Tipsheet Answers Questions for Foster Youth to Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
Due to unique situations that often arise for foster youth, they may have difficulty knowing how to answer some of the questions on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This tip sheet specifically addresses how to answer various questions on the 2014-2015 FAFSA. To view the tip sheet, click here.
The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission (the "Sunset Commission") is holding a public hearing on the Texas Health and Human Services Commission ("HHSC") and the 5 agencies which are under it, including the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, on Nov. 13, 2014, beginning at 9:00 am in the Senate Finance Committee Room, which is in the State Capitol Extension, Room E1.036. Additionally, the state agencies under review provided testimony in a separate hearing on Nov. 12. The Sunset Commission has recommended extensive changes, including consolidating the 5 agencies which are currently under HHSC.
To view the hearing agenda, click here.
To view the Sunset Staff Report, click here.
To watch the live feed of the Nov. 13 hearing, click here.
To see the archived video of the Nov. 12 hearing, click here.
The Texas Association for the Protection of Children (TexProtects) has released "Understanding Texas' Child Protection Services System," a research brief that provides a detailed understanding of the CPS process and how a case moves through the system. The brief goes through the specifics of intake, investigation, family-based safety services, substitute care, and reunification. Included are several flowcharts of the system and a list of acronyms. Information on CPS practice and policy is current as of Spring 2014. To read the brief, click here.
Courts and child welfare professionals may submit general questions about the Special Immigrant Juvenile Program to the United States Immigration and Citizenship Service (USCIS) by email at USCIS-IGAOutreach@uscis.dhs.gov. Case specific questions should not be submitted to this address. For inquiries about specific cases, you may call the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 800-375-5283. Children who are present in the United States but were not born here, who may have been abused, abandoned, or neglected by a parent, may qualify for immigration protection under Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. A state court of competent jurisdiction must make specific findings to determine eligibility. For more information on assistance available through USCIS,
For more information about SIJS,
TLC is collaborating with the National Association of Counsel for Children (NACC) to provide you with a special opportunity to receive a Bronze Membership with the NACC for only $50 if you join by October 31, 2014. The NACC is a multidisciplinary organization that works to strengthen legal advocacy for children and families nationwide. Membership is open to judges, attorneys, and child welfare professionals. A Bronze Membership will give you access to the NACC's numerous resources, as well as a discount on the registration fee for their annual National Child Welfare, Juvenile, and Family Law Conference. For more details about the NACC's resources and information on how to receive this special discount,
New rules requiring child placing agencies that monitor foster homes to screen potential foster parents and caregivers more thoroughly became effective on September 1, 2014. In addition to past requirements for interviews, background checks and safety assessments, the new rules require an interview of a family member not living in the home, two interviews of other community members, interviews of all foster parents' adult children, assessing foster parents' relationships and finances, reviewing any law enforcement calls to the home for two years, and information about emergency caregivers. Agencies will be required to monitor major household changes. The rules resulted from an increase in fatalities among foster children in 2013. In 2013, eight foster children died due to abuse or neglect in homes, compared to two children in 2012. To view the DFPS press release about the new rules,
click here. To view the Revision Memo outlining the changes,
Providence Service Corp. of Texas has voluntarily terminated its contract to provide services for the State's foster care redesign efforts. The 5-year contract between DFPS and Providence went into effect on February 1, 2013, and covered services for about 1,100 foster children in 60 counties in West Texas. The contract included an opt-out clause for either party. DFPS will now contract directly with providers in that area as was done prior to the contract with Providence. To view the press release from DFPS,
click here. To view a news article about the termination, click here.
