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The Commission's Basic Committee oversees a variety of projects that promote the safety, permanency, and well-being of children and youth in foster care. These projects are sponsored by the Court Improvement Program and informed by national best practices to improve outcomes for children and families.

Hon. Michael Schneider, Chair, Sarah Crockett, Mary Christine Reed, Carolyne Rodriguez, Tanya Rollins, Hon. Peter Sakai, Hon. Cynthia Wheless

Staff: Jocelyn Fowler, Dylan Moench, Tiffany Edwards

Round Table discussions are designed to address key, urgent issues affecting the Texas child welfare system through a half-day program that is facilitated by a subject-matter and legal expert. The topics vary year to year and the number of Round Tables hosted each year also varies according to the interest of stakeholders and issues demanding attention. The Children’s Commission’s role usually consists of forming a small workgroup to discuss the overall purpose, creating an invitation and distribution list, securing a venue, handling all invitations, RSVPs, and travel reimbursements, and producing a written report or paper within about 4 to 6 months following the event.

The Children’s Commission participates on the statewide Texas Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force and works with the child welfare community on issues related to child sex trafficking such as identification, services, training, and collaboration.

For a list of resources, please visit Reports and Resources for more information on Human Trafficking. 

Judges Cynthia Wheless and David Canales lead the Judicial Workgroup Addressing Disproportionality (JWD) created to raise awareness and understanding among judges and key stakeholders involved in the legal system regarding racial disproportionality. The workgroup develops and promotes judicial and attorney training on how to reduce institutional racism and bias. Additionally, the JWD partners with system stakeholders to include disproportionality in cross-systems trainingsand to connect judges and lawyers with their communities to develop disproportionality efforts at the local level.

For a list of resources, please visit Reports and Resources for more information on disproportionality. 

The Legal Representation Workgroup exists to explore various aspects of legal representation in Texas including the financial impact on the state and counties, policy and legislation that supports the representation system, outreach, education, training, standards of representation, timely and meaningful court hearings, due process, and high-quality legal advocacy.

For a list of resources, please visit Reports and Resources for more information Legal Representation. 

In September 2014, UT applied for a grant to help determine the best practices and cost-effectiveness of mediation in Travis County, Texas. This project also aimed to develop a cost formula and to provide a research framework and questions that can be used by other counties in Texas.

One goal of the project was to determine the costs of mediation compared to the full costs associated with cases that are resolved prior to mediation, at mediation, and at trial and to include costs paid by the courts and DFPS to handle the case, in addition to the cost of mediation, foster care placement, and other related services. 

The study was complete in November of 2015 and found that mediation saved the county and the state $1,494,696 annually by settling cases that might otherwise proceed to trial. Additionally, cases resolved during or after mediation concluded an average of 10 weeks earlier than those cases that were resolved at trial, reducing the amount of time children spend in DFPS conservatorship.

The Children’s Commission held a Roundtable on mediation in child-protection case on February 22, 2019. The Roundtable was attended by judges, attorneys, mediators, and other stakeholders from across Texas who discussed ways to improve and expand mediation in child-protection cases. A report on the roundtable will be published by the Children’s Commission in 2019.

For a list of resources, please visit Reports and Resources for more information on Mediation in Child Protection Cases.

The Supreme Court Children’s Commission and the Office of Court Administration host a CPS Hearing Notification service that uses non-confidential case data to provide hearing notice by email to and / or text message court participants (attorneys, CPS personnel, CASA, parents, relative caregivers, and adoptive/foster parents) involved in cases heard by our Child Protection Specialty Courts.

Currently, the tool is only available for cases heard by Child Protection Courts in the Child Protection Case Management System (CPCMS) application.

Once registered, the user can search for cases to which they are assigned or interested. The search will display a summary of upcoming hearing dates and a summary of all open cases regardless of whether a hearing has been scheduled. The user has the option to receive notices 1, 3, 7, 14 and /or 30 days in advance of any hearing scheduled.

For more information including instructions on how to register, please visit Reports and Resources, section Notice and Engagement.

*Updated January 2018

The Parent Resource Workgroup supports efforts to assist parents in understanding the Texas Child Welfare system, their role and responsibilities when involved in a Child Protective Services case, and the roles and responsibilities of others.

The Parent Resource Guide and Family Helpline are two projects created with assistance of the Parent Resource Group to further those efforts. The Parent Resource Guide was created to help parents understand the process of a CPS case and is accessible in print and online in English and Spanish.

The Family Helpline provides legal information to parents and other family members who have questions about CPS legal issues. 

For more on parent resources, please visit Reports and Resources for more information. 

The Statewide Collaborative on Trauma-Informed Care was established in July of 2017 to bring child welfare stakeholders across the state together with the goal of promoting and increasing access to trauma-informed services. On Friday, February 8, 2019, the Children’s Commission released Building a Trauma-Informed Child Welfare System: A Blueprint. The Blueprint provides a framework for improving outcomes by creating a system that is trauma-informed and trauma-responsive and includes guiding principles and strategies that range from short-term to long-term in duration. The Children’s Commission is currently organizing the implementation efforts and looks forward to continued collaboration among stakeholders.

For a list of resources, please visit Reports and Resources on Trauma-Informed Care. 

The Tribal / State Collaborative Workgroup was developed to further educate judges and lawyers about the importance of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), including the context of historical trauma and tools to assist with practical application of the ICWA. The Children's Commission continues its collaboration with tribal nations and system stakeholders to promote the work. Further, the Commission continually works to include tribal judges and attorneys in all relevant legal trainings including the Annual Child Welfare Judges Conference.

Collaborative efforts include monthly collaborative calls that have led to projects with an expert tribal judge, and Columbia Law School to better understand the Bureau of Indian Affairs Guidelines to the ICWA and traditional peacemaking principals that may be used in state court. The Commission also hosted a tribal / state meeting with DFPS and the social services representatives from each of the three federally-recognized tribes.

Effective September 1, 2015, Texas amended its Adversary, Status, and Permanency Hearing statutes to require judges to ask all parties present at each hearing whether the child or the child's family has any Native American heritage and identify any Native American tribe with which the child may be associated.

The Children’s Commission will continue to seek out opportunities to enhance tribal / state collaboration and increase understanding of the ICWA in state courts.

For a list of resources, please visit Reports and Resources for more information on the Tribal / State Collaborative and the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

The primary purpose of the video conferencing project is to enable children involved in CPS cases to participate in their court hearings without them being physically present in the courtroom. Appearing in person can be difficult due to placement, transportation barriers and the child’s needs.

Since 2011, the Texas Office of Court Administration (OCA) has overseen and managed a collaborative video conferencing project between the courts presiding over child abuse and neglect cases, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) / Child Protection Services (CPS) and the residential placement facilities under contract to the DFPS, to facilitate communication between children placed in these facilities and the judges overseeing their cases. In 2017, Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program offices in Texas were added to the list of facilities set up to accommodate private video conferencing between children and others. This allows CASA to conduct a visual meeting in place of an in-person meeting with a child placed outside the child’s home jurisdiction.

OCA hosts and supports the video hardware and software required to facilitate video conferencing, and access is provided at no cost to the participating courts and placement facilities thanks to financial support from the Children’s Commission. Video conferencing calls are conducted over a private secure link which differentiates OCA’s video conferencing network from a public network such as Skype or Facetime.  OCA maintains a log of calls placed and their duration.

For more information on how to participate, please visit Resources and Reports, section Video Conferencing. 

*Updated January 2018