2018 Child Abuse Data Shows Deaths on the Rise

This past week, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services made two important releases: An update of Fiscal Year 2018 Data Book information and its Child Maltreatment Fatalities and Near Fatalities Annual Report.

Below are some of the most significant numbers and trends that will be useful to you as a child protection advocate.

DFPS Data Book Trends (Fiscal Year 2018)

Between FY 2017 and 2018 in Texas:

  • The number of child abuse victims increased to 66,352 in 2018 from 63,657 in 2017. Nearly 42% of the victims were under the age of 3.
  • The number of children removed from their biological homes increased by 9.7%.
  • There were increases in the number of children placed in foster care (1.48%) and emergency shelters (4.13%), but more children also being placed in kinship care (4.06%).
  • There were increases in children entering care with higher levels of need: psychiatric (17%), intensive (17.4%), specialized (6.83%).
  • The number of families that entered Family Based Safety Services decreased by 19.8%.

Long-term trends:

  • Children entering foster care increased about 5% on average each year in the past decade.

DFPS Child Fatality Report

  • Texas had 211 confirmed child abuse and neglect-related fatalities in FY2018, an increase of 22.7% compared to FY2017 (172). 36% of the victims were infants and 69% were under the age of three.
  • The increase in child maltreatment fatalities in FY2018 is predominantly due to physical abuse fatalities which grew by 58% over FY2017.
  • In FY2018, Texas had 82 confirmed abuse and neglect-related near-fatalities, a decrease of 11.8% compared to FY2017.
  • The largest decrease was in non-fatal drownings, which dropped 33.3% compared to FY2017.
  • Vehicle-related deaths continue to decline and did so by 42% in FY2018. Examples of vehicle-related deaths include a child left in a hot car, a child unsupervised and struck by a vehicle, and a child riding in a car where the parent or caregiver driving was intoxicated or under the influence.
  • From FY2017 to FY2018 there was a 25% increase in child fatalities caused by abuse or neglect involving a parent or caregiver actively using a substance and/or under the influence of at least one substance that affected the ability to care for the child.
  • Abusive head trauma accounted for 45.1% of the total number of near-fatalities.


Obviously, the increase in fatalities deeply troubles us, especially after the attention lawmakers paid to child maltreatment in the 2017 legislative session.

The 2017 session must not be viewed as an end point in the struggle against child maltreatment, but rather as a beginning. There are still profound challenges ahead in the ongoing 2019 session.

While the focus two years ago was heavily on Child Protective Services and foster care – the systems that pick up the pieces after tragedy has occurred – this session there needs to be an even greater emphasis on strengthening families before a crisis can happen.

age at death

The increase in fatalities are alarming and a call to action for greater emphasis on prevention and early intervention, especially at the youngest ages.

A combination of numbers that stands out to us:

  • Unlike fatalities that occurred the previous year, in 2018 the majority of fatalities due to abuse and/or neglect included families with no prior CPS history.
  • Additionally, the number of fatalities occurring from newborn to age 3 is on the rise, and so are the deaths caused by blunt force trauma – and those youngest ages are when children are most vulnerable to such violence, including abusive head trauma.

These are ages when new families can be under the most stress and have the least understanding of early childhood development – and the ages at which most home visiting (prevention) programs are targeted. If we can reach more of these families with home visiting and other parent education and tools, we can avert such tragic incidents.

To this end, these are TexProtects’ top priorities at the Capitol this spring:

  • Strengthening investments in community-based, primary child abuse prevention programs – specifically, a combined increase of $30.5 million toward Nurse-Family Partnership and the HOPES (Healthy Outcomes through Prevention and Early Support) Program to reach 3,600 additional eligible families
  • Developing a Texas plan to implement the provisions of the federal Family First Prevention Services Act, which would shift state investments toward services and resources that keep children out of foster care (Senate Bill 355)
  • Developing and implementing a statewide, strategic public health approach to address causes and symptoms of Adverse Childhood Experiences (House Bill 4183)
  • Implementing trauma-informed care training and policies in public schools (House Bill 3718)

TexProtects will continue to be at the Capitol, making the case for prevention to lawmakers every day, meeting them in their offices, providing them with research, and testifying in committees. Thank you for the support you’ve provided to our mission, including the emails you’ve sent to legislators this session. Check your inbox for future advocacy opportunities!

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