2018 Study of Legal Representation in Child Protective Services Cases

The Children’s Commission recently released a study on legal representation in child protection cases. The study was mandated in House Bill 7 during the 2017 Legislative Session. The surveys and final report were developed by the Children’s Commission staff; working in concert with its Legal Representation Committee, DFPS and The University of Texas at Austin Texas Institute of Child & Family Well-being. Several surveys were designed and distributed to better understand the state of legal representation in Texas CPS cases from the perspectives of diverse system participants, including judges, CASA volunteers and staff, attorneys for children and parents, DFPS attorneys, CPS caseworkers, parents, youth currently in care, relatives, foster parents, mediators and other professionals.

The study received more than 3,400 survey responses which were then analyzed, organized and compiled into the Supreme Court of Texas Children’s Commission 2018 Study of Legal Representation in Child Protective Services Cases. 768 CASA volunteers or staff participated in the survey.

The study found some significant deficiencies in legal representation and looked at a variety of ways to improve its quality, including training and better compensation. Overall the findings provide valuable insights into legal representation in Texas CPS cases by offering a large set of responses from well-informed participants in the child welfare system who are in a unique position to give feedback about their experiences. Chief among the findings is that Texas needs:

  • consistent, high-quality legal representation of children and parents involved in CPS cases;
  • a meaningful system of oversight;
  • adequate compensation for attorneys;
  • training requirements and standards of practice; and
  • an accountability process to ensure that attorneys who represent clients in CPS cases adhere to the highest standards of legal representation, thus fostering integrity in the legal process.

Learn more and read the report in this letter from the Children’s Commission.