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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.

Bench Book

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

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

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


Bench Cards

Bench Cards are abbreviated reference cards on specific hearing types and subject matter for quick reference. Extended versions with Family Code citations are also available. 

Checklists
Individual Quick Checklists:
Expanded Checklists (with citations)

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 below:

The Children’s Bureau requires states to engage in strategic planning and monitoring in order to receive federal funding from Titles IV-B and IV-E and various other federal laws and funding streams.

Child and Family State Plan. A five-year strategic plan that sets forth the vision and goals to be accomplished to strengthen a state’s overall child welfare system.

Annual Progress and Services Report. An annual update on the progress made toward accomplishing the goals and objectives in the CFSP.  Required for states to receive federal allocations authorized by Title IV-B and CAPTA, and Chaffee funding.

Child and Family Services Review. Monitors child welfare systems by assessing 7 outcomes related to safety, permanency and wellbeing and 7 systemic factors that include case review, service array, response to community, and foster and adoption licensing, recruitment and retention, among other things.

Program Improvement Plan. Directs the state’s plan to create the changes required by the CFSR Outcomes.

The Children’s Commission, as the Court Improvement Project grant administrator is required to participate and provide input to DFPS on the CFSP, APSR, CFSR and PIP.

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 Texas Blueprint
Texas Foster Care & Education Collaborative Reports: 

Additional Resources
Contacts
Links

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 about our work on issues in human trafficking, please visit the Basic Projects page, section on Human Trafficking. 

  • Texas Child Protection Law Bench Book, Chapter on ICPC

In 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 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 Study was in part an update to a more general caseload study conducted by the NCSC in 2007.

The 2015 Judicial Workload Study includes findings from the study, 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 on our work on legal representation, please visit the Basic Projects page, section Legal Representation. 

Recent Publications: 

Judicial Guide and Resource:
Practice Manuals:
Standards of Practice:
Additional Resources:

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

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


Updated January 2018

For more information on our work on Parental Child Safety Placements including the PCSP Roundtable, please visit the Roundtable Reports web page.

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

The Parent Resource Workgroup 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 Helpline 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): 

Online (Desktop):

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


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

For more information about the Statewide Collaborative on Trauma-Informed Care, please visit the SCTIC web page


There is increased awareness about the impact of trauma on the children, youth, young adults, and families that interface with the child welfare system. Building a Trauma-Informed Child Welfare System: A Blueprint is a framework for improving outcomes by creating a system that is trauma-informed and trauma-responsive and includes guiding principles and strategies that range from short-term to long-term in duration.

The Honorable Darlene Byrne, a founding member of the Supreme Court Children’s Commission, led a dedicated network of 100+ stakeholders through an 18-month process of developing the Blueprint. It reflects the work of professionals representing multiple systems and perspectives on how Texas can improve its commitment to helping children and families overcome trauma and build resilient, productive lives. On Friday, February 8, 2019, the Children’s Commission released the Blueprint, the first-of-its-kind in the state and nation.


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.


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. 

*Updated as of January 2018

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:

Monday - Friday 
8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. 


Guides and Handbooks: 

Websites for Foster Youth: