Brandon,* an 18 year-old in extended foster care, recently participated in his CPS court hearing for the first time thanks to the power of video conferencing and work from the Office of Court Administration and TRLA’s Foster Youth Justice Project.
Brandon is a quadriplegic and requires a ventilator and extensive medical equipment and support when he travels. For this reason, transporting Brandon to CPS court, a considerable distance away from his foster home, was considered too difficult. As a result, he was never able to fully participate in the crucial decisions that were being made about his life and future.
With the assistance of the Office of Court Administration, the Texas Foster Youth Justice Project was able to set up video conferencing capabilities so that Brandon could virtually attend his hearing. From over 200 miles away, Brandon was able to speak to a judge, share his experiences, and advocate for himself. He spoke about his current foster care placement, his school involvement, sibling contact and visits, his transition plan, and concerns he had about the future. He was also able to directly listen to what his caseworker, the CPS attorney, and his TRLA attorney reported about his case. Following the hearing, the positive change in Brandon’s mood and confidence was profound.
Court participation is often critical in giving foster youth a sense of control over their lives. For Brandon – a foster youth with even less control due to health and mobility limitations – court participation was particularly empowering.
*Name changed to protect privacy