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

RECENT SEMINARS

A Child Welfare Case:  From Removal to Permanency

The Clinic Director recently made a presentation to foster parents at the Circles of Care, Inc., Foster Agency entitled, “A Child Welfare Case:  From Removal to Permanency.”  Foster parents often are not fully aware of the nature, stages, and processes in the legal proceedings that impact the children in their care.  This presentation provided them with a full overview of the legal framework and the various stages/components of a child welfare case in the courts.  The audience was quite interactive and enthusiastic about the material.   The foster parents and agency workers in attendance received 2 hours of training credit for participating in the presentation.  The Clinic would be pleased to make a similar presentation at other foster agencies.


Dallas CASA and Education Advocacy for Children in the Child Welfare System

In May, the Clinic conducted a three hour training at the Dallas CASA headquarters for CASA advocates after having collaborated on the design of the presentation with Dallas CASA attorneys, Shelly Wilbanks and Cheri Leutz.  It was entitled, “Dallas CASA and Education Advocacy for Children in the Child Welfare System.” 

Over 25,000 children are in the legal conservatorship of the State on any given day.  The majority of these children are of school age.  More than 1/3 of foster youth have five or more school changes.  Some studies indicate that each school change can cost a child four to six months of academic progress.  Moreover, students in foster care are three times more likely to need special education services.    But studies also show that school success counteracts negative effects of abuse and neglect and can help create long term positive outcomes for foster youth.  CASA advocates and GALs like the Caruth Clinic strive to create those outcomes – so the audience was quite attentive and participatory.

The presentation covered the major laws that advocates can use to create and improve educational opportunities for children (of all ages) in foster care.  Recent SMU Dedman School of Law graduates, Lindsey Craft and Kristen Zerega presented on the relevant federal laws that promote education improvement for foster kids and benefits flowing from those laws.  The Clinic Director discussed new education advocacy provisions in Texas law and tips for the CASA advocates to utilize them to the advantage of the children for whom they advocate.  Practicing attorney, and SMU and Caruth Child Advocacy Clinic graduate, George Shake (of the firm Geary Porter & Donovan, P.C.) provided an overview of the special education process in Texas and the resources available for advocates to utilize when special education would assist “their” child. 

Over fifty advocates attended.  The Clinic intends to make another such presentation for more CASA advocates in the next few months.


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