Texas Lawyers for Children

Protecting the Rights of Abused and Neglected Children

Texas Lawyers for Children ( TLC), a program of The Child Protection Connection ®, protects abused and neglected children from being harmed by the systems meant to keep them safe. TLC protects the rights of these vulnerable children in the courts, the community, and the legislature, and connects, equips, and mobilizes a network of over 3,000 judges, attorneys, and advocates to change children's lives for the better.

As a leader in the field of child protection law in Texas for the past two decades, TLC has developed a program of services tailored to meet specific critical and unaddressed needs for children in foster care with the goal to maximize resources that have the greatest impact on the children we serve. The initiatives listed below outline the primary components of TLC's' comprehensive program:

1. Legal and Legislative Advocacy: During legislative sessions, TLC has used its years of experience to strategically speak on behalf of foster children in Texas, by meeting with key legislators to educate them about the effects of proposed legislation and testifying at important hearings. In addition, TLC's Online Center for judges and attorneys has proved to be an invaluable tool during legislative sessions in mobilizing the legal community to speak up, as TLC sent ongoing updates and email alerts to its vast network of Texas child protection judges and attorneys who use the Online Center and many notices to our generous donors and sponsors. As a result of these efforts, legislators were "inundated" with responses on important, life-changing bills for foster children. TLC provides legal advocacy in cases affecting children's legal rights. Most recently, with the support of Hankinson LLP, TLC submitted an amicus brief on behalf of foster children in M.D. v. Abbott, 152 F.Supp.3d 684 (S.D. Tex. 2015), the federal class action suit filed on behalf of Texas foster children in which the court held that Texas violates the constitutional rights of foster children to be "free from an unreasonable risk of harm".

2. Statewide Policy and Systemic Improvements: TLC utilizes extensive experience and knowledge to advance best practices and promising standards in child protection cases for statewide policy and systemic improvement.

3. Training in Trauma-Informed Advocacy: When those who work on behalf of foster children do not understand how trauma affects abused and neglected children, how to appropriately respond to traumatized children, and how to identify trauma-informed treatment and services, the results can be tragic: children are punished for their fear responses, misdiagnosed with mental illness, overmedicated with psychotropic medications, institutionalized in psychiatric facilities, restrained and secluded, and forced to exit foster care without any ability to cope or regulate their emotions. TLC has been a leader in helping judges and attorneys understand the needs of traumatized children and how to promote a trauma-informed system of care within their jurisdictions.

4. TLC's Online Legal Resource and Communication Center: TLC is proud to be the only organization that provides an innovative and interactive Online Legal Resource and Communication Center ("Online Center") to inform, train, Connect, and mobilize judges and attorneys throughout Texas so they can fulfill their unique role within the system to protect abused and neglected children throughout the State. To learn more about the specific features of the online center click here. TLC's Online Center not only assists judges and attorneys to improve outcomes for children in individual cases but also serves as a catalyst for systemic improvement.

5. Pro Bono Network: TLC recruits legal professionals throughout the state to form a statewide pro bono network, enabling any attorney in the state to register to assist court-appointed attorneys in handling an abused child's case. TLC recently began making presentations at law firms and businesses in North Texas to attorneys about the needs of abused and neglected children in ways the attorneys can become part of TLC's pro bono network and use their specialized legal skills to help with TLC's advocacy in the courts, the community, and the legislature.

6. Education Advocate Project: TLC recruits, trains, supports, and supervises volunteer attorneys to serve as Education Advocates for abused and neglected children in Dallas County courts. The Education Advocates role is to focus solely on the education needs of the child and take actions to ensure the child's academic success. TLC partners with the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program for recruiting and TLC provides training, support, and supervision for volunteers in person and through its online services. The Education Advocates are appointed as co-counsel to the child's court-appointed attorney. TLC's Dallas County project model can be replicated in other counties.