SMU DEDMAN SCHOOL OF LAW | W.W. Caruth, Jr. Child Advocacy Clinic

2006 Child Welfare Symposium

Chief Juvenile Judge Patricia Clark of King County Superior Court in Seattle, Washington speaking to Texas CPS Asst. Commissioner Joyce James and Dr. Michael Lindsey.

CPS Assistant Commissioner Joyce James speaks about Texas' efforts to tackle disproportionality.

Former Clinic Director Jessica Dixon with DFPS leaders Joyce James, Carolyne Rodriguez (Casey Family Programs), Deborah Green and Linda Wright.

Keynote speaker Professor Dorothy Roberts, Kirkland & Ellis Professor of Law, Northwestern University School of Law

Symposium participants listen intently to Professor Roberts talk about 'Why Disproportionality Matters.'

Professor Leah Hill from Fordham School of Law comments during a panel discussion.

Jacquelyn Buchanan, Regional Administrator of King County Children's Administration presents the King County Coalition on Racial Disportionality along with Lyman Letgers, Director of Casey Family Programs, and Judge Patricia Clark, Chief Juvenile Judge of King County, Washington.

Judge Sanford Jones, Chief Juvenile Court Judge of Fulton County in Atlanta, Georgia, addresses the topic of disproportionality in the court room with panel member, 305th District Court Special Guardian ad Litem, Leora Olorunnisomo, SMU Law '92.

Presenter Dennette Derezotes, MSW, LCSW, spoke about the effectiveness of services to African-American families and children.

Associate Professor Angela Burton from CUNY School of Law debates how lawyers should respond to disproportionality in the child welfare system along with Robert Harris, Cook County, Illinois Public Guardian

Professor Andrea Charlow from Drake University discusses panel presentation with fellow symposium participant during a break.

The Legal and Social Impact of Disproportionality in Child Protection Cases

The W.W. Caruth, Jr. Child Advocacy Clinic at the SMU Dedman School of Law hosted its second Child Welfare Symposium on November 16-17, 2006. The symposium focused on the disproportionate number of African-American children in the child welfare system. The keynote address was presented by Dorothy Roberts, who is the Kirkland & Ellis Professor of Law at Northwestern University School of Law. The interdisciplinary composition of the symposium provided an opportunity for the issues to be addressed from multiple angles by attorneys, social workers, judges, doctors, therapists, psychologists, and educators.

The symposium began with an evening presentation by Joyce James, the Assistant Commissioner for Child Protective Services in the State of Texas, who set forth what Texas has been doing to address the issue of disproportionality since legislation was enacted in 2005 mandating research and review of the statewide problem. A community town hall meeting followed her presentation with various panelists from Texas Child Protective Services and Casey Family Programs. The keynote by Professor Roberts kicked off the continuation of the symposium the following day. "Disproportionality in the child welfare system is a complex problem with no easy remedy. As such, it can only be resolved through radical reform." Her thought-provoking remarks left participants with the question, "Are we prepared to fundamentally change our understanding of the [child welfare] system's purpose?" Roberts also advocated for further state and federal research on disproportionality and implementation of new policies that will help ensure the best interests of children from every community.

The presentations and panel discussions identified social and legal challenges that affect African-American children and families such as bias in mandatory reporting of child abuse by teachers, counselors and medical professionals, as well as caseworkers' own prejudices and perceptions of what they define as abuse and neglect affecting removal decisions. One panel discussed how federal laws impact minority children and families and another presenter outlined the effectiveness of services provided to African-American families and children. The last panel dealt with how the legal community could address disproportionality in the court room. Former Clinic Director Jessica Dixon stated, "[i]deas about solutions were shared, and attendees left with tools to plow forward on the issue of disproportionality. I ran into a symposium presenter at another conference later in the year, and she told me that she used the Texas legislative model from Senate Bill 6 to secure similar legislation in Washington State regarding research and mandated state agency policy changes to address disproprotionality. This success story is exactly the reason why our symposium is important to the national child welfare agenda."

