A family court judge is asking Bexar County to help fund a pilot program that would streamline cases in the family courts. Judge Peter Sakai hopes to add two court managers and other elements to the program that will help connect the dots with other parts of the legal system.
The child abuse and neglect court in Bexar County accounts for $3.5 million a year in fees for court-appointed attorneys.
"And our system is second only to the total felony courts," Sakai said.
Sakai said the county needs more bang for its buck, and children need to be re-united with their families. He is asking commissioners for funding in next year's budget to establish the new pilot program. It aims to decrease the time it takes to move child abuse and neglect cases through the courts.
Sakai said many families encounter several different parts of the system at one time.
"They could come in through the criminal justice system either with a misdemeanor or felony. They could come in through our child abuse and neglect world. They can come in through the family law world with child custody or child support issues. They could come in because of domestic violence and go to domestic violence court," Sakai said.
Funding of the pilot program would also support a new screening tool to identify the families most at risk and offer those families treatments and support services as a preventive measure before they lose their children or become cases in other courts. And Sakai wants metrics to ensure a family’s progress with Child Protective Services.
"That the parents are clean and sober. That the parents have resolved perhaps significant mental health issues. That they have resolved perhaps housing or unemployment or illiteracy or all of the numerous dysfunctional factors that destroy families," he said.
Sakai is asking commissioners for $100,000 for the program, or less than a third of what is needed, with the balance to come from CPS and donations.