The Commission's Basic Committee oversees a variety of projects that promote the safety permanency and well-being of the children in 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: Kristi Taylor, Dylan Moench, Monica Mahoney

The Children’s Commission participates on the 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, data collection, 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 due process, 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, 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.

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

When the Department initiates an investigation of a parent for abuse or neglect of a child and makes an initial determination that the child may not be safe with the parent, DFPS may allow the parent to place the child temporarily with a family member to help ensure the child’s safety while the agency completes the investigation or provides necessary family-based safety services to help prevent or eliminate the need to legally remove the child from the parent. To formalize the agreement, DFPS will often enter into a Parental Child Safety Placement, or PCSP. If the child and a parent move into or remain the same household, it is not a PCSP arrangement.

On August 28, 2015, the Children’s Commission convened over 60 child welfare partners to discuss the recent Department improvements to the PCSP process, assessment, evaluation, training, and policy. The Round Table participants also discussed challenges the Department and others have yet to address, and what additional practice, policy or legislative changes might be in order to more specifically address the appropriate use of PCSPs, the options available to DFPS when it must close its case and exit the PCSP arrangement, and the services and supports available to families during and after a PCSP.

For a list of resources, please visit Reports and Resources for more information on Parental Child Safety Placements. 

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 was created and is accessible in print and online. Additionally, the Family Helpline to assist parents with CPS legal issues is also available. 

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

The Children's Commission is committed to supporting child welfare system efforts to shift toward trauma-informed practice by working with DFPS and system stakeholders on the following:

  1. better identifying training needs for judges and attorneys;
  2. develop and promoting training and tools for trauma- informed care;
  3. continuing the focus on child well-being and permanency; and
  4. partnering in the various trauma-informed workgroups and collaboratives.

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. The Children's Commission continues its collaboration with tribal nations and system stakeholders to promote the work, and holds 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.

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 is working to include tribal judges and attorneys in all relevant legal trainings. Six tribal judges attended the 2015 Annual Child Welfare Judges Conference for the first time and were honored at a reception held during the conference. The Commission also hosted a tribal / state meeting with DFPS and the social services representatives from each of the three federally-recognized tribes.

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).