Friday, 10 February 2012

Specialized Training and Certificates

I've been absent from my own blog these past several months. Largely that's been due to having a lot of little things going on. What I have been doing though has given me a whole bunch of skills and certificates which will be very valuable to me in the future.

The most recent new skill that I have picked up was the Texas 40 hour Basic Mediation Course. With that now in my portfolio, I figured it was time that I post some of my recently acquired certificates and talk a bit about what each of them means and is used for.

Basic Mediation

Better Business Bureau Arbitration

Texas has been a leader in the Alternative Dispute Resolution movement. In 1987, the Texas Legislature passed the Alternative Dispute Resolution Procedures Act, which prescribes the minimum requirements for persons qualifying for appointments as impartial third parties under the act. The forty hour mediator training requirement of the Texas Mediation Centers was adopted by the legislature as the standard training qualification. It allows for a person to be appointed by a court as a neutral if the court bases its appointment on legal or other professional training or experience in particular dispute resolution processes, which is what I have been using to perform Arbitrations up to this point through the Better Business Bureau for the El Paso County Attorney.

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for Children

CASA volunteers are individuals that are assigned to advocate for abused and neglected children. There are several parties to a child abuse/neglect case: the parent(s), the County Attorney (or his designated staff lawyer), Child Protective Services a.k.a CPS (Texas Dept. of Family and Protective Services), the child's attorney (the child is the victim), and whenever possible a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA).

I often get asked "What's the difference between the child's attorney and the CASA. The short answer is that the child's attorney is a lawyer with the child as his client, and as such the lawyer has a duty to advocate for the outcome that the child wants. The CASA, on the other hand, does not have to be a lawyer, and is appointed as a Guardian ad Litem to advocate for what is in the child's best interest regardless of what the child wants.

The CASA training is also a 40 hour training course (35 hours of classroom training and 5 hours of courtroom observation). Once that is completed, the CASA is sworn in, and is available to be assigned to a CPS case. There is a permanent CASA staff which manages the overall system, but largely the CASA is allowed to manage their own case, visit with the child, follow up with medical professionals, teachers, the CPS worker and other individuals involved with the case.

Some of the cases are tough and not all of them have a happy ending. However if you're mentally and emotionally strong enough this is one of the ways where people without a legal or therapy background can make some of the biggest differences in a abused or neglected child's life.

Crime Victims Compensation Fund Presumptive Eligibility Forms

The Office of the Attorney General of Texas says "Crime doesn't pay, but in Texas, criminals do." In Texas, if you are a victim of violent crime, you may be eligible for benefits. The primary purpose of the Crime Victim's Compensation Fund is encouraging greater victim participation in the apprehension and prosecution of criminals and reimbursing innocent victims for certain out-of-pocket expenses incurred as a result of violent crime.

Claims may be approved for benefits up to a total of $50,000. Individuals who suffer total and permanent disability as a result of the crime may qualify for an additional $75,000, which may be used for specific and limited expenses, such as lost wages, prosthetics, rehabilitation or making a home accessible, depending upon the law in effect on the crime date. Interestingly, you don't have to be a citizen of the United States in order to qualify, you only need to be a resident of the State of Texas, which requires that you have made Texas your home for more than 30 days.

The program is a "payer of last resort," meaning that you have to exhaust all other potential payers first (insurance, workers comp, Medicaid, auto insurance, etc...). CVC program staff assists applicants in coordinating the use of all available resources.

For some reason, few people know about or take advantage of the compensation fund. Once you have been trained in the process, you have the ability to interface with the Attorney General's system in order to follow up on the eligibility forms, and to know if they have already been completed so that victims don't "double apply" by accident because they can't remember what forms they've completed after a violent crime.

So it's been a productive couple of months. I'm hoping that the next couple of months allow me to continue to work on expanding my business with some of these new skills, and hopefully get back to writing more often.

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