Changes in Federal Law on Education Effective December 10 Affect Foster Children
On December 10, 2016, several changes in federal law that affect foster children go into effect as a result of provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a bipartisan reauthorization of the Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that was signed into law on December 10, 2015. First, the McKinney-Vento Act will remove "children waiting for foster care placement" from the definition of homelessness. Educational stability for children in foster care will now be covered under Title I of ESSA. Notably, ESSA will strengthen the requirements of state and local education agencies to collaborate with child welfare agencies to promote school stability for youth in foster care. Local education agencies and child welfare agencies must work together to ensure that children are able to remain at their "school of origin", as long as it is deemed to be in the child's best interest, and the agencies must collaborate to ensure transportation to the child's school of origin is available. To view ESSA in its entirety, please click here (for issues related to educational stability for children in foster care, see §1112(c)(5), pp. 58-59). To read the ABA Letter, dated May 25, 2016, that addresses needs for clarification and further guidance, click here.
To read "Non-Regulatory Guidance: Ensuring Educational Stability for Children in Foster Care", dated June 22, 2016, issued jointly by the Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services, click here
. To view a Dear Colleague Letter, issued jointly by the Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services, dated June 23, 2016, click here. To view guidance by the School Superintendents Association, in partnership with the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, about LEA responsibility under ESSA, dated August 2016, click here
. To view TEA's Administrative Letter, dated November 18, 2016, click here.
On Nov. 4, 2016, the Special Masters in the federal class action suit concerning Texas foster children submitted their recommendations to Hon. Janis Graham Jack. To view the recommendations,
The Texas Senate Finance Committee conducted a hearing on Oct. 26 regarding Child Protective Services. The Committee was quite alarmed and distressed at the fact that over 2,000 Texas children who have been reported as abused or neglected have not yet been seen by CPS investigators, including hundreds at the Priority 1 level. Committee Chair, Sen. Jane Nelson, demanded that DFPS Commissioner Hank Whitman produce a plan to address this emergency, as well as the emergencies with caseworker turnover and other issues, by Thursday, and he did so. The plan includes using Dept. of Public Safety troopers to assist with CPS investigations, adding additional staff, raising salaries, and ideas for increasing the number of appropiate placements. To view Commissioner Whitman's emergency plan, click here. To view various news articles with differing perspectives on the hearing,
click here for the Texas Standard,
here for the Texas Tribune,
here for the Dallas Morning News, and
here for KVUE Houston.
The Senate Finance Committee will conduct a hearing at 1:00 pm on Oct. 26 concerning CPS' plan to ensure timely contact with children at immediate risk of abuse or neglect and other proposals to improve child safety. The hearing will be held in Room E1.036. To view the hearing notice,
The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges is inviting child abuse and neglect courts to apply to become one of four new Implementation Sites within the NCJFCJ's Implementation Sites Project, which is a 3-project to provide child abuse and neglect courts with technical assistance and support. There is no direct funding provided to the Implementation Sites, but they will receive targeted training, technical assistance, and support, including on-site visits, a trauma assessment, and All-Sites meetings. Implementation sites are expected to implement meaningful change, evaluate progress, and share challenges and successes with other courts across the country. For futher details and to access the application,
The Family First Prevention Services Act of 2016 is currently pending before Congress. This Act would make sweeping changes to the child welfare system, including allowing states to use federal funds for evidence-based prevention services to keep children out of foster care. "Prevention services" would include mental health services, substance abuse services, and in-home parent training and home visiting services. The Act would also reduce "inappropriate" group home placements.by ending federal reimbursement if states "inappropriately" use non-family placements. The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges is supporting this bill, as is the Children's Defense Fund. To view a summary of the bill by the Chair of the U.S House Ways and Means Committee,
click here. To view the NCJFCJ's position statement,
click here. To view a position statement by the Children's Defense Fund,
click here. To view a position statement be several organizations on the requirement of clinical and nursing staff at residential treatment centers,
click here. To view the full text of the bill,
click here. To view a letter the Children's Defense Fund has asked organizations to sign to support the bill,
On September 12, 2016, the American Bar Association, Children's Advocacy Institute, First Focus, and the National Association of Counsel for Children are briefing Congress on children's right to counsel from 12:30-2:00 pm Central time. Panelists will speak about issues including, among others, child protection cases, immigration courts, and juvenile justice cases. The briefing is sponsored by Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA). To watch the briefing,
click here. To see a list of panelists and topics,
The Texas House Human Services Committee will conduct a hearing beginning at 9:00 am on July 12, 2016, in Room E2.030 to hear invited and public testimony on the interim charge to:
"Examine the Department of Family and Protective Services' policies and procedures, including prevention measures and resources, dedicated to eliminating child abuse and fatalities within the foster care system; explore ideas and strategies to increase the number of foster families and improve the delivery of services to children with high needs; review adoption policies, including disruptions, and make recommendations for possible improvements. Also, monitor and assess the continuation of foster care redesign."
