In 2017, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 7 which included a requirement for the Children’s Commission to conduct a statewide study and to produce a report on legal representation in Child Protective Services cases across Texas.
Children’s Commission staff, working in concert with its Legal Representation Committee, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, and the University of Texas at Austin Texas Institute of Child & Family Wellbeing, designed, vetted, and distributed survey questions regarding the state of legal representation in Texas CPS cases. Perspectives from parents, youth currently in care, relatives, foster parents, attorneys, mediators, judges, and other professionals involved in the child-welfare system were solicited through these survey questions regarding the strengths, barriers, and efficacy of the current court-appointment system. The study received over 3,400 survey responses which were then analyzed, organized, and compiled into the
Supreme Court of Texas Children’s Commission 2018 Study of Legal Representation in Child Protective Services Cases
which is available in the
Reports & Resources
section under "Legal Representation" on the Children's Commission website.
The study findings provide valuable insights into legal representation in Texas CPS cases by offering a large set of responses from various stakeholders in the child-welfare system who are in a unique position to give feedback about their experiences. Chief among the findings is that Texas needs consistent, high-quality legal representation of children and parents involved in CPS cases, a meaningful system of oversight, adequate compensation for attorneys, training requirements and standards of practice, and an accountability process to ensure that attorneys who represent clients in CPS cases adhere to the highest standards of legal representation, thus fostering integrity in the legal process.
Quality legal counsel in CPS cases is essential for all parents and children to help ensure that courts strike the appropriate balance between the rights and duties for all involved. The study recommends that a Legal Representation Task Force be created by the Supreme Court of Texas or by the Texas Legislature to explore the best ways to respond to the needs revealed by the survey data.