CPS Worker to Judge, Trauma Informed Care with Carole Clark

Judge Carole Clark learned early in her life to appreciate what the courts could do. Her first job out of college? Child Protective Services. From CPS Worker to judge, she’s seen it all. Now, she shares her story in order to call attention to Trauma Informed Care.

(Above photo: Sweet memories mixed with serious business: Judge Carole Clark took a quick break from serious court concerns to celebrate pet adoption with a friend.)


“I was 22 years old at the time. I had no idea that children were ever removed from their home by the government,” she says now. After presiding over Smith County’s designated family court for 20 years, she’s developed a passion for Trauma Informed Care. 

Through Trauma Informed Care all those involved in our justice system create dramatic and lasting change in families. In the past, family courts tended to see the same families over and over, according to Judge Carole. Obviously, the justice system is groaning under the weight of providing justice to families in crisis.

CPS Worker: Time in Court

Trained in education, she took the CPS worker job almost accidentally. Her husband was an attorney. They moved to Tyler, Texas together in October, with the school year well underway. With no jobs as a teacher open, she opted for another way to help children, CPS worker.

“That job requires you to spend a lot of time in court,” she says. After awhile, she caught on to the problems. There seemed to be a pattern, with the same families showing up in court, endangering the same children, generation after generation. Sadly, nothing seemed to help. No one had solutions. 

Trauma Informed Care

From the beginning, Judge Carole’s passion for helping children inspired her commitment to family well-being. As a young CPS worker, her natural assumptions got a dramatic wake-up call.

“I was stunned that some people were such abusive parents or neglectful parents that they endangered their children so much that the state had to step in and take them away. So I spent six months walking around with my mouth open in sheer shock.” She began to note patterns and seek solutions. Eventually, as a judge, she discovered Trauma Informed Care.

Ultimately, with Trauma Informed care, breaking the cycle of recidivism in our court system means kids get relief. Over the years, cases in her court prove the data.

In example after example, parents who habitually make poor decisions may experience an underlying issue with generational trauma. Fortunately, Trauma Informed Care provides a tool to break the destructive cycle popping up in multiple generations of the same families. (Stay tuned as we learn more about how to bring  Trauma Informed Care to your community in next week’s blog. Or,click here to find podcasts of our interviews with Judge Carole.)

The Lena Pope Home

Growing up in Fort Worth, she attended high school was across the street from the Lena Pope Home. Lena Pope, a nonprofit committed to serving children and families, is still well-known in Fort Worth and throughout Texas. Cultural ways of helping have evolved; we don’t use the word orphanage anymore, it seems. But, back then the term was common. (For more interviews on how to create companionship in families, click here.)

“I can remember asking my mom why they lived there. She told me their parents were dead,” explains Judge Carole. At the time, few people understood that some children could be abandoned due to neglect. Most people assumed that children in group homes were truly orphaned. “Back in those days a lot of things were not real public knowledge,” she adds. 

Soon she was attending Texas Christian University and preparing to be a school teacher. “I was the first person in my family to graduate from college,” she adds.

A Heart for the Law

That’s when mutual friends introduced her to the love of her life, a young law student attending Baylor. Instantly in love, they were married, bringing her to Tyler. Her husband’s family viewed law as the family business, with several family members practicing in the courtrooms of Smith County.

While it was agonizing at times, her job as a CPS worker opened her eyes and heart to the challenges in the justice system. (For our interview with Lorie Boruff, Cell 121: How to Respond When Your Child Goes to Jailclick here.) Gradually, she began to have a vision for how the law could help families. After several years, she decided to attend Baylor Law School.

“It was my first time to live by myself,” she laughs, adding, “I lived in a camping trailer they put in a mobile home park.” On weekends, she made the drive from Waco to Tyler, spending time with her hubby at home and studying for the next round of tests in law school. After graduation, “I came home and practiced with my husband and his dad.”

