Judges’ Toolkit

Toolkit for Judges

The Texas Permanency Outcomes Project

TXPOP is refocusing practice, strengthening the workforce, and transforming how systems treat families within foster care. TXPOP us a project of the University of Texas at Austin, Texas Institute for Child & Family Wellbeing, and the Texas Center for Child and Family Studies in partnership with the Department of Family and Protective Services and the Supreme Court’s Children’s Commission. The project is funded by a 5-year grant from the Federal Children’s Bureau.

How Judges can Increase Family Engagement

We sat down with judges and team members working on our Texas Permanency Outcomes Project to learn more about how the judicial side of child welfare can engage families and promote positive outcomes for children. Watch this video to learn more.

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In this section, there are several resources to help you learn more about the TXPOP project. To learn more about this project in general you can visit this page.

TXPOP Project Promotional Video (3 minutes) 

In this video, learn about the TXPOP vision, mission, and approach to reinventing the Texas foster care system. 

 TXPOP Project Overview Video (7 minutes) 

In this video, learn more about the theoretical background of the TXPOP project.

 TXPOP Project 1-pager


Meet Judge Sandra

Child Protection Court Judge in Texas
Judge Sandra's Story

Meet Judge Sandra, the Child Protection Court judge. Judge Sandra was elected two years ago after practicing family law as an attorney for over 20 years. She decided to run for office because of her personal and professional commitment to help families. She first learned about TXPOP when she was asked to participate in the Local Advisory Group. During the Local Advisory Group meetings she learned that TXPOP is a new way of working with families that puts children’s input at the center of decision making, builds partnerships between families and caregivers, and creates a safety and support network around the children and their families. Last week she received a notice that a new family in the jurisdiction of her court, Rose and her children, are involved in the project.

How TXPOP Supports Judge Sandra

Judge Sandra received a Notice to the Court that explained that she can expect increased involvement of families involved with the project in the day-to-day lives of their children. The notice also let Judge Sandra know that the caregivers, family, extended family, friends, and other support network members may attend court hearings. Network Meetings were explained and a list of questions she could ask were provided. Judge Sandra also attends Quarterly TXPOP Judges Convenings to learn and network with other judges around the state who are involved with TXPOP. 

Resources available to Judge Sandra

Judges that have a family involved in TXPOP will be supported in a variety of ways: 

Training and support at Quarterly TXPOP Judges Convenings that provide education on youth outcomes research, overviews of TXPOP processes, and peer models that illustrate judges who have successfully implemented the model. 

  • A Notice to the Court that demonstrates the TXPOP process and provides a decision tree to illustrate how judicial rulings affect children.
  • TXPOP promotional materials that are geared towards judges and the legal community in general.


Examples of Questions a Judge Can Ask on a TXPOP Case 

Have you had or do you have a family network meeting set up?
How will the family be involved in developing plans?
If the Department is recommending services—inquire if family had input into that, do they understand the services they are being asked to participate in and why?
Have the foster family and birth family met yet? If not, is there a plan for this?
To the Birth parents: Who is a part of your network? How can we get them involved?
What is the best plan for visitation? How frequent can it be and where can it take place that will allow for normalcy? What other kind of contacts can be encouraged?
How will the parents be involved in decisions about the children while they are in care?
What is the plan to involve the father and his family?
What safety issues remain that are preventing the return of the children?

Frequently Asked Questions for Judges 

Safety is paramount in child welfare cases. All the structures and tools that are used to assess safety today will still be in place as part of TXPOP. As part of TXPOP practices you will receive more information related to parent/child interactions that will help you to make decisions related to safety.

Family participation in the project will not change your docket apart from increased involvement from all parties that will give you a more robust picture of each unique family.

The project will give them the tools and skills to allow for and promote meaningful interaction with birth parents. The foster families will have support and training from the TXPOP team and the Child Placing Agencies.

It is our hope that more lines of communication with foster parents will be opened through this project. But much like today some foster parents are able to make it to court and some are not.

The TXPOP team will provide frequent updates and information about the project as it progresses. We are currently partnering with Monarch Family Services in Houston and Giocosa in the Rio Grande Valley area.

One of the goals of the project is for CPA case managers to be more involved with birth families so the plan is that you will see them in your courtroom more often. We feel like this is an innovative part of the project that could really make a difference in keeping children connected to important adults in their lives. However, it will not be mandatory that CPA case managers attend all hearings.

TXPOP does not place any additional expectations or responsibilities on judges. We hope that you will support and encourage interaction between birth and foster families. The court can help facilitate this in a safe and healthy way by allowing children contact with extended family members, even if those family members are not a “placement” resource. We also want to promote creative thinking about when, where, and how visits occur, keeping in mind each birth family’s unique circumstances and progress in addressing safety concerns.

Are you a judge hearing child welfare cases in Texas interested in getting involved with TXPOP? Contact Megan Ransom at Mransom@tacfs.org

Local and state leadership are very excited about the project and are partnering with the TXPOP team to ensure its success!

Are you a judge hearing child welfare cases in Texas and are interested in getting involved with TXPOP? Contact Megan Ransom at Mransom@tacfs.org


TXPOP engages the system on the statewide and local levels by asking key stakeholders to meaningfully contribute to the work. Our stakeholder groups include individuals representing the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), CASA, the courts, child care licensing, parents, foster caregivers, and youth formerly in foster care, among others. Stakeholder groups meet regularly to provide feedback and spread the word about our work throughout their networks.

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