Dual Status Task Force Releases Report on Youth Involved in Both Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Systems
On December 10, 2021, the Supreme Court of Texas Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth, and Families released the Dual Status Task Force Final Report, with recommendations regarding youth who are involved in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. The task force, appointed by the commission at the request of the Texas Judicial Council, met for 18 months. The report adopts the terms "dual status" and "dual system" to describe youth who are also known as "crossover youth." The task force makes recommendations on data gathering; training of judges, staff, and attorneys; tools and resources; and new practices in an effort to improve outcomes for dual status youth. The report is just the first step toward a coherent statewide approach. To read the report, click here.
The Supreme Court Children's Commission Legal Representation Committee created a coloring book designed to help children ages 6-12 understand the role of an attorney ad litem for a child and the attorney-client relationship. The coloring book, Sam and the Search for Spots - How Your Lawyer Can Help You, was developed by a work group which included law professors, board-certified child welfare law experts, and youth formerly in foster care. The goal of this publication is to facilitate discussion and understanding between children, caregivers, and attorneys about what differentiates an attorney from other people in the child's case and how the attorney can help the child client.This publication is available in two formats. For 8.5x11 Standard Print (for at home or office use),
click here. For 12x18 Commercial Printer Spreads (for commercial printing),
click here. For assistance or inquiries about this publication, please contact the Children's Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On September 13, 2021, the Court Monitors in M.D. v. Abbott filed their report on safety concerns regarding children without placement and the foster care capacity crisis. The Monitors summarized their findings by saying, "As detailed in this report, the Monitors found substantial risks to children's safety associated with Texas's decision to continue housing children in unregulated CWOP Settings, such as offices,
unlicensed facilities and cottages, or in hotels and motels. The monitoring team's interviews with
PMC children and supervising DFPS staff in CWOP Settings, as well as extensive reviews of State records, confirm that by housing children in these unregulated settings, Texas has assigned children to caregivers who are overburdened and not well-trained to ensure their safety, placing them at an unreasonable risk of serious harm." On September 14, 2021, Judge Jack conducted a hearing in which she responded to DFPS' claim that her orders created the capacity crisis. According to the Dallas Morning News, Judge Jack "ripped Texas for failing to police bad foster care providers and then blaming her orders for a subsequent bed shortage after she forced the state to act." To review the Court Monitors' Report,
click here. To review the Dallas Morning News article,
click here. To review other articles on safety concerns and the capacity crisis,
click here and
The Texas Supreme Court Children's Commission is offering judicial and attorney scholarships to two summer conferences in 2021. One scholarship is for the registration fee for the one-day Child Abuse and Neglect Track at the State Bar's Advanced Family Law Course, conducted by the Child Protection Law Section, live in San Antonio on August 4, 2021, or for one of the online replays in September and October. The other scholarship is for the registration fee for the virtual portion of the annual conference of the National Association of Counsel for Children on August 16-18, 2021. The deadline to apply for these scholarships is 11:59 pm on July 2, 2021. For further details and to access the application form,
On December 27, 2020, the Consolidated Appropriations Act became law, in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Significant provisions affect child welfare law, including extended benefits for foster youth and recently aged-out foster youth. Texas Lawyers for Children has added important new resources to our Online Resource Center to assist you in guiding your older youth foster care clients in gaining access to increased benefits and removal of restrictions for aging out youth. To access the resources, on the TLC home page go to Resources, Browse by Topic, Consolidated Appropriations Act. Benefits include: a moratorium on foster youth aging out of care until September 30, 2021; an opportunity for re-entry to foster care for youth who aged out since April 1, 2020, with no upper age limit; extended age limits for Education and Training Vouchers and increase in individual awards; lifting of education and employment restrictions on a youth to remain eligible for IV-E foster care funding; housing and driving education benefits; increased cash and services for foster youth housing, food, technology, and employment; and, the ability to apply for housing assistance before aging out and extension of housing vouchers. The explanatory documents in the Online Center include summaries of child welfare provisions in the act, tip sheets, and guidance memoranda from the Children's Bureau.
On March 5, 2021, the Texas Supreme Court issued its Thirty-sixth Emergency Order Regarding the COVID-19 State of Disaster. This order renews and amends the Court?s thirty-third emergency order issued in 2020. It allows Texas courts to conduct in-person jury and non-jury proceedings if the local administrative judge or municipal court presiding judge adopts minimum standard health protocols and an in-person proceeding schedule for all judges. A judge may conduct an in-person jury proceeding if five conditions are met, including: obtaining prior approval from the local administrative or presiding municipal judge; considering objections to the proceeding seven days prior; establishing protocols to ensure participants do not have COVID symptoms; including with the jury summons information on safety protocols and a COVID questionnaire; and, excusing jurors who confirm infection or exposure. Other provisions are in the order regarding visitation schedules and disciplinary proceedings. An advisory from the court precedes the order. To view the advisory and order, click here.
On December 18, 2020, the federal district court in M.D. v. Abbott issued an Order of Contempt, finding that the State has violated certain provisions of the court's remedial order and has continued to subject the children in the permanent managing conservatorship of the State to an unreasonable risk of serious harm. The violations include failures to timely investigate abuse and neglect allegations for children in foster care, lack of communication between HHSC and DFPS and within DFPS that hindered efforts to ensure child safety, erroneously ruling out abuse/neglect allegations, and allowing facilities to remain open that had been deemed unsafe for children in foster care. To read the lengthy December 18 Order, which the judge stated she wrote because "the children deserve nothing less," click here. To read a Dallas Morning News article summarizing the Order, click here. For many of the violations, the district judge did not apply sanctions, but required the State to submit a Certification of Compliance within 30 days of the Order and decided that any sanctions would be decided at a later hearing, set for May 5, 2021. For Remedial Order #22 ("Failure to implement a credible system for considering a licensed provider's history as to allegations of abuse and neglect"), the court required a Certificate of Compliance (with accompanying documentation) within 15 days, or sanctions of $75,0000/day would be applied. This Certification was filed on December 31, 2021. Governor Abbott has instructed the Commissioners of HHSC and DFPS to comply with the court's orders. As previously discussed, the Court Monitors issued their Report in June 2020 and concluded that "Texas's overdue, incomplete, and at times, incompetent investigations of child abuse or neglect betray the State's special relationship with, and responsibility to children, placing them at risk of future harm by perpetrators whose maltreatment of children goes unchecked. . . . . .The problem is systemic and enduring . . . as children's safety hangs in the balance." Id. To view the complete report, please see the Recent News item dated June 16, 2020.