Adoptions Attorney Leslie Barrows
Tarrant County child abuse cases take all forms 
 
Adoption-Day

National Adoption Day 2014

The recent newspaper headline was alarming: “Tarrant County leads Texas in Child Abuse Cases.” The Fort Worth Star-Telegram went on to report that the number of child abuse victims in the county jumped from 5,689 in 2013 to 6,097 in 2014.

That’s a lot of kids and families in crisis. Experts told the newspaper that some of that increase came from growth in population; I think it’s also a result of increases in reporting.

But there’s more to the story. In all, Texas’ Family and Protective Services, or CPS, completed more than 13,000 investigations in Tarrant County in 2014, with only about 29 percent resulting in a confirmed case.

The child protection process – from the first allegation to conclusion – involves a lot of players. Barrows Firm attorneys are right there for biological parents, children and foster parents, making sure that their rights are protected.

There are three basic areas where we work: helping guide parents accused of wrongdoing; acting as a court-appointed ad litem attorney for children; and completing adoptions where parental rights have been severed.

Many of the calls we get in this area are from parents who have had a knock on the door or a call from a CPS investigator. They’re panicked. What do they do? Who can help them?

This process isn’t something families should face alone.

We have a working relationship with a lot of CPS investigators and supervisors. They are dedicated individuals, but they’ve also seen a lot of people lie over the years. CPS investigators are often looking for inconsistencies- even something as small as tripping up on recalling a date or time of day can spell trouble.

An attorney by your side can help you feel more confident. It also helps you know that what you’re being told about state laws and how they apply to your case is the whole picture.

Most of the cases we see end up with a correction plan and don’t go to court. For those that do end up before a judge, our attorneys often take on the role of the eyes and ears of the court as the attorney ad litem for a child. After being appointed as the attorney ad litem, we connect with the children wherever we can, monitoring parental visits, and reporting back to the court on what should happen.

If all of the corrective plans haven’t worked, CPS terminates parental rights and we can also become involved then. That sad conclusion to the CPS case can still lead to a happy ending for the child with an adoption to a loving “forever family.”

Adoptions are my favorite kind of family case and they’re why I’ve been on the Tarrant County committee for National Adoption Day since 2007. It’s a day when families come together dressed in their Sunday finest to have their adoptions of foster children finalized at the Family Law Center in downtown Fort Worth. Last year, 65 children were adopted during the celebration and this year’s event, planned for Nov. 20, promises to be just as big.

I’ll be there – happily watching as these children move past the unfortunate statistics and start a new life.

TCBA Solo Small Firm Section Mixer 
 

The Tarrant County Bar Association Solo Small Firm Section Mixer is Tuesday, May 19th 2015, starting at 5:00p.

The May 2015 TCBA Solo Small Firm Section Mixer is being hosted by The Barrows Firm, P.C. at 500 E. Belknap, Fort Worth, TX  76102

To RSVP, contact Sherry Jones at the Tarrant County Bar Association Office.

E:  sherry@tarrantbar.org

P:  817-338-4092

As heard on The Ticket… 
 

Ticket logoRecently, The Barrows Firm recorded radio spots on The Ticket. It was exciting to hear them on the radio for the first time.

What’s more gratifying, however, is helping those who are going through a tough time.

Click to hear The Barrows Firm’s commercials on Divorce and Criminal Charges.

If you need legal help, please don’t hesitate to give us a call.

817.481.1583

Teen Court Teaches Life Lessons 
 

Susie got caught stealing from Walmart. Johnny got busted for drinking at a high school party.  Jane sped through a stop sign – without a driver’s license.

Good kids make bad decisions.

I see it all the time – both in my law practice and in my role as a teen court judge. I also see a lot of unhappy parents who are concerned that their child’s criminal conduct will adversely affect their future.

Six years ago, I began volunteering as a judge for Metroport Teen Court, an innovative program that gives juveniles the opportunity to keep Class C misdemeanors off their record. The program, which is funded by the cities of Colleyville, Grapevine, Keller and Southlake, allows juvenile defendants to have their fate decided by a jury of their peers and to “pay off” their citations through community service.

Teen court is under the supervision of an adult judge – myself and several other lawyers who volunteer their time – but the rest of the judicial process is youth-driven.

Take the case of Susie, Johnny and Jane (all hypotheticals.) Susie was charged with theft under $50, Johnny picked up a citation for being a minor in possession of alcohol, and Jane was ticketed for driving without a license.

All pleaded guilty and agreed to enter the Metroport Teen Court program and have their punishment assessed by fellow teens who, previously, found themselves on the wrong side of the law.

