Bexar County Child Abuse & Neglect Courts
Judge Peter Sakai
"The Bexar County Children’s Court and the Hidalgo Foundation have created an unparalleled and unprecedented public/private partnership in creating cutting edge and innovative programs that protect children and empower families in our child protective service system, such as the Family Drug Treatment Court and the Early Intervention Program of the Children’s Court. Chair of the Hidalgo Foundation Tracy Wolff has been an extraordinary leader in developing the relationships with the philanthropic and foundation organizations with Bexar County. We are truly a blessed community."
Dr. Margaret A. Kelley
Hidalgo Board Member
Specialty: Obstetrics & Gynecology
"As an OB-GYN, I have made a commitment to the welfare of women and their children. Serving on the Board of the Hidalgo Foundation has allowed me to extend my focus to some of the most disadvantaged families of our community who have been involved in the child welfare system. In addition, as a lifelong learner and avid reader, I am so excited by the innovation of the BiblioTechs, which the Hidalgo Foundation established in collaboration with Bexar County Commissioners Court."
The first of its kind in Texas and the second in the nation, the Bexar County Child Abuse & Neglect Courts are located on the third floor of the historic Bexar County Courthouse. This area has over 10,000 square feet of space designed with children in mind, and has been named the "Model for the Nation" by the William and Mary Law School Courtroom 21 Project.
In 2005, the Hidalgo Foundation partnered with the SBC Foundation for the unveiling of the Bexar County Child Abuse & Neglect Court. The children's courthouse complex houses two child-friendly courtrooms and hearing rooms, both equipped with state-of-the-art courtroom technology including capability for remote testimony, video-conferencing and electronic evidence presentation. The complex also includes a supervised visitation and protective custody suite, holding cells, a parent drug program, clerical and child worker support, and a unique educational play area that includes computers and internet access so the children can keep up with their school work.
"The goal of the new Children's Court is to have a place where the children can feel comfortable and safe while going through the court system. We’ve created a unique space where professionals will help children with homework, and the children can play on computers, read, create craft projects and have snacks while waiting to appear in court," said Tracy Wolff, President of the Hidalgo Foundation.
In addition to new technology, the historic features of the Bexar County Courthouse will be restored and incorporated into the new spaces. These features include large arched windows, historic doors, mission-style tile floors and marble wainscoting. The same Pecos red sandstone present on the exterior of the courthouse will be featured as the backdrop for the judges’ benches.
The Hidalgo Foundation encourages you to become more aware of the signs of child abuse and neglect and how to report suspected abuse. For more information, please visit the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services website.
Early Intervention Program
In 2015, the Hidalgo Foundation was awarded $250,000 from the Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio and the San Antonio Area Foundation for the development and implementation of the Bexar County Early Intervention Program. The mission of the Early Intervention Program is to reunify infants and toddlers with responsible parents who are equipped to form a healthy attachment between parent and child. The goals of the program are:
- To focus on the most vulnerable populations of the child welfare system, the zero to three-year-old child(ren);
- To provide an intensive and comprehensive network of services in mental health and cognitive and social child development;
- To empower parents with skills and parental education in child development;
- To set up a safety system of early reunification of children and parents; and,
- To focus on the attachment and bonding issues for these children.
The hallmark of the program will be the Child-Parent Psychotherapy (CPP) which is one of only a handful of evidence-based practices designed to strengthen the bond between parent and infant/toddler.
Ultimately, the Early Intervention Program will provide a comprehensive, intensive, and multi-disciplinary team approach to child welfare. It will coordinate services between Child Protective Services (CPS), medical and other health care providers, mental health providers and service agencies, child development experts and organizations, and other nonprofit organizations dedicated to protecting children and empowering families. Most importantly, the program will transform families to be healthy, nurturing and self-sufficient in raising their children.
The Early Intervention Program will operate under the leadership and supervision of the Honorable Peter Sakai, presiding judge of the 225th Civil District Court.
The Bexar County Family Drug Treatment Court
In 2002, the Hidalgo Foundation received a $1.37 million anonymous grant to create and implement the Bexar County Family Drug Treatment Court. The Family Drug Treatment Court was created because of the need to intervene in those situations which involve both child abuse and neglect as well as substance abuse by the parent. Based on the successful completion of the program, children are reunified with parents who are drug-free and equipped to raise their children. This Drug Court is modeled after the Ten Key Components as articulated by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP). These Ten Key Components are:
- Alcohol and other drug treatment services are integrated with the processing of the family’s case.
- A non-adversarial approach exists between the Judge, the family and all of the stakeholders in the case.
- Families are identified early and promptly placed into the Family Drug Court.
- A continuum of alcohol, drug, and other related treatment and rehabilitation services are offered.
- Abstinence is monitored by frequent alcohol and other drug testing.
- A coordinated strategy governs drug court responses to the parent’s compliance.
- Judicial interaction with the family is ongoing and intense.
- Monitoring and evaluation measure the achievement of program goals and gauge effectiveness.
- Continuing interdisciplinary education promotes effective drug court planning, implementation, and operations.
- Partnerships are forged between the Drug Court, public agencies and the nonprofit community in order to enhance Drug Court program effectiveness.