Introduction

Despite the many improvements Texas has made over the past several years, involving youth in the court process and ensuring their voice is heard and considered continues to be a challenge. The Texas Family Code has been amended many times to make it clear that children and youth must attend hearings, and to place additional duties on attorneys ad litem, judges, and the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS or “the Department”) to meet with children in advance of court hearings and provide children and caregivers with notice of court proceedings and with copies of reports filed in advance of each hearing. Yet, children and youth are routinely excluded from meaningful participation, resulting in the feeling that their voices are not heard, and their opinions are not important.