Texas child welfare agency must get court orders before removing suspected abused children

AUSTIN (AP) - A federal appeals court ruling will force the state's child welfare agency to obtain court orders or parental consent prior to removing allegedly abused children from their homes.

The ruling last month by a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will affect child abuse investigations in the three states covered by its jurisdiction -- Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

The ruling resulted from an ongoing lawsuit against the state of Texas filed by a Fort Bend County couple and their 13 children.

The court said state and local officials who removed the children during a child abuse investigation may have acted improperly but were protected by government immunity.

The Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News obtained a memo sent on Friday to all Child Protective Services personnel written by the commissioner of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, Carey Cockerell.

The memo says the court ruling will require "some extremely difficult decisions" to be made.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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