The W.W. Caruth, Jr. Child Advocacy Clinic and Institute at SMU Dedman School of Law co-hosted a CLE with the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program (DVAP) on Ad Litem and Amicus Attorney Court Appointments: Inside and Outside the Box Training. This one and a half day CLE covered the representation of parents and at-risk children, with speakers addressing such topics as interviewing children, paternity, immigration, psychological testing, ethics traps, prescription medications for children, Indian Child Welfare Act, appeals, and many more. A Dallas County family judicial panel also discussed the court's perspective. The program was held on July 14-15, 2010, at the Belo Mansion & Pavilion in downtown Dallas.
The first day of discussion focused on the different types of attorney court-appointment roles made by the court to child advocacy-related cases and handling problems associated with interviewing parties, including children, and investigating the case. The topics of paternity, psychology, and cultural competence were also addressed. Speakers included Associate Judge Scott Beauchamp, Dr. Dean Beckloff, Anne Ferguson of the Dallas Children's Advocacy Center, attorneys Jeff Coen, Alma Benavides, and Maria Thomas-Jones, Dr. Liz Hodges of The Family Place, and forensic drug tester Jim Turnage. The day concluded with Judges David Hanschen, Lynn Cherry, Dennise Garcia, and Marilea Lewis answering questions that often arise for attorneys when court-appointed to represent parents and children.
The conference's remaining discussions were devoted to ethics, best billing practices, and appeals, with multiple speeches regarding the welfare of children. Speakers included Dr. J. Douglas Crowder and attorneys Lawrence J. Praeger, Jim Cobb, Tom Keane, Paula Shumpert, and Dean M. Swanda. Mickey Rayford also led an inspiring speech to conclude the conference about her experience growing up in the child welfare system and aging out of foster care.
"Partnering with DVAP and hosting the clinic's inaugural two-day CLE dedicated to court-appointments and highlighting child welfare was a privilege," said conference organizer Kathleen Turton. "To truly excel in this area of the law, an attorney must take an interdisciplinary approach. It's about more than caselaw and the Texas Family Code, and this CLE was designed to cover many important topics. An audience of over 100 attendees proved to us the family law community's interest."