Attorney Resource Letters
Attorney Resource Letters are sent electronically on a weekly basis to attorneys across the state and include information on timely announcements, scholarships, upcoming trainings, along with updates on child welfare law and best practices. To view this webpage, link here: /training/attorney-education/attorney-resource-letter.aspx
NACC Fee Waivers for Child Welfare Specialist Exam and assistance with CWLS recertification fees
The Children's Commission offers reimbursement of the Certification Exam Fee for Texas attorneys and judges who successfully qualify for and pass the Child Welfare Specialist Exam. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In FY16, the Commission reimbursed all five Texas attorneys who sat for and passed the Child Welfare Law Certification Exam. Also in FY16, four Texas attorneys were due for recertification. All four sat for, passed, and were reimbursed for their recertification fee. The national pass rate averages around 80%.
Although the number of Texas attorneys who took advantage of the scholarship was less than the 14 that were eligible in FY16, the numbers are up from the one exam fee reimbursement received by the CC in FY15. NACC attributed the increase in the number of attorneys taking advantage of the Commission’s scholarship opportunity in FY16 to improvements in NACC exam messaging (deadlines, study aids, reminders). NACC and the Commission will continue to improve communication efforts in FY17 to promote an increase in the number of CWLS examinees in FY17.
NACC has identified the following numbers for potential CWLS scholarship opportunities in FY17:
- Re-certifications due in 2017: 7
- CWLS Applicants: 24 Commission staff is currently working with NACC to complete the FY17 grant application.
Keeping Infants and Toddlers Safe (KITS)
The Children's Commission provides support for the Keeping Infants and Toddlers Safe conference held in Houston each year and includes content for attorneys representing children, parents, and DFPS, and child welfare professionals.
On June 16 and 17, 2016, the Children’s Commission provided funding for a multi-disciplinary child abuse and neglect track at the annual Keeping Infants and Toddlers Safe conference, and Executive Director Tina Amberboy delivered welcoming remarks.
Regional Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) Attorney Training
The Commission provides funding to support the annual training for DFPS Regional Attorneys to receive continuing legal education on relevant topics. The objective is to ensure agency attorneys have access to current case law, trial strategies, evidentiary issues, forensic developments, administrative law, ethics and other relevant procedural and substantive issues. Approximately 100 attorneys and staff who provide legal representation to DFPS attend this yearly event.
This year’s conference was held on November 3-4, 2016 and attended by approximately 100 attorneys and staff who provide legal representation to the State of Texas in approximately half the counties in the state.
A survey was conducted after the training was complete and the responses indicated a high measure of satisfaction with the training, with Boots to the Bench, Detecting Child Abuse, and Criminal Prosecution of a CPS Case viewed as particularly successful presentations.
The next Regional Attorney Conference will be November 2-3, 2017 in San Marcos.
Texas Board of Legal Specialization (TBLS)
On September 30, 2016 the Texas Board of Legal Specialization (TBLS) advisory committee met to review the public comment to the proposed child welfare standards. A final draft was approved by majority vote and submitted to TBLS on November 9, 2016.
The TBLS Board approved the proposed standards with a revision grandfathering in those attorneys who (1) have been licensed for 10 years, (2) are currently board certified in family law, and (3) satisfy the task requirements in the Standards.
The advisory committee approved that revision, and the application for legal specialization in child welfare law has been approved by the TBLS Board and has been sent to the Texas Supreme Court for final approval.
Once the Supreme Court has approved the Child Welfare Law specialization, TBLS staff will format the online application and the process of writing the exam and administering the applications will begin.
The Children’s Commission has submitted to TBLS proposed members for both the Child Welfare Law Advisory Commission and the Child Welfare Law Exam Commission. The Advisory Commission will consider applications to become board certified in child welfare law and will have authority to review and suggest changes in standards going forward, and the Exam Commission will write and grade the exam.
Members of each commission will serve three year terms. The initial terms which will be staggered for one, two and three years in length so that as members enter and exit each commission, a core of experienced members will always be present.
As soon as the Child Welfare Law specialization is approved by the Supreme Court and the Advisory and Exam Commission memberships are approved by TBLS, work will begin on certifying applications and creating the exam, with the goal of administering the first exam in October 2018.
Trial Skills Training
Trial Skills Training is an 18.75 MCLE hour, hands-on training designed to improve the litigation skills of child welfare law attorneys in order to raise the caliber of legal services to children and families in child protection cases. It includes a fictional CPS fact pattern, with a complete case file covering all Texas-specific statutory hearings building up to final trial. It provides parent, child, and state attorneys litigation exercises in the CPS context, including lectures and demonstrations from trained faculty comprised of senior attorneys and judges, followed by personal critiques and coaching. Caseworkers, Pediatricians, and a Parent Therapist serve as live witnesses.
Each Trial Skills Training Course is limited to 21 total state, parent, and child attorneys. Participants are less-experienced child protection attorneys from across Texas who successfully complete an application and who have been recommended by their presiding or appointing judge. The participants are evenly divided into three groups: child attorneys, prosecutors, and parents' attorneys.
Materials are updated and new faculty is recruited and trained with each event. Extensive internal and external CQI is involved with each event. The Children’s Justice Act covers the cost of participants who represent the state in CPS proceedings.
Trial Skills Training is offered each year, typically in the spring and in the fall. Application information is sent to judges across Texas who hear CPS cases announcing the opening of the application period for this twice-yearly training.
For more information about the Trial Skills Training curriculum, upcoming training dates, and application information, please see the Trial Skills Training webpage.