A new report co-published by the Center and the Children’s Commission highlights four courtroom teams who participated in the Trauma-Informed Courts Project.  

Their projects were focused on goals such as increasing family engagement, reducing the trauma families experience when coming to court, and reducing recidivism. The Children’s Commission formed the Statewide Collaborative for Trauma-Informed Care (SCTIC) in 2017 in response to a broad call to create a roadmap for trauma-informed practices throughout all parts of the system. 

In 2019 the Collaborative published “Building A Trauma-Informed Child Welfare System: A Blueprint.” Known as the Blueprint, it became just the roadmap the courts needed to work together creatively and approach their work in a trauma-responsive way. Using the guidelines of the Blueprint, the court teams highlighted in this report were able to prioritize felt safety for families and children, focus on effective courtroom culture, and build lasting community ties within their communities. 

The Courts and Their Projects 

The courts who participated in this project applied and were selected through a partnership between the Children’s Commission and the Center. The courts were: 

  • Judge Angela Graves-Harrington, Presiding Judge – 246th Family District Court (Houston)  
  • Judge Andrea James, Associate Judge – Second Region Child Protection Court Number 2 (Bryan)  
  • Judge Linda Dunson, Presiding Judge – 309th Family District Court (Houston)  
  • Judge Cheryl Vaughan, Associate Judge – Child Protection Court Eighth Region North (Gainesville)  

As champions for this work, each judge selected a team to work with them on a trauma-informed court project. The teams were based on the unique community needs and included the judges, attorneys for both parents and children, representatives from CASA and DFPS, court clerks and administrators, and representatives from child- and family-serving organizations. Staff from the Children’s Commission and The Center worked together with the court teams to provide technical assistance and facilitate collaboration between the teams.  

The report, “Building a Network of Trauma-Informed Courts in Texas” highlights their successes, acknowledges their challenges to implementation, and paves the way for future efforts.