Resource Letter:

For Judges and Attorneys Handling Child Welfare Cases

October 4, 2022

Recently Released Reports on Senate Bill (SB) 1578, Children's Mental Health, and SB 1575

The Children’s Commission recently released three reports. Please reference the links and information below to learn more.

SB 1578 Report

The 87th Texas Legislature charged the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) and the Children’s Commission with the tasks of evaluating the use of the Forensic Assessment Center Network (FACN) and developing recommendations for further improvement. To ensure a full evaluation as required by SB 1578, DFPS and the Children’s Commission invited parents who had experience with the FACN, along with child and family advocates, Child Abuse Pediatricians, other pediatric specialists, judges, and attorneys who represent parents, children, or DFPS to share their experiences and insights.

After convening a Listening Session and Round Table meeting, DFPS and the Children’s Commission developed a list of joint recommendations. The recommendations address how the DFPS-FACN contract can be improved and expanded; where resources can be developed; what training can be provided; how data and information sharing can be improved; and what broader system improvements can be made. These recommendations aim to better align policy with practice and to ensure transparency and accountability for complex medical cases involving DFPS investigations. The final report including related recommendations was submitted to the Legislature on September 1, 2022.

Children’s Mental Health

On June 24, 2022, the Children’s Commission and the Texas Judicial Commission on Mental Health held the first joint commission Round Table Discussion on Children’s Mental Health. The Round Table discussion was moderated by the Honorable John J. Specia, retired judge and Jurist in Residence of the Judicial Commission on Mental Health and began with an overview presentation of the children’s mental health landscape in Texas provided by Executive Director of the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium, Luanne Southern. Invited guests included young adults and parents with lived experience, judges hearing both juvenile and child welfare cases, leaders from state agencies DFPS, Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), and Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD), attorneys, service providers, and advocates.

The Round Table discussion centered on children experiencing a mental health crisis, including increased numbers of children without placement in foster care and commitments to TJJD due to unmet mental health needs. Participants discussed gaps for systems-involved children and youth, current initiatives to fill those gaps, and recommendations for short- and long-term solutions. The recommendations generated fall into the following categories: Expanding Awareness, Training and Tools, Systems Collaboration, and Access to Services. This discussion was an important first step and the Children’s Commission and Judicial Commission on Mental Health look forward to continuing to partner with experts around the state to implement the recommendations included in the final report.

SB 1575 Report

Pursuant to SB 1575, the Children’s Commission, in collaboration with DFPS, convened a workgroup to examine the oversight of and best practices related to Residential Treatment Center (RTC) placements, including placements in Qualified Residential Treatment Programs. The SB 1575 Workgroup was given the charge to consider topics and changes to current practices which the workgroup determined necessary to ensure the appropriate use of and to improve the transition into and out of residential treatment center placements, including:

  • Statutorily required judicial review of residential treatment center placements;
  • Fiscal implications of additional judicial review for residential treatment center placements;
  • Methods for improving the state's practices regarding the duration of residential treatment center placements, including best practices for transition planning and involving family and other relevant participants in preparing the child for a subsequent placement;
  • Proposed statutory changes regarding appropriate judicial findings, evidence required to be submitted by the department, and recommendations for information to be gathered from the child's attorney or guardian ad litem; and
  • Model court orders determined to be appropriate for the legal requirements for a particular placement.

Through a Legal Subgroup and RTC Best Practices Subgroup, recommendations were developed in furtherance of this charge. A final report including related recommendations was submitted to the Legislature on September 30, 2022.

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For a complete list of Resource Letters, please visit the Children's Commission webpage. Information provided by the Children’s Commission should not be read as a commentary by the Supreme Court of Texas or any other court. The Children’s Commission website is not equipped to facilitate dialogue or conversation about matters related to the information in this communique. For more information about the Children’s Commission, please visit our website.