Materials published on the Children’s Commission website are helpful reports and resources for judges and attorneys handling child welfare cases and are intended for reference use only. This information not legal advice and does not represent the official opinion of the Supreme Court Children’s Commission. The inclusion of external links is not an endorsement by the Children’s Commission of the content associated with the resource. The Children’s Commission reserves the right to decline requests for the addition of external resources.

Recent Publications: 

2022 Tool Kit for Attorneys Representing the Texas Department of Family & Protective Services in Child Welfare Cases

Developed by the Children’s Commission DFPS Representation Subcommittee, the recently updated 2022 Tool Kit for Attorneys Representing the Department of Family and Protective Services in Child Welfare Cases contains legislative changes and best practice suggestions to update the original 2018 publication of the tool kit. The updated tool kit includes changes made in the 87th Texas Legislative Session and new sections on service of citation and notice, interventions, alternatives to removal, court ordered services/motions to participate, reinstatement of parental rights, the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA), and common abbreviations and acronyms. The tool kit also contains essential legal basics and topical chapters on concurrent and special issues related to child welfare cases including reasonable efforts, placement, visitation, and supporting older youth in foster care. 


2022 Tool Kit for Attorneys Representing Parents and Children in Child Welfare Cases

Developed by the Children’s Commission Legal Representation Committee, the recently updated 2022 Tool Kit for Attorneys Representing Parents and Children in Child Welfare Cases reflects changes made by the 87th Texas Legislative Session and includes new chapters on children without placement, court ordered services/motions to participate, medical abuse and neglect, and the reinstatement of parental rights. The tool kit covers essential legal basics at a glance, including pleadings, motions, evidentiary issues, hearing checklists, and related federal law issues. The tool kit also contains topical chapters on concurrent and special issues related to child welfare cases including child well-being, normalcy, dual status, incarceration, and trauma-informed advocacy.

Reports & Resources by Topic

Bench Book

The Texas Child Welfare Law Bench Book is available in the following:


Bench Cards

Bench Cards are abbreviated reference cards on specific hearing types and relevant topical matter for quick reference. Bench Cards are available in two formats: as one-page checklists without citations which are intended for easy use at hearings and as extended versions with statutory citations.

Bench Card Checklists without Citations:

Bench Card Checklists with Citations:


Bench Book Special Topic Chapters:

  • Disproportionality
  • Family Visitation
  • Education
  • Health Care for Texas Children in Foster Care: STAR Health
  • Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children
  • ICWA
  • Interventions
  • Permanency: 
    • Permanency Care Assistance (PCA)
    • Permanency Hearing Before Final Order
    • Permanency Hearing After Final Order
  • Trauma-Informed Care
  • Youth Voice & Normalcy: Extending Foster Care for Transitioning Youth

For more information about our work in disproportionality, please visit the Systems Improvement page, section Disproportionality.

For more information about our work in Foster Care & Education, please visit the Systems Improvement page, section Foster Care & Education.

Recent Publications: 

The Texas Blueprint:


Texas Foster Care & Education Collaborative Reports:


Additional Foster Care & Education Resources

Contacts:

Links:

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. 

Texas Appleseed, in partnership with Weatherford International and Baker & McKenzie LLP, created 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 about the Children's Commission's work in ICWA, please visit the Systems Improvement webpage, section Tribal/State.

External Resource Links:

In 2014, the Children’s Commission conducted an observation and data collection study, called the Hearing Quality Observation Project, involving 164 child welfare hearings held across Texas. The primary purpose of the project was to establish a baseline about the quality of court hearings occurring in child welfare cases in Texas, including hearing factors such as timeliness and length, depth of issues discussed, party and judicial compliance with the Texas Family Code, parental due process, party engagement, children’s appearance in court, attorney preparedness, and attorney and parent satisfaction with legal representation.

The 2015 National Center for State Courts (NCSC) Judicial Workload Study includes findings, a glossary that defines each hearing and case event, as well as a category type for each hearing type and case event. 

For more information, please visit the Legal Practice & Process webpage, section entitled Legal Representation.

Recent publications:

Tool Kit for Attorneys Representing the Department of Family and Protective Services in Child Protection Cases

Developed by the Children’s Commission DFPS Representation Subcommittee, the recently updated 2022 Tool Kit for Attorneys Representing the Department of Family and Protective Services in Child Welfare Cases contains legislative changes and best practice suggestions to update the original 2018 publication of the tool kit. The updated tool kit includes changes made in the 87th Texas Legislative Session and new sections on service of citation and notice, interventions, alternatives to removal, court ordered services/motions to participate, reinstatement of parental rights, the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA), and common abbreviations and acronyms. The tool kit also contains essential legal basics and topical chapters on concurrent and special issues related to child welfare cases including reasonable efforts, placement, visitation, and supporting older youth in foster care.

2022 Tool Kit for Attorneys Representing the Department of Family and Protective Services in Child Welfare Cases 


Pamphlet: Father's Rights in CPS Cases: What You Need to Know 

 The Children’s Commission Legal Representation Committee has completed a resource pamphlet highlighting fathers’ rights when involved in a CPS case. Modeled after the Commission’s What Does a Parent’s Attorney Do? pamphlet, the resource uses accessible language to inform fathers of their basic rights in child welfare legal proceedings and explains the different legal statuses for fathers. The pamphlet is available for PDF download on the Children’s Commission website. To request pamphlets for your jurisdiction, please contact the Children’s Commission at children@txcourts.gov.


2022 Tool Kit for Attorneys Representing Parents and Children in Child Welfare Cases

Developed by the Children’s Commission Legal Representation Committee, the recently updated 2022 Tool Kit for Attorneys Representing Parents and Children in Child Welfare Cases reflects changes made by the 87th Texas Legislative Session and includes new chapters on children without placement, court-ordered services/motions to participate, medical abuse and neglect, and the reinstatement of parental rights. The tool kit covers essential legal basics at a glance, including pleadings, motions, evidentiary issues, hearing checklists, and related federal law issues. The tool kit also contains topical chapters on concurrent and special issues related to child welfare cases including child well-being, normalcy, dual status, incarceration, and trauma-informed advocacy.

The 2022 Tool Kit for Attorneys Representing Parents and Children in Child Welfare Cases is available in the following:


Coloring Book: Sam and the Search for Spots - How Your Lawyer Can Help You

The 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 in a child welfare case. The coloring book was developed by a workgroup which included law professors, board-certified child welfare law experts, and youth with lived experience in foster care and is designed to help children and caregivers discuss what makes an attorney ad litem for the child different from other people in the child’s case and how the attorney can help the child during the case through counseling and advocacy.

This publication is available in two formats at the links below: to print on a personal device, and for commercial print.

For assistance or inquiries about this publication, please contact Jessica Arguijo at children@txcourts.gov.

Brochures Explaining the Attorney’s Role for Parents and for Children in a Child Welfare Case

These brochures explain the responsibilities of an attorney for a parent or child towards their client and how to resolve issues between the attorney and the client. The brochures are intended to be shared with parents and foster parents in child welfare cases and may be helpful for judges to have available in the courtroom and/or a courthouse library or information center.       


Publications:


Judicial Guide:

Standards of Practice:

For more information, please visit the Legal Practice & Process web page, section on Mediation

For more information about current projects, please visit the Legal Practice & Process webpage, section Parent Resources Workgroup.

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 guide is current up to the 86th Legislative Session.

The Parent Resource Guide is available below in English and Spanish: 

The following brochures explain the responsibilities of an attorney for a parent or child towards their client and how to resolve issues between the attorney and the client. The brochures are intended to be shared with parents and foster parents in child welfare cases and may be helpful for judges to have available in the courtroom and/or a courthouse library or information center.       


