The issue of preventing child abuse and neglect is an ever-present concern, and the COVID-19 pandemic makes it even more imperative now to focus on coordinating prevention efforts.
Judicial and legal communities are well suited to address child abuse prevention. For example, judges, attorneys representing the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), and attorneys for parents and children can disseminate information in their communities to promote awareness of the increased financial and emotional stress on parents brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as information about available statewide and community resources.
Judges and lawyers may want to consider sharing the following statewide and local links and resources to help equip parents with helpful information during the pandemic:
- DFPS has created a “Help and Hope” webpage to provide useful parenting tips and resources as well as a page devoted to assisting parents dealing with COVID-19.
- DFPS also has a webpage with free Prevention and Early Intervention programs which includes a list of programs available by county.
- Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute has resources and information for parents and caregivers about talking to children about the coronavirus and about managing anxiety and stress.
- The Texas Health and Human Services Commission has resources on substance use and mental health, including managing stress and a COVID-19 page.
- Parents can contact the CPS Family Helpline to receive information and education in English and Spanish about the CPS process.
- All three Legal Services Corporation legal aid programs continue to provide services during the pandemic:
- Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas
- Texas LoneStar Legal Aid
- Texas RioGrande Legal Aid
- Texas Foster Youth Justice Project
- Aunt Bertha is a social care network where families can search by zip code for free or reduced cost services such as medical care, job training, and more.
- School Meals Finder is a tool to help families experiencing food insecurity locate the nearest school providing free meals to their students.
Other national resources that may be useful for judges and attorneys to share with their communities, colleagues, and clients include the following:
Because judges and attorneys play an important role in preventing child abuse in their communities, it is critical to recognize the particular challenges that working on the CPS docket bring to our professional and personal lives during this challenging time. Issues related to child abuse and neglect cases can be difficult to address on a regular basis, whether from the bench or from the counsel table. Additionally, feelings of anxiety and grief during a disaster are normal and can heighten the risk for burnout and secondary traumatic stress. Prioritizing emotional and physical health during this time is essential to properly serving children and families and to helping prevent child abuse and neglect in the community.
Texas Lawyers Assistance Program
(TLAP) provides confidential assistance to judges and attorneys who have concerns for themselves or for a colleague regarding general well-being, mental health, or substance use issues. TLAP can be reached 24 hours a day by calling 1-800-343-TLAP (8527) or texting TLAP to 555888. Additional
Well-Being Resources for Remote Living
are also available at