On June 24 & 25, the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission will hold key hearings regarding the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services ("DFPS"). The Sunset Advisory Commission looks at an agency's functions to enhance accountability to the legislature and to the citizens of Texas. The Sunset process affects how agencies function over the next decade. You can provide input to the Commission regarding DFPS by submitting the Commission's input form through Monday, June 30. You can also watch the hearings online. On June 24, the Commission will hear presentations from Commission staff, followed by the response from DFPS. This hearing begins at 10:00 a.m. in room E1.036 of the Capitol Extension. On June 25, the Commission will hear public testimony beginning at 9:00 a.m. in the same room. To view the agenda, click here. To watch the hearings, click here. To access the input form,
On June 6, 2014, the Texas Supreme Court issued an opinion that apparently would allow a termination of parental rights judgment to be affirmed on a ground not cited as found in the trial court judgment. The opinion in S.M.R. v. Tex. Dep't of Family Protective Services addressed the department's contention than an unfound ground, if "conclusively established" by the evidence, could be the basis for affirming the judgment. In the case, the trial court's judgment terminated parental rights on the endangerment grounds. The court of appeals reversed the judgment, holding that the evidence was insufficient to terminate on either of the endangerment grounds. (The Supreme Court held that the court of appeals applied the appropriate standard of review on those grounds.)
The department argued that the court of appeals could have affirmed on the (O) failure to comply ground also, even though the judgment did not make a finding on that ground, because the evidence at trial "conclusively established" the proof necessary to make that finding. The Court seemed to give the argument some validity by saying, "The Department next contends that the evidence supporting subpart (O), the omitted ground, is not only legally sufficient but also conclusive, an argument the Vasquez line of authority did not consider." The Court then goes on to address each of the (O) elements, saying that two of them were "conclusively established" but one was not because there was a fact issue. The inference is that if the department had shown that all three elements of (O) were conclusively established, then the court of appeals could have affirmed the termination judgment on the (O) ground even though the trial court did not make that finding. To view the Court's opinion, click here.
The Texas State Bar Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect is sponsoring a statewide child welfare law conference in Houston on June 18 and offering 6 hours of CLE for just $15!! Funding was provided by the Texas Supreme Court's Commission for Children, Youth and Families, among others. This conference, "Changing Lives -- Breaking the Cycle," is in collaboration with the Infant & Toddler Court Initiative of Fort Bend and Harris Counties, which is sponsoring the Keeping Infants and Toddlers Safe (KITS) Annual Training as part of this conference on June 19-20. Topics on June 18 include: "Warriors for Children," by Shari Shink, J.D., Founder of the Rocky Mountain Children's Law Center, a panel discussion led by TDFPS Commissioner John Specia, and break-out sessions for parents' attorneys, children's attorneys, and TDFPS attorneys. The conference will also provide a great opportunity to network with colleagues from across the state. Participants can register for one, two, or three days of the conference. To see the full agenda,
To register online, click here.
The Texas Supreme Court's Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth and Families is providing scholarships for a limited number of Texas attorneys to attend the one-day Child Abuse and Neglect Workshop at the State Bar's Advanced Family Law Conference on Aug. 6, 2014, in San Antonio. The workshop is sponsored by the State Bar Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect. The deadline to apply for a scholarship is 5:00 pm on Friday, June 27. The scholarship covers registration for the one-day workshop only and does not include expenses for travel or lodging. To access the application form,
Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, Joe Straus, has created the House Select Committee on Child Protection to study the incidence of child abuse and neglect fatalities in Texas and to make recommendations to protect children. Nine legislators were appointed to the Committee, which will be chaired by Rep. Dawnna Dukes (Austin) and will work in concert with the public members of the Protect our Kids Commission, which was created by the legislature in 2013. In developing its recommendations, the Committee is charged with, among other things, monitoring the ongoing efforts of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services and the National Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities, as well as suggesting improvements to the screening, assessment, training, and support of potential foster and kinship families. To view the full charge to the Committee,
click here. To view the Speaker's press release,
On Tuesday, April 22, 2014, beginning at 2:00 p.m. in Room E2.010, the House Corrections Committee will hear testimony on its interim charge concerning juvenile justice. The charge focuses on analyzing and making recommendations concerning outcome-based financing models that would allow the state to partner with private investors and innovative service providers to divert youth into cost-effective and successful programs and interventions. To view the hearing notice and the complete interim charge,
To view the hearing live, click here.
On Tuesday, April 15, 2014, beginning at 9:00 a.m. in Room E2.030, the House Committee on Human Services will hear testimony on its interim charge concerning Foster Care Redesign. The charge focuses on reviewing the impact of Foster Care Redesign on the child welfare system regarding matters including child safety, placement stability, permanency, and foster parent recruitment and retention. The Committee will also consider its charge regarding the affordability and efficiency of the Texas adoption process. To view the hearing notice and the complete interim charges, click here.
