide when the DFPS Commissioner is required to name an appointee to an advisory committee administered through DFPS with publicly held meetings. In this context, “soliciting agency” means DFPS, as applicable, and the guidelines apply regardless of the term used to describe the advisory committee (for example, council, task force, or workgroup). When the DFPS Commissioner is asked by external offices such as the Governor, lieutenant governor, speaker of the House, or other state agencies to provide nominations for external positions or committees, the guide must be followed as closely as possible.
Recruiting Members and Notification of Vacancy
Different methods for soliciting new committee members may be necessary or appropriate depending on the following:
- The advisory committee.
- Statutory requirements.
- Rule requirements.
- Existing bylaws or operating procedures.
- The category of the vacancy.
Ideally, six months before the expiration date of a current advisory committee member’s term, the council liaison will develop the application and solicitation with input from the advisory committee liaison. If the vacancy is unexpected, such as the resignation or death of a member, the advisory committee liaison must notify the council liaison of the vacancy as soon as possible. The solicitation must be posted on the DFPS website for at least 21 calendar days and shall direct applicants to submit completed applications to DFPS through the process described in the solicitation. A GovDelivery notice, an email that goes to stakeholders who have opted to receive agency news and information, must be sent to all subscribers. Once the solicitation is posted, the council liaison will notify the presiding officer, members, stakeholders interested DFPS programs, and other people and entities. Notice may be given by email or other means that the advisory committee liaison deems appropriate.
The council liaison must ensure the following equal opportunity statement is included in each solicitation posted online: “This agency does not discriminate against applicants for or members of Department of Family and Protective Services’ advisory committees on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, religion, age or sex.” The advisory committee liaison must provide the council liaison with the advisory committee’s establishing authority so a link to the statute and/or rules for the committee can be included in each posted solicitation.
Standard Application Template
The standard application template should be used. The applications must request the following information about an applicant:
- Contact information.
- Demographic information – gender, race and ethnicity.
- Current employment.
- Whether the applicant is seeking initial appointment or a reappointment to the advisory committee.
- Education, training, and experience, especially as it relates to the work of the committee.
- Stated interest or reason for wanting to serve on the committee.
- Other committees on which the applicant is serving or has served.
- Whether the applicant has ever been disciplined by any licensing board or professional or civic organization, including the HHS inspector general.
- Information on whether the applicant has been convicted of a felony, with detailed information if the answer is “yes”.
- Whether the applicant has a personal or financial interest in a matter pending before HHS or DFPS.
- At least two references and the references’ contact information.
2020 Template Modification
If the standard application template is not sufficient to obtain information required or otherwise necessary for an appointment to a specific advisory committee, council liaison, in collaboration with committee liaison, may add language necessary to solicit the additional required information. If the council liaison and the committee liaison cannot agree on the necessary language, members will elevate the issue to the program’s respective associate commissioner for resolution. If the program does not have an associate commissioner, the matter will go to the DFPS deputy commissioner.
Initial Application Screening
To be considered for appointment, an applicant must submit a completed application form and any required supporting documentation to DFPS by the deadline stated in the solicitation. The council liaison will respond to each applicant to confirm receipt of the application. The response will include contact information for questions regarding the application process and contact information for the advisory committee liaison to answer questions the applicant may have about the committee. The council liaison compiles and reviews the submitted applications and removes any application that is not complete or does not meet the specific requirements of the vacancy being filled
Application Review Team
Upon receipt of the applications, the council liaison will convene an application review team to review the completed applications. The program’s committee liaison will provide the names of the review team members to the program’s executive team sponsor for final approval. The team should include agency employees with subject matter expertise to evaluate the applications and make informed recommendations. The team also may include agency employees from other divisions and programs that have significant interaction with the advisory committee and other people as provided by statute. Employees may consult the Health and Human Services Civil Rights Office and the DFPS ethics officer in the General Counsel’s Office regarding relevant legal and ethical issues.
To the extent possible, team members will consider the following information regarding each applicant when making a recommendation:
- Relevant experience, education and/or other credentials.
- Expressed desire to serve.
- Balance between skilled, knowledgeable members and new members, as appropriate.
- Diversity in gender, race, and ethnicity.
- Balance in geography, including rural vs. urban areas.
- Committee requirements if established in law or rule.
- Length of service.
- Term limits, if applicable.
- Potential conflicts of interest.
- Involvement in other committees.
- Any known criminal, civil or disciplinary actions or investigations.
- Any additional considerations or requirements identified by the program.
References will be checked by the council liaison before the review team recommendations are submitted to the program’s respective associate commissioner and the DFPS Commissioner. Any concerns regarding an applicant’s character or suitability for office, including known criminal, civil or disciplinary actions or investigations about the applicant, must be vetted within the agency in consultation with Policy and Program Support.
The application review team must assemble a recommendation packet for each applicant or set of applicants recommended for advisory committee appointment. A recommendation packet may include only recommendations regarding one advisory committee but may contain recommendations regarding one or more applicants for the committee. The recommendation packet consists of the following documents:
- Action memorandum
- Appointment letters for those being recommended.
- A summary table, including a list of each applicant and his or her demographic information, credentials, background, experience or specific qualifications required by statute or rule, and a notation of any letters of support received.
- A table of the current members on the advisory committee with descriptions of any specific qualifications required by statute or rule for a particular member.
- Resumé of each applicant being recommended (if appropriate for the advisory committee).
- Other information relevant to the recommendations.
The committee liaison will prepare an action memorandum to be included in each recommendation packet.
To provide a complete description and analysis of the recommendations, the action memorandum will include the following information:
- Legislative or administrative authority for appointments.
- Legislative authority for the advisory committee.
- Criteria or parameters for the committee appointments.
- Term or terms of appointment.
- Whether travel reimbursement is provided.
- Frequency of meetings.
- Application solicitation process or mechanism for notifying the public of vacancies.
- Evaluation process, including diversity and geographic considerations.
- Method for vetting the recommendations with key stakeholders, if applicable.
- Summary of nominee recommendations and rationale for recommendations, including notations of any recommendations to be forwarded to an external office, such as the Governor, lieutenant governor or speaker of the House, for the nomination.
- Appointment letters for the Commissioner’s signature if the commissioner is making the appointments.
- Whether the request is for the commissioner to make appointments or to delegate appointment authority to the deputy commissioner.
Routing and Approval of Recommendation Packet
Routing and approval follows the following process:
- The committee liaison will route the recommendation packet through the appropriate DFPS associate or deputy commissioner before approval by the Commissioner.
- If the associate commissioner, deputy commissioner, or Commissioner does not approve of an applicant, the application review team will submit a replacement.
- Application review team recommendations shall be routed for approval by the commissioner through the deputy commissioner.
- If DFPS executive leadership determines that an applicant recommended by the review team is not suitable and no suitable applicants remain on the list, the council liaison and the committee liaison will solicit additional applicants.
Appointees Representing Agencies or Governmental Entities
If an appointee to an advisory committee is selected to serve on the committee due to their professional affiliation or role with a particular agency or governmental entity to represent a particular group, that appointee may be replaced by another individual at the same agency or entity or representing the same group at the Commissioner’s discretion. Group representative appointees can be replaced using an abbreviated application, review, and appointment process by submitting a volunteer application and completing a background check. This section does not apply to representatives of contracted foster care providers.
The newly appointed member assumes the term of the advisory committee member who vacated the position and is eligible to be reappointed whenever the two-year term is up. The abbreviated appointment process described above may be used at the discretion of the Commissioner.
For questions regarding the advisory committee appointment process, please contact the council liaison.