2004 Child Welfare Symposium

From top to bottom, left to right:

- Dr. Tricia Favre, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist, Dallas Children's Advocacy Center
- Susan Etheridge, L.S.M.W., Executive Director, Collin County Child Advocacy Center
- F.Scott McCown, Executive Director, Center for Public Policy Priorities
- Judge Douglas Dunn, Magistrate, Dallas County Court #3
- 2004 Symposium Speakers and Panelists
- Dr. Ruth McCoy, Ph.D., Director of Center for Social Work Research, University of Texas at Austin
- Dr. Heather Taussig, Ph.D., Kempe Children's Center, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center
- Professor Katherine H. Federle, Director of Justice for Children Project, Ohio State University Moritz College of Law
- Dean John Attanasio, SMU Dedman School of Law


The child ad clinic hosted its first child welfare symposium, "Abused" Children in State Care: Are Their Best Interests Being "Served?" on October 15, 2004. This one-day interdisciplinary symposium was targeted towards professionals in the fields of law, social work, psychology, and education. The keynote speaker for the luncheon was Katherine H. Federle, Professor of Law & Director of Justice for Children Project at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. She spoke on the "Role of Lawyering for Children."

The majority of the symposium consisted of three panel discussions: (1) Permanency Placement: Turning the Lesser of Two Evils into the Better of Two Goods; (2) The Foster Care System: Addressing Abuse in a Child's Home Away from Home; and (3) Leaving Foster Care: Aging Out Prepared for the Real World. Some of the panelists included, F. Scott McCown, Executive Director of Center for Public Policy Priorities, Joyce N. Thomas, President and CEO of The Center for Child Protection and Family Support, and Susan Vivian-Mangold, Vice-Dean and Professor at The State University of New York at Buffalo Law School. There was also a research presentation by Dr. Heather Taussig, Ph.D., a researcher at the Kempe Children's Center at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, about Out-of-Home Placement and Child Well-Being.

Finally, there was a case study where symposium participants broke down into groups and were assigned different roles in a child welfare case. The groups discussed a set of complicated issues and presented a permanency plan to the entire body, identifying the rationale behind the decision. Student attorneys in the child ad clinic assisted in the case study role play and were also able to attend the symposium.

There were over 75 registrants for the symposium, with half being attorneys and the other half being social workers. Continuing Legal Education credits for lawyers and Continuing Education Units for social workers were approved by the State Bar of Texas and the National Association of Social Workers, Texas chapter, respectively.


2009 Continuing Legal Education

The W.W. Caruth, Jr. Child Advocacy Clinic recently sponsored a one day continuing legal education seminar on August 14, 2009 entitled “Family-Focused Collaborative Project: CPS Training for Collaboratively Trained Professionals.” The goal of the seminar was to educate collaboratively trained professionals on the child protective services (“CPS”) system. The child advocacy clinic has worked closely with nationally known collaborative attorney and SMU Alum ’78 Gay Cox, the Department of Family and Protective Services (“DFPS”) regional attorney Edward “Ted” Keating, and other key local attorneys to develop an interdisciplinary process where collaborative law could be used in child protection cases. The premise of the Family-Focused Collaborative Project is that the collaborative law process could be highly beneficial in CPS cases as a means to prevent removal of a child from the home, while at the same time reducing the likelihood of abuse and neglect.

The collaborative law process will be used with families who are placed with the Family Based Safety Services (“FBSS”) units of DFPS and meet certain criteria. FBSS units work with families who have been investigated as a result of a referral of abuse and/or neglect and who have voluntarily chosen to enter into a DFPS Safety Plan for their children so that they will not be removed from their homes and placed in foster care. Typically the children are placed with appropriate relatives to live for a period of time. These families also voluntarily attend parenting classes and enroll in other services identified to assist them with their identified issues, i.e. drug use, domestic violence, psychological disorders, etc. There are some instances where the parents have Court Ordered Participation (“COP”) so that the court can monitor the progress of the parents in addition to DFPS. The benefit of including collaborative professionals when DFPS is administering FBSS or when there is a COP in services is that the collaborative law process offers an interdisciplinary approach to attain a safe and enforceable child rearing agreement. This agreement is something that parents currently are unable to achieve without hiring lawyers and going to court.

The Family-Focused Collaborative Project will operate with pro bono attorneys and a pro bono mental health professional who will serve as the neutral process facilitator. This innovative pilot project will be the earliest intervention for families used by DFPS in child protection cases and will be the first of its kind in the nation to introduce collaborative law to the child welfare system. There were eighteen attorneys, nine mental health professionals, and three mediators present for the full day of continuing legal education. Those that attended have already agreed to work pro bono on the project in various roles, including lawyer for the state, parents and/or children, and neutral process facilitator. The Caruth clinic was able to offer the CLE free of charge, and the State Bar of Texas approved 7.25 hours and 1.0 hour of ethics.