To view the hearing live, 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 9, 2014. Click here to view the nomination form.
On Feb. 18, 2014, Professor Vivek Sankaran released his paper entitled "Foster Kids in Limbo: The Effects of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children on the Permanency of Children in Foster Care." Sankaran is Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Child Advocacy Law Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School. He is nationally known for his expertise on the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children. In this paper he explains how the ICPC is unworkable and negatively affects children in the care of the state. He points out the lack of deadlines for home studies, lack of clear standards for evaluating potential placements, denial of placements for arbitrary reasons, and lack of administrative procedures for independent review of denials. The paper was written for the Annie E. Casey Foundation. To read the paper, click here.
On Thursday, February 20, 2014, beginning at 9:00 a.m. in Room E1.036 (Finance Room), the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services will hear testimony on its interim charge concerning Child Protective Services. The charge focuses on reviewing how the Department collects and uses data to evaluate agency performance and to improve outcomes for children. The Committee is also charged with making recommendations to ensure effective use of data to improve caseworker performance, as well as identifying and improving system deficiencies, improving overall outcomes for children, and reducing child fatalities. To view the hearing notice and complete interim charge,
click here. To watch the hearing live,
On Feb. 3, 2014, four Native American organizations sent a letter to the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice requesting an investigation into the treatment of Native American children in the child welfare system. The letter alleged violations of the Indian Child Welfare Act and the U.S. Constitution by state child welfare and private adoption systems. Allegations included the ignoring of tribal membership, failure to notify tribes when children are taken into custody, defying tribal placement preferences, denying tribes a presence in the courtroom, scoffing at Native American culture, demeaning parents and traditions, and using professional attorney networks to encourage circumventing of the ICWA. A high-profile U.S. Supreme Court case, Adoptive Couple vs. Baby Girl, 133 S.Ct. 252 (2013), triggered widespread interest in the ICWA when the Court ruled that the Native American child had to be removed from her Native American father and returned to the adoptive parents. To read the letter, click here. To read the case, click here.
Many child advocacy organizations have filed amicus briefs in Paroline v. Amy Unknown and U.S., No. 12-8561 in the U.S. Supreme Court. The case asks the Court to interpret the Mandatory Restitution for Sexual Exploitation of Children Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2259 (2012), regarding how it should be applied to viewers of child pornography. Advocacy organizations argue there is no difference among creators, viewers, or distributors of child pornography with regard to liability for restitution. The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children filed its brief to provide the Court with "the best understanding today of how the marketplace in child pornography and child pornography itself harms its victims." It argues that (1) creators, viewers, and distributors of pornographic images are all participants in the marketplace and all inflict pain and suffering on the child victims; (2) viewing of images inflicts harm even when the child is not sexually assaulted or abused, which harm is multiplied through the Internet; (3) child pornography is a tool for grooming victims; and, (4) victims suffer lifelong negative effects. To view the APSAC brief click here. The Dutch National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings and Sexual Violence against Children, a Dutch government organization that conducts research on human trafficking and the sexual abuse of children to fulfill the Dutch government's international treaty obligations, argues that the United States' treaty obligations must guide the Court's interpretation of the restitution statute. To view that brief click here. To view all of the briefs click here.
Following the retirement of Audrey Deckinga on December 31, 2013, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services announced the appointment of Lisa Black as the new Asst. Commissioner for Child Protective Services. Ms. Black, a 28-year veteran of CPS, was the Dallas-Fort Worth Regional Director for five years and most recently served as the acting CPS Director for Harris County since Sept. 2013. To read more about Ms. Black's background and appointment, click here.
LifeWorks Youth & Family Alliance opened a new affordable housing complex in South Austin on January 17, 2014. The 45-unit apartment-based complex, The Works at Pleasant Valley, is available to young adults transitioning out of foster care who are homeless or who are living in poverty. The complex is within walking distance of other LifeWorks services, including support, access to education, counseling, and job training. Click here to access the LifeWorks website.