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St. Mary's Law Journal

Publisher

St. Mary's University School of Law

Abstract

Each year approximately one million children experience abuse by their parents and more than two thousand die as a result of injuries suffered. Drafters of child abuse legislation face the difficult task of accommodating the rights of parent and child, while ensuring the necessary exercise of state authority. In view of the delicate balancing of interests involved, child protection laws must be extensive and detailed in order to withstand constitutional challenge. The Sixty-sixth session of the Texas Legislature amended the child abuse section of the Texas Family Code. The Texas Family Code, as amended, is now capable of withstanding constitutional challenge. However, the legislature must undertake immediate action to resolve the still existent problems in the Texas Family Code. First, the Texas legislature should amend the Texas Family Code to expressly direct the placement of children held temporarily by the state. Second, the legislature should reduce the ten-day period within which a court holds an adversary hearing for a parent whose child was seized by the state. Courts acknowledge five days is the minimum time within which either party could prepare for an adversary hearing. A period of ten days, although constitutionally acceptable, unnecessarily prolongs the separation of a child from his parent. Third, the legislature should direct courts to appoint an attorney for the indigent parent in a child abuse proceeding. A failure to provide such counsel denies the indigent parent the right to fully participate in litigation involving his fundamental rights. Fourth, the legislature should encourage all potential reporters to submit written reports since it ensures accuracy. Fifth, the legislature should impose provisions for a telephone hotline and authorization of photographs and x-rays to significantly improve the reporting law.

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