The Child Protection Connection® (The Connection) keeps the rights of children in focus in the courtroom, the legislature, and the community, where their futures are determined. The Connection has helped Texas improve the lives of thousands of the State's most vulnerable children, including foster children, victims of abuse and trauma, children relocated by natural disasters, children needing advocates for their education, and many others. The following examples show successes in the Texas program that can be easily replicated in other states.
Every year, tens of thousands of children in Texas face the most traumatic chapter of their lives. They are abused and then removed from their homes and enter the world of foster care. Their family and social life suddenly stops, and everything in their story changes: they are taken from the only home and family they know and placed with strangers, and they may not see their siblings or friends again. While home may not have been a safe place, foster care can be frightening and full of potential dangers. In fact, the Texas Legislature made child protection reform an emergency item in 2017 after a Federal Judge declared that Texas foster children are being severely harmed by the system meant to protect them. That's why it's so important for a child to have an effective attorney. Through its Online Center in Texas, The Connection's essential tools, resources, and training are available 24/7 to get the best outcome for the child.
In Texas, The Connection's Online Center was instrumental in shaping specific 2017 legislation that improved protection of the State's foster children. Drawing from years of experience and insight, Texas Lawyers for Children (TLC) spoke to legislators about the needs of abused and neglected children in Texas and was often the first organization to raise concerns about proposed legislation that could be harmful to children. Through the power of The Connection's Online Center, TLC mobilized more than 2,800 judges, attorneys, and other child protection leaders across the state to advocate for the rights of abused and neglected children, with results that will help protect and guard the rights of these vulnerable children for years to come.
While each situation is different, The Connection's Online Center facilitates strong advocate networks that can be put in place to coordinate efforts for children facing large-scale crises. Just this year, the Texas Online Center was used to quickly meet an important need for foster children affected by Hurricane Harvey. Attorneys throughout Texas signed up to assist with legal services for children, meet tangible needs, or visit a relocated foster child. In addition, within days of the horrible impact of Hurricane Harvey, the Texas Online Center was updated with resources that address protecting children's legal rights when displaced by a natural disaster; helping children through the trauma of a hurricane; and updating judges and attorneys about the Texas Supreme Court's decision to extend deadlines in child protection cases.
The Connection's Online Center model can be used in numerous ways to ensure that children's needs are met. For example, the Texas Program includes an Education Advocate Project which utilizes the online center to recruit and train volunteer attorneys who focus on obstacles that might keep the child from succeeding in school and find ways to overcome those obstacles. Children in long-term foster care face uncertain futures. Without the presence of committed and capable adults during this period of instability, it is not shocking that these children have high drop-out rates and incidence of academic failure and are limited in their ability to engage in extracurricular activities or form healthy social relationships. Eventually, these children become lost in the system, lose hope, and fail to thrive throughout adulthood, facing homelessness, incarceration, and human trafficking. This does not have to be the case. The Child Protection Connection® believes that these children deserve to have a chance at academic success, emotional well-being, and a bright future.