Parent Representation Pilot Project

Earlier Parental
Engaging Parents in
Child Welfare Cases
Judge Darlene Byrne
– Travis County Model Court for Children and
Vivek S. Sankaran
– Clinical Assistant Professor of Law, University of
Michigan Law School
October 22, 2010
Parent Representation
Pilot Project
A Project of the Travis County Model Court
for Children and Families
Lead Judge, Darlene Byrne
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, TX
For Parents, we have:
– Travis County Office of Parental
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?
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] 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:
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:
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
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
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
 Started
in September, 2009
– Initially was to Expire in October, 2009
 Continued
 Total
through April, 2010
of 70 cases and 151
Parent Appointments.
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
–ONLY for purpose of
consultation regarding eligibility
for an attorney under Texas
Family Code § 107.013.
–Includes assistance with
completing an affidavit of
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
at 8:00am on the
Morning of the First
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
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:
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
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
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
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.
If the Pilot Project attorney makes
contact with the parent and the
parent desires to request a courtappointed attorney,
– Attorney Assists the client in
executing an “Affidavit of
Indigence and Request for CourtAppointed Attorney”.
– Attorney Submits Affidavit to Court
Staff via email (with cc’s to all
other parties).
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 limitedpurpose appointment to expire on its
own terms.
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 Far
Of the 9.9% (15 Appointments) - for whom
Pilot Apptmt Expired and No indication in file
that Parent ever received Full
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
Pilot Project:
89% of Parents Represented by Counsel
– 77.5% Attorney Apptd ON or BEFORE Day of 1st Hrg
– 10.5% Attorney Apptd AFTER 1st Hrg
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 1st Hrg
– 8% Attorney Apptd AFTER 1st Hrg
24.7% of Parents NOT Represented by Counsel
Impact on Relative
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
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
– Removed a confusing question.
– Included a line specifically for TANF,
foodstamps, and/or WIC
Cost of Pilot
 Average
Cost $203.75 per
 2.68
Avg Atty Hours at
 Plus $2.75 Avg Addtl Fees
per Apptmt
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
– 1 due to Transfer out of Jurisdiction
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
Please contact Judge Byrne’s Court
Operations Officer:
Ms. Rene Salinas
Ph. (512) 854-9870
[email protected]
Old Paradigm – Nancy Colon’s
New Paradigm
remains with
A Unique Approach: Upstream Advocacy
to Reduce the Number of Children in Foster
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
Why is pre-petition
advocacy important?
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
Two types of cases – prevention and permanency
Close collaboration with the DHS
Evaluation Component
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
Any attempt to reform foster care must begin
with reducing the number of children in foster
Kids need families. Families need not be perfect.
What we do – Prevention
Provide legal, social work and parent
advocacy to parents to prevent the
unnecessary entry of children into foster care.
-CPS substantiates case as Category I, II or
-Child(ren) residing with parent, guardian or
-Legal services are expected to help parent,
guardian or custodian provide a safe and
stable home for the child
Common Legal Barriers
Public Benefits
Domestic Violence
Special education
Power of Attorney
Expungements/Criminal History
Social Work Barriers
Public Benefits
Day Care
Securing Move-In Expenses
Appliances / Furniture
Utilities “Shut-Off” / Account Openings
Medical Insurance
Educational Needs
Afterschool Programs
Where we get our cases from
Referral Sources (Non-Exhaustive)
– Court
– Private child-placing agencies
– Self-referrals
– Family Members/Friends
– Mental Health Professionals
– Community Agencies
– Churches/Clergy
Our Team - Attorney
Develops legal strategy to
address concerns of the DHS
Advocates on Behalf of Client with
Initiates Court Action on Behalf of
Our Team – Social Worker
Identifies Resources for Client
Makes Referrals for Client
Advocates on Behalf of Client to
Obtain Resources
Provides Emotional Support
Our Team – Parent
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
 “What
can you do to live
the life you have always
imagined for you and your
 “How
can we help you get
Examples of our work
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)
Contact/Visit Us
– 3031 W. Grand Blvd, Suite 440, Detroit, MI
– Osborn Satellite Office, 13560 East
McNichols, 48205
– 313-875-4233 (phone)
– [email protected]

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