The Family Helpline

In 2017, the Children’s Commission partnered with Access to Justice and the Children’s Justice Act to fund the Texas Legal Services Corporation to establish the Family Helpline for Strong Families and Safe Children (“Family Helpline”), which provides easily available, statewide access for parents, family members, and community members to basic information, education, and resources addressing issues facing parents as they relate to CPS Investigations, the provision of Family-Based Safety Services, Parental Child Safety Placements, Chapter 34 non-parent agreements, termination of parental rights, custody, access, visitation, service plans, the court’s role in conducting hearings and oversight, right to legal counsel, non-offending parents, minor parents, incarcerated parents, survivors of family violence, intergenerational issues, and other variations of these situations.

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 child welfare case experience who can offer callers legal information and education, but not offer legal advice or establish an attorney-client relationship with the caller.

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

Beyond the Bench: Law, Justice, and Communities

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 Tool Kit was created to offer assistance in planning similar convenings and to inspire continued conversation about this important issue.


2018 Foster Care & Education Summit

In July 2018, Texas hosted its second Foster Care and Education Summit. The 2018 Summit provided an opportunity to look at past accomplishments, assess current challenges, and build momentum going forward. Teams attended from every region in Texas and they included advocates, attorneys, child welfare and education professionals, foster care alumni, and judges. Key themes included using data to drive decisions, engaging youth in decisions that impact their lives, approaching students with a trauma-informed lens, and creating a college-going culture for children and youth in foster care.

Materials:

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 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 six months following the event.


Child Protection Mediation in Texas

Family Visitation Round Table Report

Notice and Engagement Round Table

Parental Child Safety Placements or PCSP

Psychotropic Medication Round Table

Tribal State Collaborative Round Table Report

Youth Presence in Court Proceedings Roundtable Report

The Children’s Commission partners with or supports individual court efforts seeking to adopt specialized practices or programs. For more information about our work in child protection courts, please visit the Legal Practice & Process webpage, section Specialty Courts.

For more information about our work in Trauma-Informed Care, please visit the Statewide Collaborative on Trauma-Informed Care page. 

  • TraumaInformedTexas.com includes resources created in whole or in part by members of the Statewide Collaborative on Trauma-Informed Care (SCTIC) as well as resources from other state and national organizations.
  • Building a Trauma-Informed Child Welfare System: A Blueprint

  • February 8th Commission Meeting PowerPoint Presentation
  • Judicial Trauma Institute Videos and Materials - The Judicial Trauma Institute was presented live on April 22-23, 2021 via webcast. The content was designed by Commission staff in partnership with the Statewide Collaborative on Trauma-Informed Care (SCTIC) Training Workgroup and hosted by the Texas Center for the Judiciary. The goal of the conference was for judicial teams to gain information and discover practical tools and resources about how to become a trauma-informed and trauma-responsive court in CPS cases. Video replays and conference materials can be accessed on the Judicial Trauma Institute webpage.

Additional Resources:

The Texas Office of Court Administration (OCA) utilizes Zoom technology to support video conferencing for participating courts. For more information, please visit the Zoom Information and YouTube Support webpage provided by OCA. 

Children's Commission YouTube Channel


  • Prevention Before CPS Involvement - The majority of cases in the child welfare system involve neglect, which in some cases, conflate poverty and neglect. Families living in poverty are often faced with questions about resources for housing, mental health, food subsidies, parenting resources, substance use disorders, and/or job assistance. Resolution of these issues can also help maintain the safety, permanency, and well‐being of children. Prevention Before CPS Involvement: Supporting Families at Risk gives an overview of DFPS’s Prevention and Early Intervention services aimed at preventing child abuse and neglect at the community level and diverting families from child welfare involvement and introduces additional resources and community supports to further the goal of prevention.
  • 87th Legislative Session Update on CPS-Related Matters Video Replay

