Bench Book on Judicial Considerations for Creating Child-Friendly Courtrooms Is Now Available
Children's Advocacy Centers of Texas, in collaboration with the Texas Supreme Court's Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth and Families, the Children's Justice Act Project, and the Texas Center for the Judiciary, has developed a Bench Book focusing on judicial considerations for creating child-friendly courtrooms. Recognizing that the judicial process and courtroom design present difficulties for child witnesses, this Bench Book discusses ways to facilitate child testimony and decrease the psychological trauma associated with court involvement for children. The Bench Book includes relevant case law and practical recommendations for judges and attorneys. The considerations provided are valuable ways to move towards child-friendly courtrooms that recognize the specific physical, developmental, and emotional needs of children while preserving the integrity of the judicial process. Click here to view the Bench Book.
On October 17, 2011, the BBC released worldwide the results of its months-long investigation of child maltreatment fatalities in the U.S. The report, "America's Child Death Shame," discusses the problem of child deaths in America by focusing on Texas, which has the highest rate of child deaths from abuse in the country. The report includes comments from several Texas professionals, including Audrey Deckinga, Asst. Commissioner for CPS, Madeline McClure, Executive Director of TexProtects ( Texas Association for Protection of Children), and Matthew Cox, M.D., Medical Director of the REACH Clinic at Children's Medical Center. The Every Child Matters Education Fund, one of the organizations participating in the National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths, noted that despite up to 2,500 child deaths a year in America, national media in the U.S. have never reported on the issue in as comprehensive a manner as the BBC has now done. The National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths hopes that the BBC's report will prompt a federal inquiry and a national strategy for combating the problem. To watch segments of the BBC report online, click here and then click on each of the various segments of the report to view all of them. To view the recommendations of the National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths, see TLC's Recent News item dated December 14, 2010. To learn more about the work of the Every Child Matters Education Fund, click here.
On Sept. 30, 2011, President Obama signed into law the Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act. It contains a provision from the proposed Foster Youth Financial Security Act that requires states to provide free credit reports to youth age 16 or older until they are discharged from foster care. The administration is preparing regulations for implementation of the requirement. Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI) is the sponsor of the Foster Youth Financial Security Act, which has not passed Congress in its entirety. Click here to view a news article about the new legislation.
The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) is providing several scholarships for its judicial training program, "2011 Managing Challenging Family Law Cases," which is being co-sponsored by NCJFCJ and the National Judicial College. The conference is being held from October 24-27, 2011, in Reno, Nevada. The scholarship covers the $985 tuition fee, and the participant is responsible for the $245 conference fee and all travel expenses. To learn more about the training program and the scholarships, click here.
The Center for Public Policy Priorities has issued a summary of new legislation affecting Child Protective Services. The summary notes that the 2005 and 2007 Legislatures overhauled the CPS system, including additional funding for caseworkers and services. It also notes that the 2009 Legislature continued reform efforts by increasing funding to keep more kids safe in their own homes or with relatives. CPPP concludes, however, that to a certain degree, due primarily to severe budget cuts, the 2011 Legislature lost the momentum of past reform efforts. The summary points out that although CPS fared better than most state agencies as to budget cuts, the 2011 Legislature slashed prevention and did not fund caseload growth. On the other hand, the summary explains that the 2011 Legislature did continue efforts to improve the structure of the CPS system through legislation to improve the parental child safety placement process, legal representation in CPS cases, parental involvement in service plans, and services for children in foster care. To view the summary, click here
Results of a study published in the journal Pediatrics showed an increase in abusive head trauma cases between 2004 and 2009. The study examined 422 diagnoses of children under 5 in 74 counties. The number of cases rose from 9 per 100,000 children before the recession to almost 15 per 100,000 during the recession. The article is entitled "Abusive Head Trauma During a Time of Increased Unemployment: A Multicenter Analysis." To view the article, click here.
The Center for Public Policy Priorities has issued a press release regarding Texas's ranking in a national study of child well-being. The 2011 National Kids Count Data Book, released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, found that Texas ranks 35th among the states in key indicators of child health and well-being. Of all children living in poverty in the country, one in nine lives in Texas. To view the CPPP press release, click here. To view the Texas Fact Sheet, click here. To view the Data Book, click here.
The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) has issued a news alert saying that it has learned of a nationwide protest that is planned for this Friday, August 12, by an organization called "govabuse," which is reportedly going to direct its protest against Child Protective Services workers, family court judges, and guardians ad litem. At this time, the protest is planned from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. outside courthouses in at least 42 states around the nation. The group's website identifies 12 Texas counties where protests are planned. To visit the group's website to see the list of Texas protest sites, click here. Current NCJFCJ President, Hon. Patricia Martin, was recently quoted in a Southern Poverty Law Center blog about the protest. Although the protest is billed as nonviolent, TLC wanted you to be aware of the possibility that this may be happening in your county. To learn more and to view the comments of Judge Martin, click here.
Sandra Hachem, Senior Asst. County Attorney in the Harris County Attorney's Office and a member of the State Bar's Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect, has graciously provided TLC with her latest update of new legislation concerning child abuse and neglect. This update dicusses new laws passed in the 2011 legislative session which impact child abuse and neglect issues and would be of particular interest to judges and attorneys handling suits filed by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Click here to view Ms. Hachem's legislative update.
