AUSTIN, Texas — Travis County Judge Aurora Martinez Jones has been a judge for the 126th district court since January 2021. But for her, being a judge isn't just an occupation – it's a calling.
"I realized how little of a voice people have. What I wanted to do is help," Jones said.
In 1946, a historic case took place in Travis County's 126th district court. The case helped spark groundbreaking change for people of color wanting to enter the legal field in Austin.
"This is the court in which there was a lawsuit filed by Heman Marion Sweatt, for which this courthouse is named," Jones said. "And in the 126th court, his lawyer from the NAACP, Thurgood Marshall – before he was a Supreme Court justice – represented him against the University of Texas School of Law because they wouldn't allow people of color to be admitted."
PHOTOS | Forever Families: Judge Aurora Martinez Jones
Now, Jones presides over that same court, fighting and advocating for children of color in the Texas foster care system. She is the first judge in Travis County history to solely oversee cases pertaining to children in foster care and CPS cases. In years past, the cases have been tossed around by several different judges.
"I'm the first Black judge on this bench and I feel like I'm in the right place, helping families of color," Jones said.
Part of her recent work is the launch of a pilot program assuring foster children in Travis County don't have to sleep in State offices when they don't get adopted.
"The first week of the year, we were able to get these kids into our Safe Harbor location," Jones said.
According to recent data from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, as of Feb. 15, 2022, 84 children across Texas were displaced from their biological parents with nowhere to sleep. They had to be relocated to alternative housing.
"It's not acceptable for our children to sleep on a cold cot at the State office. No child should have to do that," Jones said.
Although children are no longer sleeping at State offices in Travis County, it is still an issue in other parts of the country.
Click here to get involved with helping local children in foster care.
KVUE launched the Forever Families segment with Partnerships for Children (PFC) in June 2020 to highlight children in the Heart Gallery of Central Texas who need secure and permanent families. Every day, there are nearly 1,000 children waiting to get adopted in Central Texas, according to PFC.
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