To view the hearing notice, click here.
To watch the live broadcast of the House Committee hearing, click here.
On July 7, 2016, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the State's latest challenge to Judge Jack's appointment of two special masters assigned to make recommendations for implementing Judge Jack's goals for improving the Texas foster care system. The appellate court denied the State's Petition for Writ of Mandamus challenging the appointment, allowing the work of the special masters to continue. To review a news article about the ruling,
The Texas Supreme Court Children's Commission is offering travel reimbursement scholarships for judges to attend the HHS Cross-Systems Summit to be held on August 16-17 in San Marcos, Texas. The FREE Summit focuses on cross-system collaboration to address racial inequalities and service delivery in health and human services, education, juvenile justice, housing, and disabilities. To register for the Summit,
To review the Children's Commission travel reimbursement guidelines,
click here. To request a scholarship or for additional information, please contact Kristi Taylor by email at Kristi.Taylor@txcourts.gov.
Tiffany Roper, J.D., will serve as the new Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Child Protective Services. Prior to this new position, Tiffany has served as the Assistant Director of the Texas Supreme Court Children's Commission for many years, and her last day in that role is June 30, 2016. TLC congratulates Ms. Roper on her new position and anticipates that she will do equally great work in her new role as she has done in the past with the Children's Commission.
The Texas Board of Legal Specialization (TBLS) is taking public comments through May 31, 2016, to determine whether to recommend to the Supreme Court of Texas adoption of a new specialty area in Child Welfare Law. If you are interested in seeing that this area of law be included for board certification, or if you want to provide input on what the standards should be, it is very important that you send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than May 31. To read the letter from TBLS seeking comments,
click here. To view the proposed standards,
The Texas Supreme Court Children?s Commission is offering registration scholarships to attorneys for the Child Abuse and Neglect (CAN) Track at the annual State Bar of Texas? Advanced Family Law Conference. This track covers current topics of interest to Texas attorneys who practice on the CPS docket. The Advanced Family Law CLE 1-Day CAN track will be held live in San Antonio, Texas, on Wednesday, August 3, 2016, with upcoming video replays in Dallas on September 23, 2016, and South Padre Island on October 21, 2016. The deadline to apply is Monday, May 2, 2016. To access the application,
click here. To view the conference brochure, click here.
There will be a public memorial service to celebrate the life and legacy of Karyn Purvis, Ph.D., at 10:00 am on Saturday, April 23, 2016, in Fort Worth. For details about the celebration, click here. To read about the life and work of this extraordinary champion for children,
For many years Hon. Scott McCown (Ret.) has been a thought leader on issues concerning protection of abused and neglected children. Judge McCown has been speaking out about the current crisis in Child Protective Services. To hear a brief interview of Judge McCown by the Texas Standard,
click here. To read an op-ed by Judge McCown, click here.
It is with very great sadness that TLC announces that Karyn Purvis, Ph.D. passed away on April 12, 2016, after a long battle with cancer. Dr. Purvis was an internationally renowned child development expert and the Director of TCU's Institute of Child Devlopment. She brought the need for trauma-informed systems to the forefront of child protection work. Through her pioneering work, Dr. Purvis developed Trust Based Relational Intervention (TBRI), a highly effective approach to working with and healing traumatized children and youth. Her passing is a huge loss for children and all who help them. To read the announcement posted by TCU,
Gov. Abbott's administration has appointed new leaders for DFPS and CPS. Former head of the Texas Rangers law enforcement agency, retired Chief Henry "Hank" Whitman, was appointed as Commissioner of DFPS. Kristine Blackstone, who is currently the Deputy Director for Field Operations in the Child Support Division of the Attorney General's Office, will serve as Asst. Commissioner of CPS. To view a Dallas Morning News article discussing these appointments and reactions from CPS caseworkers and legislators,
On March 21, 2016, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the State's Motion to Stay the district court's order in the federal class action suit regarding Texas foster children. The appellate court accepted the class members' argument that the only immediately appealable order in the case was the prohibition against placing children in "unsafe placements" and that this mandate should be narrowly construed "as only precluding placements in foster group homes that lack 24-hour supervision." The class members had argued that beyond this one issue, the breadth of Judge Janis Graham Jack's injunction had not yet been determined because she would appoint a special master to make recommendations for implementing the goals outlined in her opinion and decide her further injunctive relief based on those recommendations. In a footnote, the Fifth Circuit commented that the appointment of a special master was not reviewable at this stage because the State had not filed a petition for a writ of mandamus. The Fifth Circuit concluded that "we find evidence supporting the grave problems arising from the lack of 24-hour supervision in foster group homes. As to that claim only, we find that the State has not made a showing of a likelihood of success in overturning the injunction." As to balancing the harm to the State of denying the stay and the harm to the class members of granting it, the Fifth Circuit held, "The public interest supports allowing the special master to proceed. Because the safety and rights of vulnerable children are at stake, and the immediate injunctive relief ordered is concentrated on a single, narrow mandate, the [cite omitted] factors weigh in favor of denying a stay. On the same day, in the district court, Judge Jack appointed two special masters, who were the candidates submitted by the plaintiffs. The special masters will begin their work on April 1. To view the Fifth Circuit's order,
