Materials published on the Children’s Commission website are helpful reports and resources for judges and attorneys handling child protective services cases and are intended for reference use only. They are not legal advice, and may not represent the official opinion of the Supreme Court Children’s Commission. The inclusion of external links are not endorsements by the Children’s Commission of the content of the websites, or of their policies, services or opinions of the organization or individual. The Children’s Commission reserves the right to decline requests for the addition of external resources.

The online version of the Texas Child Protection Law Bench Book is available at the link below.

If you are a Texas judge responsible for hearing CPS cases and interested in receiving a hard copy of the Texas Child Protection Law Bench Book, please contact the Children's Commission at children@txcourts.gov.

Texas Child Protection Law Bench Book

The mobile version of the Texas Child Protection Law Bench Book is available via the LawBox app.

  1. Open the LawBox app
  2. Select "The Texas Children's Commission"
  3. Enter "children" for both username and password

LawBox download and set up instructions

Texas' two highest courts, the Supreme Court of Texas and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, spearheaded the Beyond the Bench: Law, Justice, and Communities Summit on December 14, 2016 in Dallas, Texas. The Summit brought together Texas judges, law-enforcement officers, and national, state, and community leaders with the objective of strengthening trust and confidence in our justice system.

The Beyond the Bench Toolkit was created to offer assistance in planning similar convenings and to inspire continued conversation about this important issue. The Toolkit includes video and details from the event which can be accessed here

*Note: Please check back for an update on the CFSR. 

The federal CFSR for Texas is scheduled for 2016. Part of the process includes a statewide assessment conducted by staff of the child welfare agency, representatives selected by DFPS who are also involved in the development of the Child and Family Services Plan (CFSP) and other child welfare stakeholders. Information gathered as part of the statewide assessment is used by the federal government to determine whether the state is in substantial conformity with the seven outcomes and seven systemic factors used to measure conformity with title IV-B and IV-E of the Social Security Act.

The Children’s Commission facilitated three stakeholder meetings on November 14, 2014, December 19, 2014, and January 23, 2015. Each meeting was attended by approximately 50 stakeholders representing the judiciary, child placing agencies, child advocacy groups, DFPS management, licensing, contracts, and administration, as well as personnel from the Administration of Children and Families. CFSR Stakeholder Group 1 - Case Review System; CFSR Stakeholder Group 2 - the Service Array and Agency Response to Community; and CFSR Stakeholder Group 3 – the Foster/Adoption Licensing, Recruitment and Retention, to include Foster and Adoptive Family Training.

Links to documents from each meeting are found below:

Case Review System

Service Array and Agency Response to Community

Foster/Adoption Licensing, Recruitment and Retention, including Foster and Adoptive Family Training 

The Protect Our Kids (POK) Commission, chaired by Judge Robin Sage, was established by Senate Bill 66 during the 83rd Legislative Session to develop recommendations and identify resources necessary to reduce fatalities from child abuse and neglect. The POK Commission included judges, doctors, attorneys and other experts in child welfare. They met seven times over a year, divided into four workgroups, and submitted their report in December 2015.

Protect Our Kids Commission Report

POK Report

 

The Protect Our Kids Commission Charge from the 83rd Legislature, SB66

  The commission shall: 

  1. identify promising practices and evidence-based strategies to address and reduce fatalities from child abuse and neglect; 
  2. develop recommendations and identify resources necessary to reduce fatalities from child abuse and neglect for implementation by state and local agencies and private sector and nonprofit organizations, including recommendations to implement a comprehensive statewide strategy for reducing those fatalities; and
  3. develop guidelines for the types of information that should be tracked to improve interventions to prevent fatalities from child abuse and neglect. 

Members

CPS Disposition Guidelines for Suicide Deaths

DFPS Presentation: Addressing Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities

Child Safety: A Guide for Judges and Attorneys Published by the American Bar Association and ACTION for Child Protection, Inc. – Developed by the National Resource Center for Child Protective Services and the National Resource Center on Legal and Judicial Issues

Child Safety Guide

The Children's Commission serves as an umbrella organization to promote collaboration between the judiciary, executive branch, and legislature regarding children and families involved in Texas’ foster care system. The Commission does not provide legal representation, render legal advice, or discuss specific or ongoing cases. 

