November 6, 2014  |  Region 07

7 Minutes to Live: Crisis in the Child Protective Service Courts

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Too many cases of child abuse and too little time to make a life or death decision. KXAN News found Travis County judges have less than 10 minutes on cases involving abused and neglected children. Cases like 11 month old Orien Hamilton, who died recently in the foster care system. Her skull allegedly crushed by an unmonitored visitor to her care taker’s Cedar Park home.

“I get angry with myself. I get angry with the system,” says Judge Darlene Byrne. She is one of three judges overlooking the Child Protective Services docket in Travis county. Recently, two children on Judge Byrne’s docket died, including baby Orien.

“Had I had more time? Maybe I would have asked the right question to assess the safety of that home, I don’t know? But I know I didn’t have enough time,” she says.

A mother herself, Judge Byrne has been on the bench in the Travis County 126th Judicial District Court since 2001. She extremely passionate and dedicated to her children at home and on her docket, “I’m a mom of three kids and I’m so honored to be their mom. I also consider myself the mom of every kid on my docket,” says Judge Byrne. She often spends hours on the weekends off the bench pouring over her massive caseload knowing lives of children depend on her in the courtroom.