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Programs

Texas Loves Children currently offers several programs to address critical needs in the legal system:
Texas Lawyers for Children Online Center Program
Training Programs
National Expansion

The Need

More than 1 in 5 abused children in Texas are re-abused within five years, according to statistics from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. The system is in dire need of improvement.

Recognizing this, on November 20, 2007, the Texas Supreme Court established the Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth and Families. “As gatekeepers for families in crisis, courts must make life-altering decisions that require knowledge of multiple and complex issues.... Too often courts lack the technology, training, and resources needed to make good decisions." [Order Establishing Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth and Families, The Supreme Court of Texas, November 20, 2007]. On November 30, 2007, the Texas Supreme Court’s Task Force on Foster Care identified TLC’s Online Center program as a key solution for improving the court system’s handling of child abuse cases.

Court case outcomes can have life or death consequences for the child, and poor decisions expose children to additional physical and psychological harm. Many of the children who enter the care of the state will never return home but will remain in the legal care of the state until they are adopted or age out of the system.

The following case illustrates how a child’s life can be devastated when a mistake is made: In 2001, a small girl was discovered locked in a lice-infested, filthy closet in Hutchins, Texas, where she had been forced to live in utter darkness for years by her birth mother. At eight years old, she was near death from starvation, weighing only 25 pounds, and was covered with feces and sores. She had been so traumatically sexually abused, surgery was necessary. A legal mistake made by the attorney for adoptive parents had allowed her birth mother to reclaim her — even after a loving couple believed they were in the midst of a successful adoption. At 18 months old, after living with the adoptive parents since birth, the child had been returned to her birth mother, who was homeless and without a job when she had voluntarily given her newborn daughter up for adoption. This tragedy would have never happened but for an attorney’s mistake. Atkinson v. Texas, 107 S.W.3d 856 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2003).

Overview of Programs

Texas Lawyers for Children Online Center Program — Responding to the serious lack of resources and information available to the legal professionals in the child abuse field, TLC coordinated a statewide collaborative effort to gather best practice information and launched the Texas Lawyers for Children Online Legal Resource and Communication Center project in 2004. TLC’s Online Center, located at www.TexasLawyersforChildren.org, is a collection of web-based tools, created and operated by TLC, that address the lack of resources for handling abused children’s court cases. It provides Texas judges and attorneys with free access to a one-stop source of crucial legal, medical, and psychological information. It contains a complete child abuse law library, where all of the materials are organized by topic, with over 1,400 topics available. The Online Center leverages the work of a small team of experienced child abuse attorneys, who gather the best national and state legal, medical, and psychological information and carefully review, summarize, and topically organize the information, so that it is readily available to all attorneys and judges statewide.

The Online Center also provides online communication tools -- private secure email networks, document vaults, and discussion boards -- that allow judges and attorneys to communicate privately with their respective peers, enabling them to discuss critical issues in children’s cases and court improvement issues and share their questions and solutions. Additionally, TLC’s online pro bono network provides a vehicle for recruiting attorneys to assist other attorneys in a further effort to bridge the gaps in resources and experience in child abuse cases statewide. TLC designed and launched a pro bono attorney network in 2009 that is designed to meet this growing need in abused children’s cases. TLC’s pro bono network is different from most pro bono efforts, in that it recruits attorneys to help other attorneys who handle child abuse and neglect cases. There exists a current and growing need to recruit volunteer attorneys and match their skills with the specialized needs within abused children’s cases across the state.

Training Programs — TLC brings nationally recognized experts in law, medicine, and mental health to Texas for live training seminars. These seminars have been co-sponsored by the Dallas County Family and Juvenile Courts, with judicial training programs also being co-sponsored by the Amon Carter Foundation and Dallas’ Child Abuse Prevention Coalition. The purpose of these training events is to educate legal professionals about critical issues in child abuse cases. Such topics include:
   - Dynamics of Sexual Abuse
   - Impact of Trauma on Children’s Brain Development
   - Parental Drug Addiction and Treatment
TLC is also poised to offer Online Training via its Online Center on topics of interest to Texas judges and attorneys whose cases involve children.

National Expansion — Using the Texas Lawyers for Children Online Center as a model, TLC can bring similar tools to other states. Every state’s child abuse professionals need ongoing training and access to the best information available. This Online Center model can be replicated, modified as needed, and licensed to other states, giving other states’ legal professionals access to these powerful tools. The goal of this program is to facilitate systemic change to improve the lives of abused children on a national level. TLC’s model has already been replicated in California, Alabama, and Florida.


 

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©Copyright 2014, Texas Loves Children, Inc....The children depicted here were not taken from actual child abuse cases.