I want to start the newsletter by thanking you all for your ongoing commitment to CASA and the children and families that you are working with. I appreciate each and every one of you and the time and dedication that you put into your cases, all which come with their own quirks and complications. Thank you.
Secondly, as you may have seen in recent news articles, there is a “foster care crisis” in Texas, and CPS is struggling to find placements for all children, with a rise in “CWOP” – Children without Placement. We can all do our bit to try and prevent this by working with our children and using some of the Collaborative Family Engagement (CFE) tools so we are aware of any and all potential family or fictive kin placements, rather than children being placed in foster care. And remember, if we do not agree with CPS on a placement, that’s fine too and we can still advocate for it in Court if we believe it is in the best interests of the children to be placed there. CFE tools include genograms and family trees, mobility maps, “My Three Houses”, Circles of Trust and Seneca searches for missing family members. Reach out if you would like more information on these at any time and please start incorporating these into your visits where appropriate.
As it currently stands, the Court room is open for in person hearings, but the Judge has been flexible and is accommodating a “hybrid-style” Court with some people in person and others on Zoom. So, if you prefer to attend by Zoom, that is acceptable. I will reach out to you in advance of your hearing to check what your plans are. I generally attend in person myself as it’s useful to speak to other parties in the case in the Court corridors (if they also come in person), but I want you all to do what is comfortable for you (and more and more people are choosing the Zoom option given the rise in COVID cases locally). Of course, if you or someone close to you is unwell, Zoom Court is the best option. The only time the Judge prefers everyone to attend in person is for Trial hearings, and I will reach out to you in advance of all these as part of our trial preparation.
A quick update from CPS – All CPS offices are open. They are working 100% in the office although they also have the ability to work from home up to 2x/week, including Fridays. There has been a spike in COVID positives which is being closely monitored. They have opened up the option to have in-person meetings/conferences in their offices as of June 1st. However, they continue to give families the option for virtual PC’s and FGC’s. Again, I will keep you informed as I find out. If you wish to observe family visits, which I highly recommend, please make contact with your caseworker to confirm the time.
Finally, I want to end on some good news coming out of the Texas Legislature earlier this year…. HB 2286/SB 2054 have been sent to the Governor. These bills require the waiving of fees for driver education for youth and young adults under the age of 26 who were in the managing conservatorship of the Department prior to their 18th birthday and who resided in a paid foster care placement. This is a great benefit for foster youth who may not otherwise have the opportunity to learn to drive. The program will be overseen by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC).