St. Mary's Law Journal


Shannon K. Dunn


The raid of the Yearning for Zion ranch exposed fundamental flaws in the operation of the Texas Department of Children and Family Services (the Department). In the raid, the Department took custody of 468 children without a court order and removed them from their homes. This is one of the most glaring examples of the Department’s disregard for the Texas Family Code. Subchapter B of section 263 of the Texas Family Code mandates for the creation and implementation of a comprehensive service plan whenever the Department removes a child from his home. The Department, however, failed to create service plans that were unique to each family involved. The service plans created consisted mostly of boilerplate language that was not specific to each individual family, which is in direct opposition to the requirement of specificity contained in the Texas Family Code. When the Department supplies a boilerplate or unworkable service plan—whether it is because of bureaucratic malfeasance or indifference, a bulging caseload, or an active attempt to stymie the parents’ hopes for reunification of their family—the children are the ones who ultimately suffer. Attorneys owe it to their clients, the children, and the state of Texas to ensure that each service plan prepared after the Department takes possession of a child is individualized, fair, and appropriate. Appropriate service plans, written and implemented with the full cooperation of both the parents and the Department give parents and children the very best opportunity to enjoy their constitutional right to the integrity of the family unit.


St. Mary's University School of Law