C. Normalcy

1. What Is Normalcy?

Tex. Fam. Code § 264.001 requires court consideration of age-appropriate normalcy activities, defined as an activity or experience:

•   That is generally accepted as suitable for a child's age or level of maturity or that is determined to be developmentally appropriate for a child based on the development of cognitive, emotional, physical, and behavioral capacities that are typical for the age or age group; and

•   In which a child who is not in the conservatorship of DFPS is generally allowed to participate, including extracurricular activities, cultural and enrichment activities, and employment opportunities. Tex. Fam. Code § 264.001(1).

In addition to the requirements of Tex. Fam. Code § 263.306(a-1), at each Permanency Hearing before a final order is rendered, the court shall review DFPS efforts to ensure that the child has regular, ongoing opportunities to engage in age-appropriate normalcy activities, including activities not listed in the child's service plan. Tex. Fam. Code § 263.306(c).

Additionally, Tex. Fam. Code § 263.503(c) requires that, in addition to the requirements of Tex. Fam. Code § 263.5031, at each Permanency Hearing After a Final Order the court shall review DFPS efforts to ensure that the child has regular, ongoing opportunities to engage in age-appropriate normalcy activities as defined by Tex. Fam. Code § 264.001; this may include activities not listed in the child's service plan. Tex. Fam. Code § 263.503.

2. Reasonable and Prudent Parent Standard

In determining whether to allow a child in the managing conservatorship of DFPS to participate in an activity, a substitute caregiver must exercise the standard of care of a reasonable and prudent parent. Tex. Fam. Code § 264.125(b).

The Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act required states to define a “reasonable and prudent parenting standard."[233] In Texas, the standard of care of a reasonable and prudent parent means the standard of care that a parent of reasonable judgment, skill, and caution would exercise in addressing the health, safety, and welfare of a child while encouraging the emotional and developmental growth of the child, taking into consideration:

•   The overall health and safety of the child;

•   The child's age, maturity, and development level;

•   The best interest of the child based on the caregiver's knowledge of the child;

•   The appropriateness of a proposed activity and any potential risk factors;

•   The behavioral history of the child and the child's ability to safely participate in a proposed activity;

•   The importance of encouraging the child's social, emotional, and developmental growth; and

•   The importance of providing the child with the most family-like experience possible. Tex. Fam. Code §264.001(5).

A foster parent, other substitute caregiver, family relative or other designated caregiver, or licensed child placing agency caring for a child in the managing conservatorship of DFPS is not liable for harm caused to the child resulting from the child's participation in an age-appropriate normalcy activity approved by the caregiver if, in approving the child's participation in the activity, the caregiver exercised the standard of care of a reasonable and prudent parent. Tex. Fam. Code § 264.114(c).

3. Normalcy Resources

For a more complete report including the importance of normalcy and tips for encouraging normalcy, please read the Children's Commission's May 2019 Normalcy for Children and Youth in Foster Care Round Table Report.[234]

Capacity Building Center for States, Having the Normalcy Conversation: A Guide for Discussing Developmentally Appropriate Services for Children, Youth, and Young Adults in Foster Care[235]

Texas CASA, Normalcy for Children & Youth in Foster Care[236]

Texas Council of Child Welfare Boards, Normalcy for Children Resources[237]