All adults are required by law to report if they suspect a child has been or is being abused or neglected. To report suspicions of abuse, neglect, and exploitation of children, adults with disabilities, or people who are elderly (65 years or older):
Texas Abuse Hotline 1-800-252-5400, Website

To report judicial misconduct:
State Commission on Judicial Conduct toll free 1-877-228-5750 English and Spanish; Fax: 512-463-0511; Website

To report attorney misconduct, contact a Chief Disciplinary Counsel (CDC) office nearest you: 

  • Website
  • Austin: (512) 427-1350, or (877) 953-5535 fax: (512) 427-4167;
  • Dallas: (972) 383-2900 fax: (972) 383-2935; 
  • Houston: 713-758-8200 fax: (713) 758-8292;
  • San Antonio: (210) 208-6600; fax: (210) 208-6625

Texas Lawyer Referral Service can assist with finding a lawyer or other resource that matches legal and financial needs:  800-252-9690, Monday-Friday, CST, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm; Website 

To report a CPS worker: call Commissioner Henry “Hank” Whitman, Jr.  / Office of Consumer Affairs 1-800-720-7777, Fax 512-339-5892.

Office of the Inspector General:  The OIG is charged with integrity and accountability in the Health and Human Services Commission, which is the parent agency to DFPS. Any state employee or public citizen may report waste, abuse or fraud through the online reporting form or by calling toll-free, 800-436-6184.

To submit a complaint to the Office of Consumer Affairs about the actions of DFPS programs such as Child Protective Services, Child Care Licensing, and Statewide Intake: 1-877-720-7777; Website

For children and youth in foster care, complaints can be submitted to the Foster Care Ombudsman.  The Ombudsman is available to assist children and youth who report maltreatment in foster care and has the authority to conduct an investigation into individual complaints. Foster youth may call the Ombudsman Monday - Friday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm at 1-844-286-0769. Letters can be mailed to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, Foster Care Ombudsman, MC H-700, P O Box 13247, Austin, Texas 78711-3247; Ombudsman Website

The Texas Senate Health and Human Services Committee and the Texas House Human Services Committee conduct hearings on legislation that affects the DFPS and CPS. Public testimony regarding the agency can be provided orally or in writing during these hearings. Contact the committee to inquire further:

Senate Health and Human Services Committee Clerk: (512) 463-0360

House Human Services Committee Clerk: (512) 463-0786.


The Children's Commission routinely shares updates with judges and attorneys which include announcements about new changes at DFPS. Please see the Jurist in Residence Letter, section on DFPS for more information including how to join this email list. 

For more information on our work on issues on disproportionality, please visit the Basic Projects page, section Judicial Workgroup Addressing Disproportionality. 

Bench Card to Reduce or Eliminate Disproportionality, NCJFCJ Courts Catalyzing Change (CCC)

Recent publications: 
Bullying
Caregiver Resources
Collaboration
Confidentiality
Contacts
Court Information

Credit
Data
Discipline
Education Decision Maker
Foster Care and Education
Graduation
Laws

Please see the Foster Care and Education Law section found below. 

Links
Maps
Policies
Post-Secondary Education
Records
Response to Intervention
School Readiness
School Stability
Special Education
Tools
Truancy
Working with Youth
Youth Resources

Materials published on the Children’s Commission website are intended for reference use only. They are not legal advice, and may not represent the official opinion of the Supreme Court Children’s Commission. The inclusion of external links are not endorsements by the Children’s Commission of the content of the websites, or of their policies, services or opinions of the organization or individual. The Children’s Commission reserves the right to decline requests for the addition of external resources.

Federal Foster Care and Education Laws

Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008
Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)
Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
Uninterrupted Scholars Act (USA)
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Education Act (Note: these provisions will change in 2016 as a result of ESSA)

Many thanks to the ABA Legal Center for Foster Care and Education for sharing their federal law and policy resources!