Topics

Effective Advocacy in the Virtual CPS Courtroom - On May 22, 2020, the Children's Commission hosted a 90-minute webcast designed for all practitioners on the CPS docket to share best practices when preparing cases and clients for a virtual hearing. Moderated by Hon. Rob Hofmann, Judge of 452nd District Court and Jurist in Residence for the Children’s Commission, panelists discuss topics including how to facilitate the client’s meaningful participation in a virtual hearing; how to properly elicit testimony on Zoom; how to properly enter evidence on Zoom; and how to review orders in a virtual setting. MCLE is available from the State Bar of Texas. To claim MCLE credit, please email CCTraining@txcourts.gov at the conclusion of the replay.

Foster Care & Education:

  • Understanding Support for Foster Alumni: Financial Aid, Enrollment Process & Campus Support
  • Enhancing Support for Foster Alumni: Financial Aid, the Foster Care Tuition Waiver, and Campus Support
  • Changes to Educational Services for Texas Foster Youth
  • THECB Tuition and Fee Waiver: The tuition and fee waiver in the Texas Education Code offers eligible young adults the opportunity to attend any Texas public institution of higher education without the payment of tuition and fees. The video clarifies the eligibility criteria for the state tuition and fee waiver and explains how the waiver can be utilized in Texas.

Judicial Webcast on Benefits of Utilizing Technology in Child Welfare Cases: On June 5, 2020, the Children's Commission hosted a one-hour webcast, “Benefits of Utilizing Technology in Child Welfare Cases,” designed for judges who preside over the CPS docket. Moderated by Hon. Rob Hofmann, Judge of 452nd District Court and Jurist in Residence for the Children’s Commission, the panel discussion includes five judges who share their experiences with virtual child welfare hearings and related silver linings. Topics include how to manage dockets and find an interpreter; greater child and parent engagement; the advantages of virtual mediation; an increase in attorney participation and preparation; and the benefits of increased frequency of family time (also known as visitation). Viewers will also learn about how all of these technological benefits can be used to advance permanency for children in care. One MCLE credit hour for the webcast replay is available. To claim MCLE credit, please email CCTraining@txcourts.gov at the conclusion of the replay.

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

Beyond the Bench: Law, Justice, and Communities Summit: 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. 

Youth in Court: Speak UP! Foster Youth in Court

For more information about the Children's Commission's work in youth voice and normalcy, please visit the Systems Improvement page, section Youth Voice & Normalcy.

Your Lawyer Works for You! What You Need to Know 

The Children’s Commission is pleased to announce a two-part video series designed for youth to explain the attorney-client relationship. “Your Lawyer Works for You.” The videos are a collaboration between the Children’s Commission and the Texas Network of Youth Services (TNOYS) Young Adult Leadership Council (YALC) and feature young adults formerly in foster care discussing their experiences with their attorneys, articulating basics about the attorney-client relationship, and helping youth understand how to resolve problems with their attorneys. The videos are available on the Children’s Commission's YouTube Youth Voice Playlist and the TNOYS YouTube Channel.


Helpful Resources

Texas Health and Human Services Commission, Foster Care Ombudsman:

For children and youth experiencing 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. Children and youth experiencing foster care may contact the Ombudsman by any of the following means:

  • By phone: 1-844-286-0769; Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. 
  • Online form: Foster Care Ombudsman Online Submission Form
  • By mail:
    Texas Health and Human Services Commission
    Foster Care Ombudsman, MC H-700
    P O Box 13247
    Austin, Texas 78711-3247
  • Website:  https://www.hhs.texas.gov/about/your-rights/hhs-office-ombudsman

Guides and Handbooks: 

Websites for Youth in Foster Care: 

CIP Reports & Orders

Additional Resources

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.


National Resources

Media

Texas Bar Journal: October Edition, Children / Juveniles

Texas Bar Journal Cover

2017

Children's Commission Celebrates 10 Years: Timeline Overview

CC 10 Year Timeline