click here. To view a news article identifying the special masters,
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, 2016. To view the nomination form,
Hon. John J. Specia, Jr. announced that he will step down as Commissioner of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services ("DFPS") effective May 31, 2016. TLC is saddened by this loss of strong leadership for DFPS, and we thank Commissioner Specia for his tireless efforts to protect children during his entire career and for his courage and innovation in working to improve Child Protective Services in Texas. To borrow the words of Judge Janis Graham Jack in her opinion in the federal class action suit regarding Texas foster children, Commissioner "Specia's career in child welfare and public service is extensive and commendable....Over the years he has received numerous awards, most recently the Texas Appleseed Award in 2014 for his impact in improving the lives of Texas's most vulnerable children." To view a news article about the resignation,
The Texas Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW-TX) has created a survey to solicit input on what constitutes a great caseworker at CPS. What skills do they need? What makes a good caseworker? Who are the people who can best serve children and families? The survey authors are particularly interested in getting input from the judges and attorneys who have contact with CPS caseworkers in their court cases. The results will be used to to advocate for funding and recruitment based on the survey responses. NASW-TX will collate and analyze the results and draft a report that will be made available to you, the public, the legislature, DFPS,and others. The data will be used to support smart hiring, training, and retention of caseworkers, in the hope of supporting DFPS as they continue to refine their process of seeking the best candidates to serve as caseworkers.
Please take a few mintues to provide your input to this important project. If you have any questions or concerns about the survey, please contact Will Francis, Government Relations Director for the National Association of Social Workers - Texas Chapter. He can be reached at email@example.com. The deadline for responses is Sat., March 5, 2016. To access the survey,
The State has appealed the Dec. 17 decision of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas regarding the Texas foster care system and has asked for a stay of the appointment of a Special Master. Both sides, however, have submitted names of their proposed candidates to serve as the Special Master, should one be appointed. To view a Dallas Morning News article regarding the appeal,
click here. To view a Lubbock Avalanche-Journal news article about the appeal and the candidates proposed to serve as Special Master, click here. Texas judges have written articles regarding the case and the appeal. Prior to the appeal, Hon. Darlene Byrne, current President of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, urged Texans to work together to improve the system, calling for "child welfare administrators, lawmakers, judges, social service providers, and others to do a better job of working together to find ways to help ensure that all the children of our state receive the safety, permanency, and loving care they deserve." To view Judge Byrne's article, click here. In response to the appeal, Hon. Scott McCown (Ret.), current Director of the Children's Rights Clinic at UT Law School, urged Gov. Abbott to "boldly call a special session to reform foster care and protect these kids." Judge McCown commended Hon. John Specia (Ret.), Commissioner of DFPS, (as did Judge Jack in her Dec. 17 opinion), and called him a "strong commissioner". Like Judge Jack, Judge McCown pointed to the lack of funding provided by the State as the root cause of the problems detailed in the Court's opinion. He concluded, "Convincing a higher court that our foster care system should be graded a D instead of an F, will not help our children....Instead of fighting in court while children suffer, the Governor and the Legislature should act now." To view Judge McCown's article, click here. If you haven't had a chance to read the court's full opinion, a recent article by Dallas Morning News columnist Jacquielynne Floyd includes details of the lives of 4 of the plaintiffs and calls the court's opinion "the saddest legal document I have ever read." To view Ms. Floyd's article, click here.
The Texas Supreme Court's Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth and Families is offering a free, hands-on Trial Skills Training for less experienced attorneys handling Child Protective Services cases in Texas who want to improve their litigation skills. A fictional CPS case and live witnesses are partnered with top-notch instructors to coach attendees through all stages of trial. For purposes of the training, "less experienced" means that prior to applying, applicants who take court appointments will have completed an average of 3 final termination trials as first chair, and applicants who represent DFPS will have completed 8 final termination trials as first chair. The course is being conducted in Austin on April 20-22, 2016. Space is limited to 21 attorneys who represent children, parents, or DFPS on the CPS docket. Registration is free, and travel reimbursement scholarhips up to $600 will be available to attorneys accepted into the program who must travel to Austin to attend. The Children's Commission will contact each applicant's appointing judge to confirm suitability for the training. The deadline to apply is 5:00 pm, Friday, January 8, 2016. For more information and to submit an application,