Legal Representation Committee
When a family is involved in a child protection proceeding, quality legal counsel is essential for all parties to ensure that the court strikes the appropriate balance between the rights and duties of all parties involved. The Children’s Commission has maintained a Legal Representation Committee (LRC) since its inception. The Committee exists to identify training needs, advise child welfare system stakeholders on best legal and judicial system practices, evaluate proposed statutory amendments, assess the quality of legal representation throughout the state, and help ensure that court proceedings guard due process, promote child and family engagement, and produce quality legal representation outcomes for the children and families involved.
Please visit the sections below to learn more about our current projects or the Reports & Resources page for recent publications.
In 2017, the Children’s Commission conducted an extensive survey and research project on legal representation. The study culminated in a report to the Texas Legislature in September 2018 entitled Supreme Court of Texas Children’s Commission 2018 Study of Legal Representation in Child Protection Cases. The study identified disparities in attorney compensation and performance, a lack of systemic oversight and accountability, and uncertainty about the costs, benefits, and burdens of a county-based system of representation. A primary recommendation of the study was to establish a task force on court-appointed legal representation which could make recommendations for systemic reform of the attorney ad litem/court-appointed representation system currently in place.
The primary role of the Task Force on Court-Appointed Legal Representation is to engage in dialogue with stakeholders and reach agreement on recommendations that can be presented to the Texas Legislature on the statutory and systemic reforms required to help ensure high-quality legal representation for parties involved in child welfare cases. The Task Force presents an opportunity to bring in external partners who can offer expertise in the design, creation, evaluation, and administration of different systems of representation. Crafting workable recommendations for reform will require a collaborative effort from experts in judicial, legal, legislative, and court administration fields. The Task Force held its first meeting in December 2019.
The Texas Bar Journal published an article authored by Children’s Commission staff entitled “Legal Representation in Child Protection Cases” which addressed the complex area of law governing removal of children from their parents by the state agency and the involuntary termination of the parent-child relationship, an area that is increasingly recognized as requiring specialized training and expertise. Providing legal representation to parents and children in child protection cases is an essential duty under Texas law, but providing high-quality representation with limited resources is a challenge both for courts and attorneys. The article referenced the Children’s Commission 2018 Study of Legal Representation in Child Protective Services Cases which includes the divergent perspectives from stakeholders on issues including attorney performance and accountability, what resources are most needed to improve legal representation for children and parents in CPS cases, and which reforms are likely to have the greatest impact. The article also announced the creation of the Task Force on Court-Appointed Legal Representation and outlined the Task Force’s goal of creating a shared vision on systemic change.