Clear the Court for Caring Solutions

In 1999, she became a judge, presiding over Smith County’s designated Family Court.

“I was very familiar with the court, different aspects of the court,” says Judge Carole, who recently retired. “Over the first five years, I became very frustrated with the child protective service system because I felt like we were seeing the same people over and over. We were not providing services to families that really made a difference.” She grew more and more disenchanted with procedures and laws that exacerbated problems, rather than solving them.

“I thought these children need to be with their families, but their families need to learn to be good parents,” she says. How in the world could THAT be accomplished? It seemed hopeless.

In what Judge Carole views as a series of miracles, long term solutions began to unfold, step by step. Now called Trauma Informed Care, no human could have anticipated the success of the unexpected and effective solutions they developed for courtrooms. Stay tuned because next week’s blog is all about Trauma Informed Care. (Sign up here so you don’t miss it!)

Fostering Justice

After serving twenty years as a Family Court Judge, Carole is taking on the system with an insider’s viewpoint. When she retired recently, folks throughout east Texas made donations to the Judge Carole Clark Trauma-Informed Care Fund at East Texas Communities Foundation. The new fund provides for training so that those serving in courts throughout the United States create lasting change in families. (To make a donation to the Judge Carole Clark Trauma-Informed Training Fund at the ETCF, click here.)

Offering hope and healing is the best way to help families, according to Judge Carole. Of course, healthy families foster justice throughout our land!

In our next interview, Judge Carole explains why traumatic events in families affect several generations. In it, Judge Carole offers hope and effective tools, along with how to contact experts to bring the training to your community. Please click here to be sure you receive our next bog on Trauma Informed Care.

May I pray with you?

Dear Father, You are the Righteous Judge. You alone know every detail of every case before every court today. Please intervene on behalf of families across America who are suffering. Especially for children who are affected, we ask Your mercy. Oh Lord, have mercy! We pray now for all the officials in our justice system who struggle under the weight of traumatized families. Give them wisdom and insight with each individual You bring across their path today, O Lord, so that our justice system can reflect Your glory.

We ask for healing and restoration for those who have been hurt. Help court officials provide tools to those who are willing to recover from old wounds. Help us break the cycle of repeated trauma in generations of the same families. May Your goodness and unfailing love pierce through, with firm guidance and hope. Have mercy, O Lord! We pray in Jesus’s name. Amen.

We love to hear from you!

What has the justice system in your location taught you about the nature of God? How is your church encouraging those who have experienced incarceration? In your community, what seems to be helping families who struggle with trauma? (It means so much to us when you leave comments below in our comment box! Thank you!!) 

More Ways to Create Healthy Companionship

At Camp Krafve, we strongly support all efforts to create companionship in our families and communities. Just for you, Anna Krafve Pierce offers lots more easy ideas about spending time with creative kids, here. Also, if you’ve ever struggled to write a stack of thank you notes, watch for our “Foolproof Thank You Notes” cheatsheet, which will be available soon! Sign up for our weekly blog, here. In an upcoming bog, we’ll discover why thankfulness frees our children’s hearts

More Stories and Wisdom to Bless Our Hearts

If you, too, embrace justice and compassion in our communities, we want to encourage you! Joyfully, we’ve interviewed experts. Don’t miss their stories and wisdom, shared just for you on Fireside Talk Radio: Doug McSwane, Marcie McSwane, Lori Boruff, Ben Sciacca, Tina Meier, and Colleen Long, to name a just a few of our favorite heroic people! Don’t forget, Anna is returning soon to Fireside Talk Radio https://cathykrafve.com/fireside-talk-radio/ for more creative fun with kiddos. Or, you can sign up for our blog by clicking here (and we sure hope you do!!!)

Cathy Krafve, host of Fireside Talk Radio, Speaker, Blogger, Podcaster, and Christian Communicator, invites your stories, ideas, and questions at CathyKrafve.com. Truth with a Texas Twang spoken here!

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