Thursday, April 8, 2021

'Caleb's Law' hopes to make it easier for parents to obtain guardianship of their child

by SBG San Antonio Staff Reports

Family hopes that Caleb's Law will make it easier for parents to obtain guardianship of their child. (Courtesy: The Thompson Family)


Caleb's Law House bill 1675 passed the House on Wednesday and will now be heading to the Senate.


SAN ANTONIO - When a child turns 18, they are considered an adult in the eyes of the State of Texas and can make their own legal decisions. 

But what's the process like for families when children can't make those life-changing decisions?

We talk to a family that's trying to make it easier for parents to obtain guardianship of their adult children with profound disabilities.

From his birth we knew right away he had issues," said D'Anne Thompson, Caleb's mom. "And it was a journey finding a diagnosis which is Lennox-Gastaut."

David and D'Anne Thompson have been on a long journey with their son Caleb. He was born with a seizure disorder that took doctors five and a half years to definitively diagnose.

Days before Caleb turned 18, he was admitted to the hospital.

"Essentially, they shut him down for almost 96 hours," said David.

Caleb turned 18 when he was intubated and ventilated and that's when David and D'Ann's parental rights expired.

Having to prove my parental fitness in a hospital room, or that I am his parent was a little frustrating to me," said D'Anne.

The Thompson's knew they would need to secure a guardianship for their son. They had been going through the lengthy process of nearly six months when Caleb turned 18.

"So the process is file an application, the court does an investigation, that investigation includes medical and financial records," said David.

Ten months and more than $5,000 later, the state granted the Thompson's guardianship, but the fight isn't over.

Caleb will turn 21 this summer and his parents say he's doing great, but they want to change the system to help make it easier on parents.

The Thompson's say the process needs to be changed, and with the help of State Rep. Steve Allison, they are pushing for House Bill 1675 or Caleb's Law, to pass the state legislature.

Right now, in order for parents to obtain guardianship of their child, they must consent to an investigation, an attorney ad litum is appointed to be the child's advocate and parents must undergo an investigation every year.

Caleb's Law would take away some of those steps, like the attorney ad litum step, something the Thompson's say isn't needed.

It would also change the state intervention time period from once every year to not more than once every five years as long as no allegations of child abuse, neglect or exploitation are made.

"We think this bill makes sense for future generations of parents who want to secure their guardianship of their child , their profoundly disabled child, without the intrusive, extensive and costly process," said David.

The Thompson's hope this bill will make it easier for other parents across the state to be able to continue to care for their children.

"I think most parents are good," said David. "Most parents do the best they can. And I know parents have limited energy, they have limited resources, and they're precious and we need to use them on the children instead of on this process."

Caleb's Law is scheduled to be debated on the house floor today.

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