A. The Law

Chapter 263 of the Texas Family Code mandates that all children who are in the conservatorship of DFPS attend all permanency hearings.[114] Specifically, Section 263.302 states that the child shall attend each permanency hearing, unless the court specifically excuses the child’s attendance, and that the court shall consult with the child in a developmentally appropriate manner regarding the child’s permanency plan, if the child is four years of age or older and the court determines it is in the best interest of the child.[115] Failure by the child to attend a hearing does not affect the validity of an order rendered at the hearing.[116]

The law does not require or appear to contemplate that the child or youth will attend an Ex Parte, Adversary or Status Hearing. Although there are different interpretations, many read the law to say that the child must attend each permanency hearing, unless the judge makes an individual determination that excused that child from attending a specific hearing. Issuing a blanket order excusing a child from attending permanency hearings or even more generally, for all children to be excused from all permanency hearings, is not considered a best practice. Additionally, and of note, youth who are committed to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) may (and should) attend permanency hearings by video, telephone, or in person.[117]