Collaborative Law in Child Protective Cases: A Training in Dallas
As a collaborative professional, wouldn't you like to offer your pro bono hours in a place where it could make a monumental positive impact on families and not require you to litigate? Do you despair at times about what difference you can make when you try to assist someone who is caught up in the CPS system? Do you ever wonder if the services were actually tailored to the needs of a particular family they might be "set up to succeed"? Do you wish you had more opportunities to hone your collaborative skills or demonstrate to other collaborative professionals that you have the skills? Do you want to network with other dedicated collaborative professionals because you are energized by working in interdisciplinary teams? Do you have a passion for abused and neglected children and for helping families remain intact if at all possible? If any of these questions resonate with you, there is a place for you.
The CPS Collaborative Project can now celebrate one year of successful collaborative law intervention in the lives of families referred to Family Based Safety Services with Child Protective Services in Dallas County, Texas. A dedicated panel of 25 trained collaborative professionals are offering our pro bono volunteer time to provide legal and collaborative process facilitation services for parents, grandparents and children who are being offered safety services by CPS. Recently, the Project became a Program as it grew from one participating CPS supervisory unit (supervisor and caseworker pair) to six units. The Project was presented at the National Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) 2010 Conference in Denver and at its recent Texas Chapter Conference in Houston. It is the first of its kind and there is much interest in replicating it elsewhere.
Those of us doing this work want to see the program offered to many more families and we need your help! Our goal is to have 100 professionals on the panel serving families in the Dallas area.
On Friday, December 10, 2010, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Joy Tabernacle A.M.E. Church Outreach Center, located at Southside at Lamar, 1409 S Lamar St # 412, Dallas - (214) 565-8975, a team of 10 collaborative professionals experienced in the Project will conduct a training for professionals who have already had at least a basic collaborative training. Those attending will learn how the process functions in the CPS context. Only those who receive the training will be able to volunteer, and likely it will be another year before the training is offered again in the Dallas area. There will only be a nominal charge (prorated among attendees to cover any copy costs). The location is across from the Dart Station. Parking is free and there are many good places to eat within walking distance for the noon hour social break.
Please contact Yulise R. Waters, Project Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or Gay G. Cox at email@example.com or at 214-522-0150 (Cox Waters, PLLC), if you would like to learn more about this program. Sign up soon as the space is limited. Preference will be given to those able to volunteer in the Dallas area.
To further convince you that you would thoroughly love this work, we offer the testimonials below of Gay G. Cox JD, Sandra Harward JD, Chris Farish JD, Jan Fletcher JD, Leora Olorunnisomo JD, Julie H. Quaid JD, and Brenda Lee Roberts, M.Ed., LPC, as well as an excerpt of an article written about the Project by Sherrie R. Abney. Feel free to call any one of us to learn more.
The CPS Collaborative Project has given me the opportunity to return to my "first love" in law -- helping families of abused and neglected children heal from that trauma. I have been blessed to serve as the attorney for a mother and also for a father in the project. In my third case, I will be representing the grandmother with whom the child has been voluntarily placed. In one case, I was able to help the parent who had been a child in the care of CPS receive the "missing information" about childhood that was desired and needed. I have long felt guilty about not doing enough pro bono, because I would not litigate, but now I can volunteer hours in a way that supports what I value.
Gay G. Cox, J.D.
Cox Waters, PLLC
2213 Boll Street
Dallas, Texas 75204
Originally I was involved with CPS cases representing parents on their appeals. I became a CASA and quickly realized that removing a child from his or her home for a life in foster care is not always a great option. I believe in family advocacy, in keeping the family together if at all possible. The CPS Collaborative Law Project gives parents the chance to change their lives before they lose their children permanently and to keep their children safely in the arms of those who love them. So far I have represented a child in a case. I’ve been very impressed to see CPS, all the attorneys and the process facilitator work together to mentor a young couple as they learn to become good parents and prevent another child from being absorbed into the child welfare system.
Jan Fletcher, J.D., Dallas, Texas
I could not have done anything or been productive without the tremendous instruction and assistance from Sonja [Bailey, CPS supervisor] and Konnie [Critton, CPS caseworker]. They have been absolutely wonderful. They take me by the hand and lead me through the process!
They have the knowledge, understanding and skills to participate in this Program and make it work. Their efforts and hard work have been nothing short of amazing in my opinion. They work well with all of the attorneys and other professionals, not an easy task. They are kind and considerate with the parents, yet hold the parents to the plan and what they must do to achieve reunification. A great job of balancing.
Their social skills and people skills help us all. It is their combined ability to work the CPS Program within the Collaborative Project Method/Procedures that is helping us all make this work. It has not been easy, but they share the same dedication we do to make this Program succeed. We are all better with them working with us.
My thanks to you for wisely choosing Sonja and Konnie to be a part of the Collaborative Law Project.
