Dual Status Task Force
The Children’s Commission has worked since its inception to strengthen courts for children and families in the Texas child welfare system. Federal Court Improvement Program funds require a focus on child abuse and neglect but children involved in the juvenile justice system present with many of the same challenges and needs. The Texas Judicial Council recommended to the Supreme Court of Texas in 2018 that the Children’s Commission should convene a task force to study and report on issues relating to youth with involvement in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. The task force was formed to establish a common, statewide definition(s) for the population, identify resources needed to meet the needs of youth who are dually involved, and make other recommendations as may be necessary to improve outcomes for dually involved youth. The task force was directed also to address training needs for judges and other necessary parties on handling cases involving youth involved in both systems.
The Dual Status Task Force (DSTF) convened from July 2019 to December 2020 and was co-chaired by Judge Gary Coley of the 74th District Court in Waco and Judge Lisa Jarrett of the 436th District Court in San Antonio. The Task Force created six workgroups: Agency Coordination, Data, Definitions, Judicial Practices, Legal Representation & Advocacy, and Training. Approximately 80 subject matter experts from throughout Texas participated in the Task Force and workgroup discussions over the 18-month duration of the Task Force. Each of the six DSTF workgroups developed recommendations specific to their assigned topic. There was significant overlap as many of the issues are interrelated.
Members (July 2019-December 2020): Hon. Gary Coley, co-chair, Hon. Lisa Jarrett, co-chair, Julian Apolinar, Charles Batiste, Hon. Renee Betancourt, Kimberly Burley, Hon. Darlene Byrne, Angel Carroll, Wayne Carson, Sarah Crockett, Kim Dayton, Michele Deitch, Katya Dow, Debra Emerson, Hon. Dena Fisher, Teal De La Garza, Hon. Delia Gonzales, Quyona Gregg, Sean Grove, Anissa Johnson, Hon. Cheryll Mabray, Jill Mata, Chief Estela Medina, Rosie Medina, Brett Merfish, Kate Murphy, Hon. Valencia Nash, Kelly Opot, Cindy Patrick, Lauren Rose, Hon. Dean Rucker, Riley Shaw, Kaci Singer, David Slayton, Matt Smith, Stephanie Stevens, Kaysie Taccetta, Jeffrey Tsunekawa, Hon. Cyndi Wheless.
Staff: Jamie Bernstein, Tiffany Edwards
Dual Status Task Force Final Report (December 2021)
The Dual Status Task Force Final Report captures recommendations from the Task Force about what data, training, tools, resources, and practices may be necessary to better understand and improve outcomes for youth involved in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. The report represents an important first step to identify strengths and opportunities for continued coordination and collaboration to better serve children, youth, and families who experience these systems in Texas.
Texas Bar Journal
An article entitled “Two Doors to the Courthouse,” authored by Judge Gary Coley of the 74th District Court in Waco and Judge Lisa Jarrett of the 436th District Court in San Antonio, provided insights on the needs of youth involved in the juvenile justice and child welfare system, also referred to as dual status youth. Each system operates within a different framework, organizational structure, and funding mechanism. Often the legal system response is similarly fragmented. For youth, the complexities of system involvement are often exacerbated by interactions with more than one system at a time. The challenges also range from theoretical, such as whether the youth is considered a victim or a perpetrator, to practical considerations including how placement decisions are made. For the youth to be successful, collaboration between the professionals and caregivers is critical. Through communication and coordination at the state and local levels, both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems can accomplish the mutually reinforcing goals of safety and rehabilitation.