On the day of their trials – which are held on Tuesday evenings at Southlake DPS Headquarters – juvenile defendants arrive to court with a parent or guardian.

Metroport Teen CourtVolunteer prosecutors and defense attorneys – youths from area schools who are considering careers in criminal justice – question them on the witness stand about their conduct, what kind of punishment they received at home, and whether they have accepted responsibility for their actions.

Sometimes parents are also called to the witness stand to testify.

After hearing all the testimony, a jury of their peers deliberates their punishment – which always includes community service (sometimes as many as 80 hours) and serving as a juror on future teen court trials. In some cases, the jury also orders the defendant to write an essay or attend alcohol or tobacco awareness classes.

And while the jury’s verdict is respected, the judge can – and often does – add more conditions or community service hours if warranted. A stern lecture from the judge is also not uncommon.

If the teen successfully completes their community service and the conditions of their sentence, the ticket will be dismissed and it will not appear on their record.

Over the years, I have presided over all kinds of teen court cases, including criminal mischief, curfew violations, vandalism, possession of drug paraphernalia, public intoxication, theft and disorderly conduct.

Some defendants cry, others lie. But I believe that all take something away from the program – a life lesson that, hopefully, will deter them from repeating their mistakes.

Later this month, a reception will be held at Southlake DPS Headquarters, recognizing the Metroport Teen Court program and a volunteer judge. I was honored to have received the Metroport Teen Court Judge Award in 2013.

Over the years, I’ve watched the Metroport Teen Court program expand and evolve. It has also been effective.

Not only does the program hold teens accountable for their actions, but it also teaches them about the justice system and giving back to the community.

The ultimate goal, of course, is to make sure that these juveniles don’t appear again in this court – or any other.

 For more information about the Metroport Teen Court, please visit their website at www.metroport-teencourt.org or call 817-748-8346.

—Leslie Starr Barrows

 

A look ahead: Later this month, Leslie Starr Barrows and two other legal experts will speak to the Texas A&M Criminal Law Society about the juvenile justice system. The goal of the Texas A&M Criminal Law Society is to educate students who are interested in working in criminal law on the practical issues they may face as attorneys by learning from the experience of current professionals.

Crusading for Komen 
 

Life isn’t about the destination. It’s about what you did on the journey.

Giving back to the community is very important to me. I am especially passionate about causes that help women and children.

Recently, an acquaintance reached out to see if I would be interested in serving on the board of directors for Susan G. Komen Greater Fort Worth, which is gearing up for their largest fundraiser next month. The 23rd Annual Race for the Cure – a walk-run that will be held on April 25 at Ridgmar Mall – raises funds and awareness for the fight against breast cancer, celebrates breast cancer survivors and honors those who have lost their lives.

I have friends in the legal community who have been stricken with breast cancer. I have seen first-hand the devastation and destruction caused by the disease.  So helping and supporting this organization just felt right.

This week, I was officially elected to Komen Greater Fort Worth’s board of directors, a position I am honored to hold. Since 1992, Komen Greater Fort Worth has raised over $22 million to provide services, education and outreach to the local community.

But there is still much work to be done. I am ready to roll up my sleeves and get started. How about you?

–Leslie Starr Barrows

For more information about Race for The Cure and how to you can help, please visit Komen Greater Fort Worth’s website at komengreaterfortworth.org or call 817-735-8580.

From There to Here… 
 

Eight years ago, I was working out of my house, primarily handling traffic tickets.

Today, I operate a full-service law firm in downtown Fort Worth with a 6-member staff that includes four attorneys and two paralegals.

The road from there to here was bumpy at times. Juggling a legal career and a family – including a husband and three young boys (yes, I said three) – is not always rainbows and roses.

But I worked hard, took chances and figured out what I wanted, sometimes by realizing what I didn’t.

Over the years, I have worked by myself, at a law firm, and shared an office building with a group of women attorneys. At the last place, my associate attorney and I actually shared a desk.

Not exactly ideal.

For years, I have had my eye on a charming white office on Belknap Street in downtown Fort Worth, which was walking distance from the three courthouses where I spend much of my time. In 2013, I called the landlord and he offered me a good deal.

I was in – and there was plenty of room to grow.

500-e-belknap-fort-worth-texasRecently, I brought another paralegal and two more attorneys  – Sherry Armstong and Drew Kaldenbach – on board.

Everyone gets along. Everyone is excited to come to work every day.

We are all at the right place at the right time.

We are a firm – The Barrows Firm – but already it feels like more. It feels like family.

 –Leslie Starr Barrows