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Earlier Parental Representation: Engaging Parents in Child Welfare Cases. Judge Darlene Byrne Travis County Model Court for Children and Families Vivek S. Sankaran Clinical Assistant Professor of Law, University of Michigan Law School October 22, 2010. Parent Representation Pilot Project.

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earlier parental representation engaging parents in child welfare cases
Earlier ParentalRepresentation:Engaging Parents inChild Welfare Cases
  • Judge Darlene Byrne
    • Travis County Model Court for Children and Families
  • Vivek S. Sankaran
    • Clinical Assistant Professor of Law, University of Michigan Law School

October 22, 2010

parent representation pilot project

Parent Representation Pilot Project

A Project of the Travis County Model Court for Children and Families

Lead Judge, Darlene Byrne

background travis county tx
Background – Travis County, TX
  • Many parents’ first contact with the court system is the first court hearing, which occurs 14 days after the removal of the child.
  • In majority of cases, that’s when parents request appointed attorney.
  • Indigency/Eligibility is usually determined at that 1st hearing.
background travis county tx1
Background – Travis County, TX
  • For Parents, we have:
    • Travis County Office of Parental Representation
      • 4 Attorneys & Support staff
      • Usually Represent the Primary Parent
    • Private Attorney Appointment Wheel
      • 30-40 Attorneys
      • Subset of these attorneys were trained to take cases off the Pilot Project
why early appointment
Why Early Appointment?
  • OJJDP says:
  • “The earlier the appointment occurs, the sooner the interests of the parent begin to be represented. Early appointment may enable the case to proceed faster, minimizing the length of separation between parent and child and clearing the way for delivery of needed services earlier rather than later.”i]
  • [i] U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Court Performance Measures in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases: Technical Guide, Published December 2008, From “Measure 3D: Early Appointment of Counsel for Parents”, page 104. Available online at: http://www.ojjdp.ncjrs.gov/publications/courttoolkit.html
tracking appointments
Tracking Appointments
  • PM 3D – Early Appointment of Counsel for Parents
  • Measures how early parents’ advocates are appointed and whether these appointments are made early enough in the process to allow for meaningful participation in the first hearing.[i]
  • [i] See Generally “Measure 3D: Early Appointment of Counsel for Parents” Court Performance Measures in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases: Technical Guide, Published December 2008 by U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, available online at: http://www.ojjdp.ncjrs.gov/publications/courttoolkit.html
q s what are benefits of early appointments
Q’s - What are Benefits of Early Appointments ?
  • more informed decision making?
  • improved parent understanding and involvement in the filed case?
  • improved family finding efforts earlier in the case?
  • reduced impact of disproportionality in the child welfare system in Travis County?
  • cost savings to the taxpayers of the County in the area of legal fees paid for indigent representation?
in a nutshell
In a Nutshell
  • The Parent Representation Pilot Project is an Effort to assign pilot project attorneys to all parents named in a CPS petition as quickly as possible after the signing of the order authorizing removal of the child or court-ordered services.
history of pilot project
History of Pilot Project
  • Started in September, 2009
    • Initially was to Expire in October, 2009
  • Continued through April, 2010
  • Total of 70 cases and 151 Parent Appointments.
pilot appointments are limited in scope
Pilot Appointments are Limited in Scope
  • These pilot project attorney appointments are limited in scope to allow only for consultation with the parent client regarding their eligibility for appointed counsel.
appointment ltd in scope
Appointment Ltd in Scope
  • ONLY for purpose of consultation regarding eligibility for an attorney under Texas Family Code § 107.013.
  • Includes assistance with completing an affidavit of indigence.
appointment ltd in scope1
Appointment Ltd in Scope
  • Does NOT include:
    • filing of an answer
    • any other action, appearance, or representation taken beyond the presentation of an Affidavit of Indigence to the Court; or
    • any in-court appearance.
appointment ltd in duration
Appointment Ltd in Duration

EXPIRES AUTOMATICALLY at 8:00am on the Morning of the First Hearing

pilot appointment can become full appointment
Pilot Appointment can become Full Appointment
  • If the parent is eligible for an appointed attorney, the pilot project creates a mechanism to allow full appointment to be made easier and more quickly.
  • Parent can arrive at the First Hearing prepared with counsel
how it works
How it Works
  • Every Day at around 2:00pm, Judge Byrne holds Ex Parte Hearings on CPS cases.
  • All parents named in the Petition (including Alleged Fathers and Presumed fathers) are provided a Pilot Project Attorney.
certain cases excluded
Certain Cases Excluded:
  • the Department is only seeking an Order in Aid of Investigation;
  • the allegations are a Refusal to Accept Parental Responsibility;
  • the reason for the allegations of abuse or neglect result in a simultaneous criminal investigation; or
  • Judge Byrne does not preside over the ex parte hearing.
how appointments are made in the pilot
How Appointments are Made in the Pilot
  • Primary Parents are assigned to OPR on a Pilot Basis.
  • All other parents named in the Petition are assigned an attorney from a List of Pilot Project Attorneys.
notification of appointment
Notification of Appointment
  • Judge Byrne or staff notifies the District Attorney’s office, the OPR, each appointed pilot project attorney and the AAL of these attorney appointments, usually SAME DAY.
  • The District Attorney’s office emails electronic versions of the relevant pleadings in each case to all appointed counsel and the court.
actions by pilot attorney
Actions by Pilot Attorney
  • Attorney obtains contact information for their client from the Petition, the Department, or other reasonable means.
  • Attorney attempts to contact client to determine whether client desires to request court appointed counsel under Texas Family Code §107.013.
slide20
If the Pilot Project attorney makes contact with the parent and the parent desires to request a court-appointed attorney,
  • Attorney Assists the client in executing an “Affidavit of Indigence and Request for Court-Appointed Attorney”.
  • Attorney Submits Affidavit to Court Staff via email (with cc’s to all other parties).
slide21
If the attorney can’t make contact w/ the client before the Expiration of the Limited Purpose Appointment,
  • Attorney should not appear at the first hearing. The attorney may present the Court with a proposed dismissal order or allow the limited-purpose appointment to expire on its own terms.
results so far
Results so Far
  • Of the 151 Pilot Appointments…
    • 56.6%: Full Apptmt BEFORE 1st Hearing
    • 19.8%: Full Apptmt DAY OF 1st Hearing
    • 1.3%: Hired Private Counsel
    • 0.66% Did NOT QUALIFY for Full Apptmt
    • 9.9% - Pilot Apptmt Expired and No indication in file that Parent ever received Full Appointment
results so far1
Results so Far
  • Of the 9.9% (15 Appointments) - for whom Pilot Apptmt Expired and No indication in file that Parent ever received Full Appointment…
    • 1 Parent was ruled out as the Father
    • 1 case was Dismissed at 1st hearing
    • 1 case was Transferred out of Jurisdiction at the 1st hearing
    • Majority of rest appear to be absentee parents
comparison of results
Comparison of Results
  • Pilot Project:
    • 89% of Parents Represented by Counsel
      • 77.5% Attorney Apptd ON or BEFORE Day of 1stHrg
      • 10.5% Attorney Apptd AFTER 1stHrg
    • 10.6% of Parents NOT Represented by Counsel
  • All Cases (including Pilot Project):
    • 75% of Parents Represented by Counsel
      • 67.3% Attorney Apptd ON or BEFORE Day of 1stHrg
      • 8% Attorney Apptd AFTER 1stHrg
    • 24.7% of Parents NOT Represented by Counsel
impact on relative placement
Impact on Relative Placement
  • For Pilot Project cases:
    • Of 90 children in cps conservatorship
      • 58.9% in parent / relative / kinship placement
      • 41.1% in other (non-relative) placement
  • For All of Travis County*:
    • Of 702 children in cps conservatorship
      • 31.7% in parent / relative / kinship placement
      • 68.3% in other (non-relative) placement
  • (Source – Texas Department of Family and Protective Services – Data is Snapshot of Child Placements on 7/31/10)
one lesson learned new affidavit of indigence
One Lesson Learned – New Affidavit of Indigence
  • Aff First Developed in September, 2007
  • Now a few Changes:
    • Added lines for parents to include their mailing address and telephone number.
    • Modified the question which asks for # of dependents 
    • Removed a confusing question.
    • Included a line specifically for TANF, foodstamps, and/or WIC
cost of pilot
Cost of Pilot
  • Average Cost $203.75 per Appointment:
    • 2.68 AvgAtty Hours at $75/hour
    • Plus $2.75 AvgAddtl Fees per Apptmt
hope is that this investment will improve outcomes still tracking
Hope is that this Investment will Improve Outcomes… Still Tracking
  • Only 13 of the 70 Cases have Closed to date…
    • 3 due to Dismissal
    • 9 due to Legal Permanency Relative Placement
    • 1 due to Transfer out of Jurisdiction
we will continue to analyze results for
We will continue to analyze results for…
  • Lessons Learned
    • Anecdotal vs. Data / Evidence-based
  • Challenges
  • Benefits
  • Trends/Costs over time
for more information on the travis county parent representation pilot project
For More Information on the Travis County Parent Representation Pilot Project…
  • Please contact Judge Byrne’s Court Operations Officer:

Ms. Rene Salinas

Ph. (512) 854-9870

rene.salinas@co.travis.tx.us

slide31

THE DETROIT CENTER FOR FAMILY ADVOCACYAN INITIATIVE OF THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN LAW SCHOOLhttp://www.law.umich.edu/centersandprograms/ccl/cfa

a unique approach upstream advocacy to reduce the number of children in foster care
A Unique Approach: Upstream Advocacy to Reduce the Number of Children in Foster Care
  • Old Model: Providing parents legal assistance after families are separated
  • Comprehensive legal and social services can prevent the number of children that enter the foster care system
  • New Model: Providing families with Multidisciplinary Advocacy prior to and in order to prevent family separation
    • Attorney
    • Social Worker
    • Parent Advocate
who are we
Who are we

Founded in July 2009

Project of the University of Michigan Law School, Child Advocacy Law Clinic

Funded by private/public partnership

Based in Detroit – focus on the Osborn neighborhood

Provide multidisciplinary legal, social work, parent advocacy to families to reduce the number of children in foster care

Staff – 3 attorneys, social worker, parent advocate, legal assistant

Two types of cases – prevention and permanency

Close collaboration with the DHS

Evaluation Component

guiding principles
Too many children enter care

Too many children stay in care

Treatment of children while in care is inadequate

Too many legal orphans

Prospects of children aging out of care are troubling

Any attempt to reform foster care must begin with reducing the number of children in foster care

Kids need families. Families need not be perfect.

Guiding Principles
what we do prevention cases
What we do – Prevention Cases
  • Provide legal, social work and parent advocacy to parents to prevent the unnecessary entry of children into foster care.
  • Criteria

-CPS substantiates case as Category I, II or III

-Child(ren) residing with parent, guardian or custodian

-Legal services are expected to help parent, guardian or custodian provide a safe and stable home for the child

common legal barriers
Common Legal Barriers
  • Landlord-Tenant
  • Public Benefits
  • Domestic Violence
  • Special education
  • Custody
  • Guardianship
  • Power of Attorney
  • Expungements/Criminal History
social work barriers
Social Work Barriers

Housing

Public Benefits

Day Care

Securing Move-In Expenses

Appliances / Furniture

Utilities “Shut-Off” / Account Openings

Employment

Medical Insurance

Educational Needs

Afterschool Programs

where we get our cases from
Where we get our cases from
  • Referral Sources (Non-Exhaustive)
    • DHS – MAIN SOURCE
    • Court
    • Private child-placing agencies
    • Self-referrals
    • Family Members/Friends
    • Mental Health Professionals
    • Community Agencies
    • Churches/Clergy
our team attorney
Our Team - Attorney

Develops legal strategy to address concerns of the DHS

Advocates on Behalf of Client with DHS

Initiates Court Action on Behalf of Client

Negotiates/Advocates on Behalf of Client with Adverse Parties

our team social worker
Our Team – Social Worker

Identifies Resources for Client

Makes Referrals for Client

Advocates on Behalf of Client to Obtain Resources

Provides Emotional Support

Promotes Client Empowerment

our team parent advocate
Our Team – Parent Advocate

Helps Clients Understand and Navigate “The System”

Helps Lawyer and Social Worker “Read” Client

Helps Team Members Understand Practical Implications of Situation

Provides Emotional Support

Facilitates Client Empowerment

Leads the “parent café”

client centered approach
Client-centered approach

“What can you do to live the life you have always imagined for you and your children?”

“How can we help you get there?”

early data prevention
Early Data - Prevention

Served 68 children/23 families

All children substantiated by the DHS as being abused or neglected

Closed the cases of 9 families

None of the children have entered the foster care system

the detroit center for family advocacy cfa
The Detroit Center for Family Advocacy (CFA)
  • Contact/Visit Us
    • 3031 W. Grand Blvd, Suite 440, Detroit, MI 48202
    • Osborn Satellite Office, 13560 East McNichols, 48205
    • 313-875-4233 (phone)
    • lawdetroitcfa@umich.edu
    • http://www.law.umich.edu/centersandprograms/ccl/cfa