Sandra K. Harward
Regional Attorney IV
Cell (817) 313-0591
Office (903) 778-2530
As a young attorney, CPS offers a multitude of ways to be involved and to assist families in need. However, as a collaborative soul with no love lost for the world of litigation, I have found my previous experiences with CPS to be painful and lacking in the satisfaction of knowing that I had truly helped a family. I had begun to shy away from pro-bono activities due to the high stress, lack of appreciation, and general feeling of disenchantment caused by my previous experiences. The CPS Collaborative Project has offered me the opportunity to have a positive experience with CPS and with pro-bono work. I currently represent a grandmother, who has custody of three children through voluntary placement in her home, and I have had the pleasure of watching my client assist her daughter in growing personally to a point where she can have her children in her home again. It is incredibly rewarding to have the opportunity to be a part of a positive change in a parent’s life, which will ultimately create a positive change in the lives of her children.
Christopher M. Farish
Quaid & Quaid, LLC.
8150 N. Central Expwy., Ste 600
Dallas, Texas 75206
Telephone: (214) 373-9100
Facsimile: (214) 373-6688
I must admit, I had no idea the work that would be involved in putting this project together, not to mention all the pieces involved in developing it into a full-blown, up and running project. Sometimes after we had been together working on project development, I would walk away thinking, "what the hell are we doing?" It all just seemed so much more complex and convoluted than I had ever envisioned and could wrap my mind around. In some of those meetings, I would just be sitting there nodding my head to whatever question was thrown my way. But as the project began to take form, I was forced to think about each component to see its overall benefit to the potential participants. Thank God for all the dedication and commitment we all showed as a group, but particularly for Gay and Yulise and all the 'woman hours' (and emails!) they have invested to see this project come to fruition. While I had the 'abstract' idea in my head, they were able to move the project from a mere concept to what we have implemented today. As a result of all our hard work and the dedicated professionals who have volunteered to get this project up and running, I know, we all know that the project's objectives of helping families stay together while focusing on those values necessary to make and keep families healthy will be realized -- there is no doubt in my mind.
Leora Olorunnisomo, J.D.
Leora S. Olorunnisomo, P.C.
P.O. Box 1644
Rowlett, TX 75030-1644
The CPS Collaborative Project has allowed me the opportunity to assist people in the middle of a CPS investigation, something I did not have experience with before now. The professionals at CPS have been so wonderful and open throughout the two cases I have participated in to date. It is has been an honor and a pleasure to work with them. I have represented the Mother whose children were taken away as well as the children in another case. These experiences have been enlightening and rewarding to me both professionally and personally. I have been refreshed by my fellow professionals who so willingly have given hours of their time to help others who need it. The clients involved in this process might well have ended up in the litigation system if not for the efforts of the professional team. That fact, in and of itself, makes it all worthwhile. We have been able to offer options and solutions that were uniquely tailored to the family’s needs instead of making them conform to a standard mold. We have assisted the clients in reaching their goals and providing a better life for themselves and their children. Yes, my efforts have helped others but I truly feel that I have gained even more than I have given.
Julie H. Quaid
Quaid & Quaid, LLC
8150 N. Central Expwy. , Suite 600
Dallas, Texas 75206
Telephone: (214) 373-6161
Facsimile: (214) 373-6688
I have learned so much! The dynamics in the room are amazing and challenging. It is incredibly rewarding to see all of the team players, including family and parents, come together to make it as best as possible for the children. It is incredibly challenging with how the same people (family and parents) are so cautious and secretive about what they will share due to CPS involvement. There is a "stigma" about CPS that we certainly need to work on overcoming in the meetings in order for there to be some level of trust. To see our Child's Attorney having those hard conversations when sitting right next to the parent has been impactful and moving.
Brenda Lee Roberts, M. Ed., LPC
Adoption/Disputed Custody Social Studies
4849 Greenville Ave., Suite 1118
Two Energy Square
Dallas Texas 75206
"All of the professionals participating in the program have been trained in Collaborative Law. The program is designed to allow the parents of children at risk to have representation prior to any action being taken at court, and instead of parents simply being told what they must do, the parents participate in discussions regarding their concerns and the concerns of the caseworkers. Various options are developed and evaluated to remedy the conditions that put the children at risk. When parents participate in developing the plans they are expected to work, they are much more likely to follow through and successfully complete them."
Sherrie R. Abney, J.D., "Collaborative Law in a New Venue Partnering with CPS," Alternative Resolutions, the newsletter of the State Bar of Texas Alternative Dispute Resolution Section, Fall 2010, Vol. 20, No. 1, at page 33.
Editor's Note: Gay Cox, Leora Olorunnisomo and Sherrie Abney were interviewed by Cutting Edge Law. Leora's interview focuses on this project and it is mentioned in Gay's interview.
Leora's interview is at:
And (unrelated to this topic) Sherrie's interview is at: