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Permanency Summit October 7-9, 2012 Hilton Bella Harbor – Rockwall, Texas Safety v. Risk: The Travis County Experience.

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Presentation on theme: "Permanency Summit October 7-9, 2012 Hilton Bella Harbor – Rockwall, Texas Safety v. Risk: The Travis County Experience."— Presentation transcript:

1 Permanency Summit October 7-9, 2012 Hilton Bella Harbor – Rockwall, Texas Safety v. Risk: The Travis County Experience

2 Interrupt, ask questions, please

3 Caveats and Confessions

4 I have to fight against thinking 1.The case is over when CPS is appointed PMC 2.Placement hearings are straightforward and easy 3.I have plenty of time to get it right 4.There is no danger, no risk, in placing or leaving a child in foster care 5.The child or youth need not be, even shouldnt be, present at court

5 You may not be able – or want – to replicate what weve done in Travis County But you may be able to make a change that does work in your jurisdiction

6 Work still to do in Travis County

7 1.Adjust policies and procedures to allow youth to lead normal lives and to remove the stigma of being in foster care 2.Locate or create lasting connections (caring adults) for youth leaving care – prepare them for leaving, starting at least by 16, if not 15 3.Push harder to consummate adoptions sooner rather than later 4.Establish ways to avoid the use of psychotropic medications, monitor them when prescribed, and prepare youth for their continued use after leaving foster care 5.Harness the knowledge and power of faith-based and civic organizations 6.Bring healing to children and youth in or leaving foster care – help make them whole



10 Edward died in 2009, just after his 17 th birthday

11 Robert, in 2011, just after his 13 th


13 During TMC, I worry about returning a child home and learning shes then injured or killed Im inclined to play it safe, to close the door to a return home

14 During PMC, I have to guard against playing it safe, closing the door to imperfect parents or families, leaving a child in foster care

15 There are risks in foster care - There is damage done, unintentionally, by our system There are reasonable risks to open doors so children can exit to legal permanency




19 Children Under Travis County Court Jurisdiction COS:197 TMC:737 PMC:304 Total:1,238

20 Travis County CPS Dockets Darlene Byrne (Lead District Judge) John Hathaway (Associate Judge) Texanna Davis (Associate Judge) 262, Status, and Permanency Hearings – Mondays and Fridays Placement Hearings - Wednesdays Central Docket (District Judges) Final Trials - weekly

21 Types of Hearings on PMC Docket Initial Placement Reviews -within 2 months of final trial Placement Reviews -generally, every 4 months Special Reviews -as needed, pending Placement Review

22 Types of Placement Hearings on PMC Docket Simple Adoption -5 minutes or less (9:00, 1 day/month) Complex Case -30 – 60 minutes (2:00-4:00) Basic Case -20 minutes (9:00-1:00 pm, 3 per hour) Special Reviews -15-30 minutes (8:30 and noon)

23 Why?

24 3 Suggested Factors 1.CPS 2.CASA 3.Judicial Leadership

25 CPS 1.Permanency Roundtables 2.PCA and kinship workers 3.TARE revisions and Project PUSH 4.PMC unit(s) 5.Shift in focus and philosophy

26 CASA 1.More CASA volunteers 2.Power to request hearings 3.Transitional Youth Specialists 4.Shift in focus and philosophy

27 Judicial Leadership: Pre-2007 Judge Scott McCownJudge Jeanne Meurer Long history of strong judicial leadership

28 Judicial Leadership: Post-2007 1.2007 – Judge Darlene Byrne assumed responsibility for CPS docket 2.2008 – Judge Darlene Byrne established Travis County Model Court for Children and Families 3.Ongoing – Judge Darlene Byrne empowers AJs to imagine and initiate

29 Lessons Learned

30 The Fierce Urgency of Now

31 There Should be Nothing Permanent About PMC Every Child Should Be Moving Off the PMC Docket

32 Parents Change Older Youth Will Often Return to Parents, Regardless Let the Youth Gain Information/ Prepare a Youth For a Safer Return Home

33 There Is Always Family

34 Every Child is Adoptable There Is No Such Thing as Long-Term Foster Care

35 APPLA Means Never Having to Say Long-Term Foster Care There Can Be No APPLA Without a Caring Adult

36 Permanency is someone to 1.Contact in an emergency 2.To see or visit when nearby 3.Spend the holidays with 4.Walk you down the aisle 5.Cheer when you get your PhD

37 A Youths Well-Being (Quality of Life) is Critical 1.Socializing with friends 2.Social media 3.Number of youth in home/facility 4.Contact with siblings/other family 5.School 6.Extra-curricular activities 7.Sense of control/lack of control

38 Words Are Powerful 1.PMC 2.Placement 3.Level of care Children and youth need to understand what were saying

39 Isolate and Focus on PMC (With 1 Judge, If Possible)

40 Hold More Frequent Hearings

41 Question Use and Dosage of Psychotropic Medications

42 Bring the Child or Youth to Court 1.In-person, if at all possible – video or phone in rare circumstances 2.Allow the child or youth to be present in the courtroom and to participate 3.Talk to the child or youth in chambers (door open, staff outside of door) 4.Assure the child or youth you will listen, but cant promise to deliver 5.Actively listen 6.Give the child or youth a sense of significance and control 7.Judges – do it for yourself

43 Keep Fighting the Good Fight With Passion and Urgency


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