Supreme Court of Texas
Permanent Judicial Commission
for Children, Youth and Families
Our mission is to strengthen courts for children, youth and families in the Texas child-protection system and thereby improve the safety, permanency, and well-being of children.
Who we are
We are a multidisciplinary executive-level group led by judges created by The Supreme Court of Texas in 2007 to develop and coordinate efforts to improve court performance in child abuse and neglect cases. We exist to improve the judicial handling of child-protection cases systemically through improvements in technology, training, and court improvement pilot projects. We administer the federal Court Improvement Program (CIP) grant that funds its projects and staff. (Click here to see the order creating the Children's Commission).
Justice Eva Guzman, Supreme Court of Texas, was appointed Chair in 2010 when our founder, Justice Harriet O’Neill, retired from the Supreme Court. Our members include officials from the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) and Child Protective Services (CPS), non-profit foundation and state bar leaders, private attorneys, legislators, judges and other elected officials, and other child welfare stakeholders. (Click here to see a list of members).
Our structure includes a 40-plus-member, general advisory group called the Collaborative Council. Members include foster families, attorneys, CASAs, parent advocates, and former foster youth. Representatives from institutions of juvenile justice, mental health and education are also included, as well as representatives from the private provider community, children's advocacy centers and many other child-protection and child and family advocacy groups.
Three standing committees – Basic Projects, Technology and Training – oversee issue-specific workgroups and projects. In June 2010, the Supreme Court formed an Education Committee to work toward improving education outcomes for foster children. In addition to CIP grant-funded projects, the Commission directs several other ad hoc committees and workgroups and numerous staff-led projects.
What we do
We oversee numerous projects and programs and one of our top priorities continues to be increasing communication and collaboration between the judiciary and Child Protective Services, and among other stakeholders in the child-protection system.We conduct weekly executive-level meetings to stay connected and up-to-date on one another’s activities and concerns, which furthers better understanding of our respective challenges and gives us a chance to brainstorm ideas and solutions to solve problems together. We have conducted or collaborated on several research studies to identify and eliminate barriers to moving children out of foster care and into permanent homes.
Why we exist
The state of Texas is the legal parent to some 30,000 children because of allegations of abuse or neglect. Courts play a critical role in determining their future, because once lawsuits alleging abuse or neglect are filed, courts become the ultimate arbiter of what happens to these children.
No child enters or leaves foster care without a court order. A judge decides where the child will live, with whom, and for how long. Every day, Texas courts decide whether a child goes home or to a relative, visits a sibling, or becomes legally free for adoption. Too often, Texas courts lack the resources necessary to make good decisions.
Although many organizations and individuals across the state share a commitment to improving our child-welfare system, until the Supreme Court of Texas created it, no multidisciplinary entity like the Children’s Commission existed at such a high level to coordinate and implement comprehensive efforts to improve child protection courts.