top of page

Texans Reinstate Parental Rights Under New Law

By Hanne Keiling


This past Christmas, Maggie Luna celebrated the holidays with her 12-year-old son, CJ, for the first time in six years. Due to a change in the law, parents like Luna, whose rights were terminated in Texas Child Protective Services proceedings, have a chance to get their children back through a process called reinstatement.



Luna’s parental rights were terminated in 2015, and her three children were separated and placed in foster care. “I suffered an addiction that ruled my life and I ended up in jail because of it. It didn’t matter how much I loved my kids–I couldn’t stop,” she explained.


Luna has since created a new life for herself and her family. “It wasn’t until I went to prison this last time and actually started working on the traumas that I had been through, when I realized that I didn’t have to die like that. Once I started cognitive behavioral therapy and re-parenting myself, I realized that I can make a change,” she said.


Luna now works as a policy analyst for Texas Center for Justice and Equity, where she uses her lived experiences to help design and implement justice reform policy. She also mentors individuals who are going through the often-challenging reinstatement process.


As Luna knows from experience, the trauma inflicted on children in the foster care system can introduce issues upon family reunification: “It's all been a lot of mixed emotions — guilty, extremely grateful, and also very stressed. CJ came from seven years of being moved around, not being able to trust anybody, having to fight. At that time, I needed to be separated from them. My children were not safe, but I don’t think CPS made it any better.”



Children who stay in foster care until adulthood are at significantly higher risk of experiencing homelessness, economic insecurity, and becoming involved with the criminal justice system. Further, children are put at significant risk of harm within the long-term foster care system. Due to a shortage in foster homes, they are often warehoused in unlicensed placements where they can be subject to abuse and neglect. Dozens of children have died in the custody of DFPS since 2019, and the state’s child welfare system is so overburdened that it has been found unconstitutional.


Of Luna’s three children, two experienced abuse in the foster care system. “My eldest daughter was sexually assaulted–never in my home.” Luna continues to work with her son CJ on uncovering and healing his experiences in foster care since being reunited. “He was being exposed to things that even in living the streets I didn’t experience.” In the care of the state, CJ also fell behind in school. Luna is working with him on getting to a sixth grade reading level and teaching him how to tell time.


Texas terminates the rights of more parents than any other state in America. Between 2006 and 2018, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) terminated parental rights of over 91,589 children, many of whom continue to languish in foster care.


“We have a huge foster care system that, in a lot of ways, is failing families.” said Shanti Khanna of the Austin Community Law Center. Khanna is a 4Girls Foundation Postgraduate law fellow offering qualified parents free legal aid filing for reinstatement under the new statute. Khanna’s project recently received a second year of funding through September 2024, allowing her to continue taking reinstatement cases as her full-time caseload.


Khanna has big hopes for the reinstatement program: “We know from a wealth of research that protecting biological families is really the best outcome for children – anytime children can safely remain with their parents, they have a better chance for success later in life.”


Luna’s parental rights were terminated in 2015, and her three children were separated and placed in foster care. “I suffered an addiction that ruled my life and I ended up in jail because of it. It didn’t matter how much I loved my kids–I couldn’t stop,” she explained.


According to Khanna, parents may qualify for reinstatement if: (1) their rights were terminated in Texas Child Protective proceedings; (2) they’ve taken steps towards rehabilitation since termination; and (3) at least two years have passed since termination occurred.


If you think you may be eligible for reinstatement of your parental rights in Texas, you can schedule a free appointment with Austin Community Law Center at https://www.austincommunitylawcenter.org/reinstatement-parental-rights.


Recent Posts