The Texas Supreme Court's Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth and Families is providing a limited number of scholarships for Texas attorneys to attend the 34th National Child Welfare, Juvenile, and Family Law Conference sponsored by the National Association of Counsel for Children, which will be held from Aug. 29 - Sept. 1, 2011, at the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, California. The deadline to apply for a scholarship is the close of business on Friday, June 24. The scholarship covers registration only and does not include expenses for travel or lodging. To view the requirements to be eligible to apply and to access the application form, click here.
On June 20, 2011, the U. S. Supreme Court, in Turner v. Rogers, held that a child support obligor faced with incarceration for civil contempt is not entitled to legal representation. The Court ruled, however, that the state must ensure that "alternative procedural safeguards" are in place, such as notice to the obligor that ability to pay is a critical issue, a fair opportunity to present and to refute evidence, and an express finding by the court that the obligor has an ability to comply with the support order. To view the Court's opinion, click here.
On June 16, 2011, the U. S. Supreme Court held that a juvenile's age properly informs Miranda custody analysis. In J.D.B. v. North Carolina, the Court considered the interrogation of a 13-year-old in a room at his school by uniformed police officers. The juvenile was not read Miranda rights and gave a confession. The Court explained that a child's age affects his perception of whether he is free to leave, and ruled that the interrogators should have taken age into consideration in determining whether the child was "in custody" and, therefore, entitled to Miranda warnings. To view the Court's opinion, click here.
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) is requesting comments on a DRAFT version of a Request for Proposals (RFP) that it plans to publish in August 2011 as a final RFP. The DRAFT RFP is for DFPS' planned solicitation of proposals for the provision of a full continuum of residential child-care services for children in DFPS' legal conservatorship and for services to the families of those children. Comments to this DRAFT RFP are requested by no later than 4:00 p.m. Central Time on June 1, 2011. Comments received will be reviewed and will help inform any appropriate revisions to a final RFP.
To view the Draft RFP and instructions for providing comments, click here.
The Texas Supreme Court's Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth and Families is providing a limited number of scholarships for Texas attorneys to attend the one-day Child Abuse and Neglect Workshop at the State Bar's Advanced Family Law Conference on Aug. 3, 2011, in San Antonio, or for the video replays in S. Padre Island on Oct. 14 and in Dallas on Oct. 21. The deadline to apply for a scholarship is Friday, May 20. The scholarship covers registration only and does not include expenses for travel or lodging. To access the application form, click here. If you have not yet registered to use this site, please click on "Register" on the blue menu bar at the top of the page, and follow the instructions. Access is free to all active Texas judges and attorneys.
Sandra Hachem, Senior Assistant County Attorney for Harris County, who prepares summaries of pending legislation relating to child protection for the State Bar's Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect (the "Committee"), has updated her prior summaries to include bills filed as of April 11, 2011, and to note the status of many bills. This summary also includes Ms. Hachem's comments where there are items of possible concern or other issues of note. TLC thanks Ms. Hachem for allowing us to share these summaries with the judges and attorneys who use TLC's Online Center. Please note that the comments do not reflect the official position of the Committee or of TLC. To view the updated summary,
The Texas Supreme Court's Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth and Families is providing scholarships for approximately 80 Texas attorneys to attend either of the following two highly acclaimed national training conferences sponsored by the American Bar Association and relating to representation of children and parents in child protection cases: the Second Annual National Parent's Attorney Conference on July 13 & 14 in Washington, DC, and the 2011 National Conference on Children and the Law on July 15 & 16, also in DC. The deadline to apply for a scholarship is April 8. To view information about the application process and to access the application form, click here. If you have not yet registered to use this site, please click on "Register" on the blue menu bar at the top of the page, and follow the instructions. Access is free to all active Texas judges and attorneys.
A class action suit on behalf of the approximately 12,000 children in the permanent managing conservatorship of the State of Texas has been filed in federal court in Corpus Christi. The suit names Gov. Rick Perry, Texas Health and Human Services Commissioner Thomas Suehs, and Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Commissioner Anne Heiligenstein as defendants. The suit alleges that the defendants have mismanaged the Texas foster care system by failing to maintain a caseworker staff of sufficient size and capacity, by failing to focus adequate resources on permanency planning for the children, by failing to create an adequate number and array of placements and services, and by failing to adequately oversee substitute care, including, among other things, failing to ensure that caseworkers conduct frequent and quality visits with the children. The suit states that it "is the collective cry of Texas' forgotten children, now demanding to be remembered." To view the lawsuit,
click here. To view an article about the suit published in the The Dallas Morning News, click here.
The State Bar's Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect is seeking nominations for 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 many ongoing contributions to the field of child welfare. The award honors an attorney who has made a substantial contribution to the field of advocacy for abused and neglected children. The deadline for nominations is April 1, 2011. Click here to view the nomination form.
Sandra Hachem, Senior Assistant County Attorney for Harris County, prepares summaries of pending legislation relating to child protection for the State Bar's Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect (the "Committee"). These summaries include comments where there are items of possible concern or other issues of note. TLC thanks Ms. Hachem for allowing us to share these summaries with the judges and attorneys who use TLC's Online Center. Please note that the comments do not reflect the official position of the Committee or of TLC. To view the summaries of key bills filed through February 15, 2011, click here.