TLC's Director to Serve on the Collaborative Council of the Texas Supreme Court's Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth and Families
Barbara Elias-Perciful, Director of Texas Lawyers for Children, was invited to serve on the Collaborative Council of the Texas Supreme Court's Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth and Families. The Permanent Commission was established to improve court practices for children in the child protection system. The Collaborative Council, a multidisciplinary advisory group, will assist the Commission and provide meaningful input. Council members may serve on committees or participate in special projects of the Commission. Current Commission committees oversee federal court improvement grants and focus on legislation and planning. If you have ideas you would like to have presented to the Commission, please contact Ms. Elias-Perciful at 800-993-5TLC (5852) or TexasLawyersforChildren@yahoo.com.
On December 5, the Texas Center for the Judiciary announced it is seeking applications from state agencies, local governments (including courts), nonprofit organizations, and educational institutions for grant funds to be made available from October 1, 2008, through September 30, 2009. The Center administers federal funds allocated to Texas by the Children's Justice Act Project. Texas has a total of $925,000 available for successful applicants. Proposed projects should fit one of the following areas: 1) handling of abuse and neglect cases in a manner that reduces trauma to the child and family and that ensures procedural fairness to the accused; 2) new programs that test innovative approaches and techniques in order to speed resolution of court proceedings and enhance their effectiveness; 3) reform of laws, regulations, and procedures to provide comprehensive protection to children and procedural fairness to all involved. In awarding the grants, the Center will give special consideration to projects addressing child sexual abuse, children with disabilities, child fatalities, and ad litem performance, as well as multi-jurisdictional projects. Applications must be submitted by January 11, 2008. For a complete description of the grants and an application form, click here.
TLC is thrilled to report that the Texas Supreme Court's Task Force on Foster Care selected the TLC website as one of the projects to receive a Court Improvement Program grant. Grant recipients are projects identified by the Task Force as those which can improve the court system's handling of child protection cases. In establishing the new Commission on Children, Youth and Families, the Court noted, "As gatekeepers for families in crisis, courts must make life-altering decisions that require knowledge of multiple and complex issues....Too often courts lack the technology, training, and resources needed to make good decisions." We are honored to be included in the group of projects the Task Force considers to be solutions to the problems in our current system.
On November 20, the Texas Supreme Court signed orders establishing a new Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth and Families and appointing the Commission's members. TLC proudly congratulates our four Advisory Council members who were appointed to the Commission -- Hon. Patricia Macias, Hon. Cheryl Lee Shannon, Hon. John Specia, and Fairy D. Rutland, J.D. The Commission will serve as the umbrella organization for all efforts to promote court improvement in child protection cases in Texas, with the goal of achieving greater safety, permanence, and well-being for children in foster care. The Court noted, "As gatekeepers for families in crisis, courts must make life-altering decisions that require knowledge of multiple and complex issues....Too often courts lack the technology, training, and resources needed to make good decisions....[J]udicial leadership at the highest level is needed for systemic improvement." Click here to view the order creating the Commission. Click here to view the order appointing the Commission members.
The American Bar Association has announced an opening for a staff attorney at its Center on Children and the Law in Washington, D.C. The job posting is from Nov. 9 to Dec. 9, 2007. The position is part of a new project to improve representation for parents involved in the child welfare system. The Center is seeking an experienced attorney who has represented parents and has ideas on how to improve representation and child welfare policy. View the full job announcement here. Please share it with any attorney who would be interested in and qualified for the position.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has announced a request for proposals from juvenile courts and certain other organizations interested in receiving funding and training to address fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Organizations legally authorized to provide services to dependent youth or adjudicated youth on probation are also eligible. The deadline for proposals is Nov. 29, 2007. Click here to learn more.
The Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP) has issued a report detailing the percentage of Texas' child protection spending that comes from various federal programs. The paper discusses each program's spending requirements and recent Congressional changes to the programs. CPPP endorses the recommendations of the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care that Congress loosen restrictions on federal funding, giving states more flexibility on how the funds are spent. Click here to read the report.
On September 25, 2007, the Supreme Court of Texas considered public comments on creation of a Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth and Families. The Court heard testimony from 30 witnesses familiar with the child protection system, including TLC's director. In summary, Justice Harriet O'Neill said, "The unanimous consensus at the hearing was that a Commission would provide a vehicle for leadership and collaboration among the judiciary, the legislature, state child-welfare agencies, various stakeholders, and the community. Best practices that have been developed in various parts of the state can be shared with others, and data can be gathered to measure progress and quantify the need for resources. Most importantly, real change can be effected that will improve the lives and life chances for Texas children who find themselves in the foster-care system through no fault of their own." Video of the hearing is available on the Court's website by clicking here. To view a transcript of the hearing click here.
