The Child Protection ConnectionTM for Texas – the Texas Lawyers for Children Online Center and Advocacy Program – 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. These are but a few examples of how The Connection is helping abused and at-risk children in Texas:
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 this year 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. The Connection provides the tools, resources, and training needed to get the best outcome for the child. A well-trained attorney--with an understanding of the needs of children and their rights under the law--can rewrite the child's story from one of fear and instability to one of resilience and hope.
The Child Protection ConnectionTM for Texas was instrumental in shaping this year’s legislation so that it protects 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, TLC mobilized more than 2,600 judges, attorneys, and other child protection leaders across the state to advocate for the rights of abused and neglected children, with results that will guard the rights of and help protect these vulnerable children for years to come.
While each situation is different, The Connection’s strong advocate network is in place to coordinate efforts for children facing large-scale crises. Just this year, The Child Protection ConnectionTM for Texas acted quickly to meet an important need for foster children affected by Hurricane Harvey. Through The Connection, 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 Connection 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 can be used in numerous ways to ensure that children’s needs are met. For example, in TLC's Education Advocate Project, TLC recruits volunteer attorneys to 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. TLC believes that these children deserve to have a chance at academic success, emotional well-being, and a bright future. In TLC’s Education Advocate Project, volunteer attorneys serve as both legal advocates and mentors, working to find solutions to meet each child’s unique needs. This is not just another court case. For children like Danny, who joined the Education Advocate Project with little hope for success and, with the help of his advocate/mentor, found a love for cooking and motivation to finish high school, the program changes lives.