Resource Letter:
For Judges and Attorneys Handling Child Protective Services Cases
March 15, 2019
Engaging Children and Youth in Court
It is axiomatic that children and youth must be involved in decisions that impact their lives. Efforts to involve youth in life decisions are beneficial to stakeholders as well as improving the attorney ad litem’s ability to advocate for their client. It also improves the judge’s ability to make good, informed decisions because the judge hears directly from the youth about what is important to them.

Youth engagement is also required by law. Chapter 263 of the Texas Family Code mandates that children and youth in DFPS managing conservatorship attend all permanency hearings. Specifically, Section 263.302 states that the child must attend each permanency hearing, unless the court specifically excuses the child’s attendance. The court must consult with the child in a developmentally appropriate manner regarding the child’s permanency plan, if the child is four years of age or older and the court determines it is in the best interest of the child.

Despite all that is known about the importance of including and consulting youth on their desires, experiences, goals, and concerns, children and youth regularly report that they do not get the opportunity to participate in the court process. Although there may be practical hurdles like transportation or missing school, creative solutions are available to ensure that youth maintain a voice in the legal process regardless of the circumstances.

Videoconferencing can facilitate children and youth’s participation in hearings when it is impossible or impractical for the child or youth to be otherwise present. Please link below to read more about how videoconferencing works or send an email to .

Also, there are multiple resources to assist judges with engaging children and youth. Please reference the following links for more information, practical tips, and additional resources:
  • American Bar Association Bench Card on Engaging Children and Youth in Court- The Bench Cards are organized by age group: Infants ages 0-12 months, Toddlers (ages 1-3) & Preschoolers (ages 3-5), School-Age Children (ages 5-11), Adolescents (ages 12-15), and Older Adolescents (ages 16+).

  • TNOYS Youth Engagement Toolkit- The Texas Network of Youth Services assembled substantial resources, tools, and information about youth engagement into an online toolkit.

  • Youth Presence in Court archived 9/11/18 webinar- Presented by Children’s Commission Staff Attorney Dylan Moench, the webinar gives an overview of the law and practical considerations for engaging children and youth.
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For a complete list of  Jurist in Residence Letters  and  Attorney Resource Letters , please visit the Children's Commission website. Information provided by the Children’s Commission should not be read as a commentary by the Supreme Court of Texas or any other court. For more information about the Children’s Commission, please visit our  website .