Placement Reviews

Permanency Summit
October 7-9, 2012
Hilton Bella Harbor – Rockwall, Texas
Safety v. Risk: The Travis County Experience
Interrupt, ask questions, please
Caveats and Confessions
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 shouldn’t
be, present at court
You may not be able – or want – to replicate
what we’ve done in Travis County
But you may be able to make a change that
does work in your jurisdiction
Work still to do in Travis County
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
6. Bring healing to children and youth in or leaving foster care –
help make them whole
Edward died in 2009,
just after his 17th birthday
Robert, in 2011, just after his 13th
During TMC, I worry about returning a child home and learning
she’s then injured or killed
I’m inclined to play it safe, to close the door to a return home
During PMC, I have to guard against playing it safe,
closing the door to imperfect parents or families,
leaving a child in foster care
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
Children Under Travis County Court Jurisdiction
• COS:
• TMC:
• PMC:
Travis County CPS Dockets
262, Status, and Permanency Hearings – Mondays and Fridays
Darlene Byrne (Lead District Judge) Texanna Davis (Associate Judge)
Final Trials - weekly
Central Docket (District Judges)
Placement Hearings - Wednesdays
John Hathaway (Associate Judge)
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
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)
3 Suggested Factors
3.Judicial Leadership
1.Permanency Roundtables
2.PCA and kinship workers
3.TARE revisions and Project PUSH
4.PMC unit(s)
5.Shift in focus and philosophy
1.More CASA volunteers
2.Power to request hearings
3.Transitional Youth Specialists
4.Shift in focus and philosophy
Judicial Leadership:
Long history of strong judicial leadership
Judge Scott McCown
Judge Jeanne Meurer
Judicial Leadership:
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
Lessons Learned
The Fierce Urgency of Now
There Should be Nothing
Permanent About PMC
Every Child Should Be
Moving Off the PMC Docket
Parents Change
Older Youth Will Often
Return to Parents, Regardless
Let the Youth Gain Information/
Prepare a Youth For a Safer Return Home
There Is Always Family
Every Child is Adoptable
There Is No Such Thing as
Long-Term Foster Care
APPLA Means Never Having to Say
Long-Term Foster Care
There Can Be No APPLA
Without a Caring Adult
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
A Youth’s Well-Being (Quality of Life)
is Critical
Socializing with friends
Social media
Number of youth in home/facility
Contact with siblings/other family
Extra-curricular activities
Sense of control/lack of control
Children and youth need to understand
what we’re saying
Words Are Powerful
1. PMC
2. Placement
3. Level of care
Isolate and Focus on PMC
(With 1 Judge, If Possible)
Hold More Frequent Hearings
Question Use and Dosage of
Psychotropic Medications
Bring the Child or Youth to Court
1. In-person, if at all possible – video or phone in rare
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 can’t
promise to deliver
5. Actively listen
6. Give the child or youth a sense of significance and control
7. Judges – do it for yourself
Keep Fighting the Good Fight
With Passion and Urgency

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