2008 Continuing Legal Education

The W.W. Caruth, Jr. Child Advocacy Clinic and the State Bar of Texas sponsored a continuing legal education program on May 10, 2008 for attorneys who are presenting the children removed from the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints compound in Eldorado, Texas. The title of this seminar was Interdisciplinary Training for Children’s Attorneys: FLDS cases. It was approved for 6.75 MCLE credit hours. It was video recorded and can be seen free of charge on the State Bar of Texas website for all attorneys who have been appointed as an attorney ad litem in the FLDS cases. Contact Tom Wubker at (800) 204-2222 ext. 1786 or

2007 Continuing Legal Education

On December 10, 2007, the Clinic co-sponsored a CLE with the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office and the Department of Family and Protective Services entitled, “Preparing for Court Testimony: A Primer for Social Workers & Attorneys.” This half-day collaborative seminar offered 3.75 hours of continuing education for both attorneys and social workers, along with 0.7 hours of ethics. Team Presentations were made by assistant district attorneys, Child Protective Services supervisors, and Guardian/Attorney ad litems. The topics covered included ‘Best Practices for Direct & Cross-Examination – Preparation for Social Workers & Attorneys,’ ‘Top 10 Frequently Made Mistakes of Social Workers & Attorneys,’ and ‘Handling Tough Situations & Rehabilitating Prior Testimony.’ The latter two presentations were mock courtroom role plays where the three team members put on an interactive show to illustrate the lessons to participants. Over fifty attorneys and social workers attended the seminar, and participants who evaluated the program ranked it as excellent.

2005 Continuing Legal Education

The Clinic co-sponsored a CLE with the Southwest Juvenile Defender Center and Texas Appleseed on October 17, 2005. The seminar was entitled, "How to be a Zealous Advocate for Your Child Client." The presentation included topics such as client interviewing strategies, balancing ethical responsibilities associated with child clients, and addressing issues surrounding clients with mental health concerns or special educational needs. Attorneys were able to receive 1.0 CLE credit and .5 ethics credit.

"Relapse to Recovery: Making Home Safe for Children" was the title of the second CLE/CEU program hosted by the clinic on November 4, 2005, with the American Bar Association Center for Children and the Law. This one day seminar was designed to enhance lawyers' and social workers' knowledge and understanding of substance abuse issues as well as familiarize them with key factors to help determine when it is safe for parent/child reunification. A review of Best Court and Judicial Practice in the Substance Abuse Area helped participants understand which supports and approaches increase the chances of a parents' long-term recovery from addiction. Participants were able to develop an action plan for a client and discuss the common themes and challenges when dealing with parents who are substance abusers. This was a free event and lawyers earned 5.5 MCLE participatory hours, and social workers earned 5.5 CEU hours.

2003 Continuing Legal Education

The clinic co-sponsored 2 Continuing Legal Education ("CLE") programs with TARGET: Kids in Court in the spring of 2003. The first seminar was "A Word from the Bench" featuring a presentation by Judge Cheryl Lee Shannon, 305th District Judge, and newly appointed Judge John L. Sholden, 304th District Court Judge. The Judges gave pointers about representing children in their courts, identified their pet-peeves about attorneys practices and behaviors, and fielded questions from the audience.

The second seminar was entitled, "How to Interpret Psychological Evaluations & How to Prepare for Direct & Cross Examination of a Psychologist." Dr. W. Leslie Carter, Ph.D., gave a highly informative talk on how to interpret the MMPI-2, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, Second Edition. This test is one that is used most often to identify certain personality traits during a psychological evaluation. The evaluation does not provide a breakdown of how the doctor arrives at his/her conclusion about a person, but the seminar provided attorneys and GALs with the tools necessary to decode the numbers and abbreviations that are foreign to the legal world.

Public Defender Kim Murphy then identified the top ten things attorneys should do when preparing to examine a psychologist. The student attorneys were present for both of these seminars, which provided them with useful information to help them on their cases. These CLEs were approved by the State Bar of Texas for MCLE credit for any attorney who attended.


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