On Tuesday, September 25, 2007, the Supreme Court of Texas will convene a hearing for public comment on a proposal to create a permanent judicial commission for children and families. A consultative group proposed the commission and outlined its creation, duties, and management in a report dated March 1, 2007. To view the report, click here. The commission would be charged with implementing a comprehensive program to improve courts that hear cases regarding children and families. Child protection cases require multidisciplinary collaboration, and attorneys and judges need supplementary training in areas such as substance abuse, domestic violence, and mental illness. Announcing the hearing, Supreme Court Justice Harriet O'Neill said, "As gatekeepers for families in crisis, courts play a critical role in ensuring these children's safety, well-being, and seeing that they find permanent homes....Clearly, courts have a profound impact -- and the stakes are exceedingly high." To testify or to submit written comments, register online by clicking here.
Once again, Prof. John Sampson has graciously provided TLC with his compilation of the latest updates from the recent legislative session. Click here to view Prof. Sampson's legislative update, containing changes to the Family Code from the 80th Legislative Session. To find a particular code section or specific words within the document, click on "Edit" on the menu bar, and select "Find" in the drop down menu. A search box will appear. You can enter keywords or Family Code section numbers in the search box. This paper also contains links to various bills. To return to the paper after viewing a bill, click on your "Back" button. You can also view TLC's summary of key provisions of the new legislation by clicking here.
TLC is very grateful to Hon. Gil Jones, Judge of the 33rd District Court, for generously giving his time to serve as moderator of the secure judicial email network known as Colleague Connection -- Judicial. Judges, if you haven't registered for Colleague Connection -- Judicial yet, now is a great time to do so. Colleague Connection -- Judicial is a secure, private email network available only to Texas judges. It facilitates judicial users' joining forces with one other to use the power of collaboration and mentoring. Users gain quick access to colleagues statewide to share ideas, strategies, and experiences. With 254 counties, Texas judges are often geographically isolated from peers who might otherwise be available for networking, sharing of ideas, and problem-solving. Being part of Colleague Connection -- Judicial brings peers and colleagues as close as your keyboard. Just sign in to the TLC website and click on Colleague Connection on the blue menu bar at the top of the page.
The State Bar Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect honored Carole Hurley as the recipient of its annual Fairy Davenport Rutland Award for Distinguished Service to Children and Families. The award is named after Ms. Rutland in recognition of her exceptional leadership as a founding member and chair of the Committee for over 20 years and her continuing dedication and contributions to the field of child welfare. Sandra Hachem, Chair of the Committee, presented the award to Ms. Hurley at the Advanced Family Law Conference. Ms. Rutland had personally nominated Ms. Hurley, detailing her many years of outstanding service as the Director of the Texas Court Improvement Program ("CIP") and the Texas Children's Justice Act Project ("CJA"), her accomplishments in representing children and parents in private practice, her role as a foster and adoptive parent of children in CPS' care, and her work as a presenter, course director, facilitator, and faculty member at national child welfare conferences and bar meetings. During Ms. Hurley's tenure as Director of CIP and CJA, the projects undertaken by both grant programs positively impacted the handling of child abuse and neglect cases across Texas and received national recognition. To read Ms. Rutland's nomination letter outlining Ms. Hurley's many achievements, click here. To view a picture from the award ceremony, click here. Pictured (from left to right) are Fairy Rutland, Kara Hurley, Emma Hurley, Carole Hurley, and Sandra Hachem.
The 80th legislative session ushered in 375 changes to the Texas Family Code, including 282 amendments to Title 5 alone. The largest bill affecting child abuse and neglect was Senate Bill 758. TLC has summarized key provisions of this significant legislation, as well as other bills of interest to child abuse practitioners. Click here to view TLC's summary.
Senate Bill 758 repeals the requirement to privatize CPS case management services mandated by last session's SB 6 with the exception of a small pilot program. The bill has been signed into law by Governor Rick Perry. SB 6, which was codified in §264.106 of the Texas Family Code, required the Department of Family and Protective Services (the "Department") to contract with private agencies for the provision of all necessary substitute care and case management services or use an "independent administrator" to contract for these services by September 1, 2011. SB 758 completely repeals the requirement to contract with private agencies for case management services. A new definition, "conservatorship services," has been added, making it clear that the Department provides those services, which include placement of children, approval of case plans, and "any other action the Department considers necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of a child." Click here to see the full text of the bill. To find a particular section or specific words within the document, click on "Edit" on the menu bar of your internet browser. In the drop-down menu which appears, click on "Find (on This Page)". You can enter keywords or Family Code section numbers in the window that appears..
TLC is pleased to announce that judges across the state can now register to participate in TLC's Colleague Connection -- Judicial email network. This free, optional service for TLC's site users is available exclusively to judges, allowing them to seek input from and share ideas with other judges across the state. TLC has designed this service to carefully limit its access to only active Texas judges and will verify the identity of all participants as they register. We hope that Colleague Connection -- Judicial proves as valuable to the judicial community as Colleague Connection -- Attorneys has proven to be for the attorney community. Click here to learn more about Colleague Connection -- Judicial.
TLC is proud to announce the opening of its statewide pro bono network. TLC is beginning to recruit volunteer attorneys to provide assistance to child abuse attorneys or to represent parties needing pro bono legal services in child abuse cases. You can help in this effort by letting attorneys know they can volunteer in this new way. Volunteer attorneys can help child abuse attorneys by mentoring them in basic trial skills or trial preparation or by providing many other related services, such as establishing trusts for disabled children. Examples of pro bono services for parties would include handling adoptions, kinship placements, custody disputes, and immigration issues. Any licensed attorney who is in good standing with the State Bar of Texas is eligible to be part of the network. Please tell attorneys about this exciting new pro bono opportunity! For more information, click on "Pro Bono" on the blue menu bar.
TLC is pleased to announce that we have entered into a contract with the Administrative Office of the Courts of California to create and host a website modeled after the TLC site for California's Center for Families, Children and the Courts. This is the first organization to enlist TLC's assistance in designing and hosting a similar site to benefit their child advocacy community. This marks a momentous leap in realizing our vision of a network of sites across the nation, together furthering the common goal of helping children through the sharing of information and best practices. If you are interested in creating a site for the child advocacy community in your state based on the TLC site, please contact us at 800-993-5TLC (5852) or email TexasLawyersforChildren@yahoo.com.
The Center for Public Policy Priorities ("CPPP") has issued a policy paper providing its analysis of whether Texas should privatize the state's foster care and adoption services. The Child Protective Services ("CPS") division of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services recruits, trains, and monitors foster parents and adoptive parents. Additionally, CPS contracts with private providers for those services. SB 6 required the department to privatize all of these services. The legislature is considering whether or not to continue this mandate. CPPP's paper considers issues raised by this mandate and expresses its analysis of privatization of these services. Click here to read the paper.
The Committee Substitute of SB 758 makes significant changes to the originally submitted bill. The original bill limited the mandate that the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services privatize case management services, which was implemented during the last legislative session via SB 6, to 10 percent of the cases in which the department has been appointed temporary or permanent managing conservator of a child. The Committee Substitute further reduces the mandate to requiring only that the department develop a pilot program for the competitive procurement of case management services in one or more geographic areas of the state with a goal of privatizing case management services in at least 10 percent of the cases. In addition, CSSB 758 also provides new definitions for certain terms, including "case management services," "substitute care services," and "conservatorship services." The new definitions give the department greater authority and flexibility. Click here to see the full text of the Committee Substitute of SB 758.
TLC is excited to welcome Dr. Nancy Kellogg to its new "Ask an Expert" feature. This feature is a unique way for TLC's attorney users to have access to outstanding experts across various disciplines. Dr. Kellogg is a professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and medical director of Christus Santa Rosa Center for Miracles and ChildSafe. She is a nationally recognized pediatrician specializing in child abuse.
Dr. Kellogg has agreed to answer medical questions about child abuse and neglect from TLC's attorney users. Her colleague, Child Abuse Fellow Dr. James Anderst, will assist her in answering questions. Just send your questions through Colleague Connection with the word "Kellogg" in the subject line, and we will deliver the questions to Dr. Kellogg. She will provide a brief response that will be distributed to all Colleague Connection participants. She may also refer us to articles or papers on the subject at issue. Questions and answers will necessarily be general in nature and not client-specific. Participation in this service is subject to all terms in the Colleague Connection User Agreement.
You may click here to view an article by Dr. Kellogg that was published on the editorial page of the San Antonio Express-News on February 4, 2007.
We look forward to benefiting from this outstanding resource.
On Jan. 22, 2007, the Center for Public Policy Priorities issued two papers written pursuant to the Home At Last Project funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts. The first paper, "Judicial Leadership and Child Protection," focuses on judicial leadership in child protection cases. It examines the limits of judicial leadership, especially in terms of extra-judicial activities, such as service on child advocacy organization boards. It summarizes the Texas judiciary's current involvement in improving child protection courts and suggests things a judge should avoid to remain impartial. Click here to view the paper. The second paper, "Lawyers and Child Protection," covers concerns with legal representation of TDFPS, parents, and children. It reviews the changes in Senate Bill 6 (2005) and suggests actions to improve representation of all parties. Click here to view the second paper.