Protecting the Rights of Abused and Neglected Children
Texas Lawyers for Children ( TLC) believes all children in Texas should have the opportunity to reach their full potential, and we know that starts with a safe and connected childhood. Children in foster care, unfortunately, often fall through the cracks without champions to ensure their rights are protected and they are not harmed within the systems meant to keep them safe. That's why we have worked so hard to protect abused and neglected children in the courts, the community, and the legislature with the ultimate goal of changing these vulnerable children's lives for the better.
As a leader in the field of child protection law in Texas for the past two decades, TLC has developed a program of services tailored to meet specific critical and unaddressed needs for children in foster care with the goal to maximize resources that have the greatest impact on the children we serve. The initiatives listed below outline the primary components of TLC's' comprehensive program:
TLC's Online Legal Resource and Communication Center: TLC is proud to be the only organization that provides an innovative and interactive Online Legal Resource and Communication Center ("Online Center") to inform, train, connect, and mobilize judges and attorneys throughout Texas so they can fulfill their unique role within the system to protect abused and neglected children throughout the State. TLC's Online Center not only assists judges and attorneys to improve outcomes for children in individual cases but also serves as a catalyst for systemic improvement.
Training in Trauma-Informed Legal Representation: When those who work on behalf of foster children do not understand how trauma affects abused and neglected children, how to appropriately respond to traumatized children, and how to identify trauma-informed treatment and services, the results can be tragic: children are punished for their fear responses, misdiagnosed with mental illness, overmedicated with psychotropic medications, institutionalized in psychiatric facilities, restrained and secluded, and forced to exit foster care without any ability to cope or regulate their emotions. Judges, attorneys, and other legal professionals have incredible power to change their jurisdictions to help ensure that children who have experienced trauma have access to trauma-informed care, trauma-informed decisionmaking, and traume-informed services. To date, TLC has trained over 1,000 judges, attorneys, CASAs, and other professionals in 215 Texas counties to understand the needs of traumatized children and how to promote a trauma-informed system of care within their jurisdictions.
Advocacy to Improve the Foster Care System for Children: TLC uses its years of experience to strategically speak on behalf of foster children in Texas by meeting with key stakeholders to advance best practices and promising standards in child protection cases for statewide policy and systemic improvements. In addition, TLC educates legilstors about the effects of proposed legislation and mobilizes the legal community to speak up on behalf of abused and neglected children. Finally, TLC engages in legal advocay on behalf of abused and neglected children. Most recently, with the support of Hankinson LLP, TLC submitted an amicus brief on behalf of foster children in M.D. v. Abbott, 152 F.Supp.3d 684 (S.D. Tex. 2015), the federal class action suit filed on behalf of Texas foster children in which the court held that Texas violates the constitutional rights of foster children to be "free from an unreasonable risk of harm".
Pro Bono Network to Work on Behalf of Abused and Neglected Children: TLC recruits legal professionals throughout the state to form a statewide pro bono network, enabling any attorney in the state to register to assist court-appointed attorneys in handling an abused child's case. TLC also recruits, trains, supports, and supervises volunteer attorneys to serve as Education Advocates for abused and neglected children in Dallas County courts to focus on the education needs of the child and take actions to ensure the child's academic success.