In his continued quest to improve the quality of justice in far West Texas, District Judge Roy Ferguson has set his sights on modernizing the Child Protective Services system. Ferguson presides over all CPS cases in Brewster, Culberson, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis and Presidio Counties. By law, children and indigent parents in CPS cases receive court-appointed counsel at county expense. In most cases, three different court-appointed attorneys are appointed, who must meet with their clients before each hearing. Unfortunately, few attorneys are qualified and willing to serve in the 20,000+ square mile district. Many parents live out-of-state, and the lack of local foster homes means many children are placed in El Paso or beyond – hundreds of miles from courthouse and attorney. This makes face-to-face meetings incredibly time consuming for the attorneys, and costly to the counties that pay their travel expenses.
In collaboration with the Texas Office of Court Administration and Frontier CASA, attorneys appointed in CPS cases in the Big Bend region may now confer with children, parties and foster parents through confidential video conferencing from CASA’s Alpine office. Additionally, children can participate in court hearings via video-conferencing, without missing school or traveling across the state. And best of all, the system is free.
Ferguson declares this a significant improvement to the CPS system across west Texas. “Sadly, the children at the heart of these cases often feel excluded from the process that determines their fate,” says Judge Ferguson. “With this system, we will better serve children in CPS cases, improve their communication and participation, and save counties money in the process. I am grateful to OCA and CASA for their dedication and cooperation in helping us care for children in our community.”