State Foster Care and Education Laws

Homeless Youth Handbook (Online)
To request a hard copy of the Homeless Youth Handbook
Texas Homeless Education Office 

In 2014, 113,063 students were identified as homeless by Texas public schools. Homelessness creates serious adverse conditions for children and youth, including medical and mental health, lack of school stability, physical safety, food insecurity, risk of exploitation and trafficking, and substance abuse. Older youth in foster care are particularly vulnerable to homelessness because they may run away. Additionally, youth are often homeless within a very short time after aging out of foster care. Research has shown that about a third of foster care alumni experience at least one night of homelessness by age 26.

Texas Appleseed, in partnership with Weatherford International and Baker & McKenzie LLP, recently released the Homeless Youth Handbook. This handbook provides homeless youth with Texas-specific information about their rights, responsibilities, and available resources related to every major aspect of their lives, including education, employment, health, housing, parenting, and other major topics.

For more information on interventions, please check back following the close of the 85th Texas Legislative session.

Late FY2015, the Children’s Commission approved a grant to the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) to design and execute a judicial caseload study to develop a tool to collect data on court‐related and child welfare statistics, the types of hearings judges oversee, case administration duties such as docketing, data findings from CPCMS, travel as it relates to CPC judges, and other administrative tasks related to case management.

The result, the Judicial Workload Study, reports these findings and includes a glossary to define each hearing and case event, and created a category type for each hearing type and case event. 

Weighted Caseload Study: Judicial Workload Study in Texas Child Protective Services Cases

Measuring Current Judicial Workload in Texas, 2007, The National Center for State Courts

The Children’s Commission serves as the critical connection between Child Protective Services and the judiciary. No child enters or leaves foster care without a court order. For the 30,000 children in the care of the state, a judge will:

  • decide where the child will live, with whom, and for how long;
  • decide whether the child will be allowed to see siblings and other family members, how often, and under what circumstances;
  • decide whether a child's relationship with his or her parents will be terminated forever.

The Bench Book will be updated following the close of the 85th session. 

Summary provided to the Texas Senate, 85th Legislative Session

85th Session Legislative Update

84th Session Legislative Update

For more information on our work on mediation in child protection cases, please visit the Basic Projects page, section Mediation in Child Protection Cases. 

Mediation Judicial Survey Results, November 2016, Presentation at Child Welfare Judicial Conference by Cynthia Osborne, University of Texas

Cost Analysis of Mediation in Travis County Family Court, November 2015

Child Protection Mediation in Texas: Past, Present, and Future. University of Texas School of Law, Mediation Clinic, March 2010

Report Summary: Child Protection Mediation in Texas: Past, Present, and Future. University of Texas School of Law, Mediation Clinic, April 2010

Using Mediation Effectively in Child Protection Cases, June 2014 Presentation at CWJC by Cynthia Bryant and Cynthia Osborne, University of Texas

For more information on our work on notice and engagement, please visit the Data & Technology Projects page, section Notice and Engagement. 

For a list of counties with these specialty courts, please see CPS Specialty Courts.

To receive hearing notifications, first, set up an account by linking here: Hearing Notification Registration

Next, follow the user guide to set up notifications: Instructions for Setting Up and Managing Hearing Notifications

Report from the December 3, 2010, Round Table on Notice and Engagement

For more information on our work on Parental Child Safety Placements including the PCSP Roundtable, please visit the Basic Projects page, section Parental Child Safety Placements.

Parental Child Safety Placements Round Table Report, December 2015

Parental Child Safety Placements

Parental Child Safety Placements Presentation by Judge Scott McCown
Reducing Risk in Parental Child Safety Placements, Department of Family and Protective Safety

For more information on our work including current projects, please visit the Basic Projects page, section Parent Resource Group.

The Parent Resource Group 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. As a result, the Parent Resource Guide and Family Hotline was created. 

The Parent Resource Guide

The Parent Resource Guide is a handbook designed to help parents understand 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 is accessible in print and online in English and Spanish. Additionally, the guide is available for mobile users via the LawBox app.

For print (PDF): 

English   Spanish

Online (Desktop):

A searchable and mobile-friendly version is also available on LawBox and can be accessed below:

English        Spanish       


The Family Helpline

On January 31, 2017, the Texas Legal Services Center (TLSC) launched The Family Helpline to assist parents with CPS legal issues. The Family Helpline is staffed by experienced attorneys who refer to pertinent portions of the Children’s Commission’s Parent Resource Guide while offering callers live support in a one-on-one exchange. TLSC employs attorneys with CPS case experience who can offer callers legal information and education, but not offer legal advice or establish an attorney-client relationship with the caller.

The CPS process is explained to callers in concrete, easy to understand, and compassionate language. Parents will be given referrals to local resources that benefit children, families, and the community at large.

The Family Helpline is available Monday – Friday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and can be reached at (844) 888-6565.  

For more information on the Family Helpline, visit TexasLawHelp.org

Additional resources:

State Bar of Texas Texas Young Lawyers Association Guardianship Guide

Texas CASA Website

Texas CASA Residential Treatment Center Manual

Texas CASA Residential Treatment Manual

Video: Trauma-Informed Advocacy for Children and Youth in Foster Care

Following the Trauma-Informed Care survey and report issued last year by Texas CASA, the Children’s Commission, in partnership with Texas CASA and the Shield Ayers Foundation, created a one-hour training to help introduce trauma-informed care to Attorneys ad Litem, Guardians ad Litem and CASA volunteers. The presentation available by video replay below, includes strategies for advocating for children in courtrooms, schools, and placements to meet each child’s unique needs. There is also discussion about how trauma influences a child’s ability to communicate about the case and how to appropriately respond to a child's trauma-related behaviors. This training was recorded in front of a live audience at the Heman Marion Sweatt Travis County Courthouse on September 27, 2016, and was presented by Elizabeth Watkins, JD, Regional Attorney for the Department of Family and Protective Services. 

This training was recorded in front of a live audience at the Heman Marion Sweatt Travis County Courthouse on September 27, 2016, and was presented by Elizabeth Watkins, JD, Regional Attorney for the Department of Family and Protective Services. 

PowerPoint Presentation: Trauma-Informed Advocacy

Note: One hour of MCLE credit is available for this on-demand presentation which can be viewed below. Please email children@txcourts.gov for more information. For additional opportunities for MCLE credit, please visit the CLE page.  

Trauma-Informed Care Final Report, The Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute for Texas

Following the Trauma-Informed Care report issued by Texas CASA, the Children’s Commission, in partnership with Texas CASA and the Shield Ayers Foundation, created a one-hour training to help introduce trauma-informed care to Attorneys ad Litem, Guardians ad Litem and CASA volunteers. The presentation includes strategies for advocating for children in courtrooms, schools, and placements to meet each child’s unique needs. Other topics include how trauma influences a child’s ability to communicate about the case and how to appropriately respond to a child’s trauma-related behaviors.

Video: Trauma-Informed Advocacy for Children and Youth in Foster Care

Child Adolescent Needs and Strengths Assessment (CANS) and Family Strengths and Needs Assessment (FSNA):

The Texas Office of Court Administration (OCA) oversees and manages a collaborative video conferencing project between the courts presiding over child abuse and neglect cases, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS)/Child Protection Services (CPS), and residential placement facilities contracted by DFPS providing services to the children involved in these cases. 

For more information on how to participate, please visit the Video Conferencing webpage provided by OCA. 

Texas Health and Human Services Commission, Foster Care Ombudsman

For children and youth in foster care, complaints can be submitted to the Foster Care Ombudsman. The Ombudsman is available to assist children and youth who report maltreatment in foster care and has the authority to conduct an investigation into individual complaints. Foster youth may contact the Ombudsman at any of the following:

By phone: 1-844-286-0769

Monday - Friday
8:00 am to 5:00 pm at 

By mail:

Texas Health and Human Services Commission
Foster Care Ombudsman, 
MC H-700
P O Box 13247
Austin, Texas 78711-3247.

Website: http://www.hhsc.state.tx.us/ombudsman 


Guides and Handbooks: 

Aging Out: A Guide For Those "Aging Out" of Foster Care In Texas, Fifth Ed.

Aging Out Guide Online  

Foster Care Handbook for Youth

Texas Young Lawyers Association Strength in Unity 

Youth Presence in Court Proceedings

Websites for Foster Youth: 

LifeWorks

Texas Foster Youth Justice Project

Texas Youth Connection, Department of Family Protective Services Website