The 86th Texas Legislature is heating up

The Texas Legislature has a rule: Bills may not be considered for floor debate in either the House or Senate during the first 60 days of the 140-day session unless designated an emergency by the Governor. This allows members to spend adequate time in committee meetings vetting them.

That 60 days is up! We have reached the second half of the session and we can expect things to start moving quickly now – in fact, some of bills are already rolling along, and we could use your help with a key budget request.

  • Our key budget request – $30.5 million to expand evidence-based home visiting programs to reach an additional 3,600 families – is thus far not reflected in the budget bill. At the moment, an expansion of only $5.2 million is included in the House version. Fortunately, it is still early in the budgeting process and we will continue advocating for a much larger investment. We encourage you to do so as well by reaching out to Senate Finance Committee members. Key senators working on health and human services budget decisions include: Chair Lois Kolkhorst, Kirk Watson, Donna Campbell and Pete Flores. (For a deeper look at our budget requests, read here.)


  • Senate Bill 355 by Sen. Royce West, another of our top-priority bills, was passed unanimously by the Senate last week! SB 355 would lay out a Texas plan for implementation of the federal Family First Prevention Services Act, a landmark bill that will direct more federal dollars toward keeping children out of foster care. When SB 355 was in committee, TexProtects Vice President of Public Affairs Pamela McPeters testified in favor of it. Now the bill goes to the House.


  • House Bill 3718 by Rep. Tan Parker, which would require public schools to develop and implement a trauma-informed care policy, is scheduled for a hearing on Tuesday (March 26) in the House Public Education Committee.


  • House Bill 123, by multiple authors, made it out of the House Human Services Committee and has been placed on the General State Calendar for Monday, March 25. This bill will make it easier for foster children to obtain forms of state identification that are crucial for youth aging out of care.


  • Our Public Policy Director Jennifer Lucy spoke in support of House Bill 18, which would ensure teachers, principals and counselors are equipped with evidence-informed training on how trauma affects our students and then how to respond in ways that will de-escalate stressed responses, avoid retraumatizing our students, and create an environment of safety. The trainings also help school staff understand which students may need opportunities to access resources outside of the school setting. This supports our efforts to highlight the role of Adverse Childhood Experiences in lifetime health.


  • Speaking of Adverse Childhood Experiences, the bill number for Rep. Tan Parker’s legislation to study a cross-systems plan to prevent and address such experiences has been updated. In our previous communications we identified it as House Bill 822. However, after making revisions, Rep. Parker decided to reintroduce it as a new bill: HB 4183. Passage of this bill is one of TexProtects’ major goals of the 86th Legislative Session.

To get status updates on the many bills we are following or supporting this session, bookmark our Bill Tracker.

Megan’s Story: Nurse-Family Partnership Parent Ambassador

One of the main purposes of the “Champions” blog is to highlight success stories from family support home visiting programs that illustrate how vital they are in building family resiliency. TexProtects advocated for the legislative funding that helped bring Nurse-Family Partnership to Texas, and has been a strong supporter of NFP ever since.

During the 86th Texas Legislature, TexProtects is advocating for state funding of NFP to be increased by $12 million, allowing it to reach an additional 1,200 families per year during Fiscal Years 2020-21.

My name is Megan Farrar and I am a proud mother and Nurse-Family Partnership graduate. My nurse Suzanne became a big part of my life and helped me to be the best mom I could be!

In addition to being a mother, a wife, a friend, a sister, an aunt and daughter – I was recently named a Nurse-Family Partnership Parent Ambassador.  I am on a pivotal mission to serve as a dedicated parent voice to advocate for NFP families and share the impact of Nurse-Family Partnership.

When I found out I was pregnant, I had been working for just 7 months after being unemployed. My new job didn’t offer health insurance, and luckily, a coworker told me how to sign up for Medicaid. I began seeing a midwife, who was concerned about my risk for gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. She referred me to the national Nurse Family Partnership program at WiNGS in Dallas, Texas. I loved the idea of having my own personal nurse to visit me from pregnancy until my child turned 2.

From the first meeting with nurse Suzanne, she became a valuable person in my life. I didn’t know much about safety practices and nutrition, and had so many questions.  Suzanne would offer objective advice and guidance without making me feel like I was doing something wrong. She helped me to learn how to monitor my body throughout pregnancy and advocate for my health concerns.

The moment Daphne was born, everything about my life changed. My birth experience resulted in a cesarean section, and like so many moms I was taking on the most important role of my life while recovering from major abdominal surgery. Nurse Suzanne came more frequently during this fragile time and taught me the importance of refueling and remaining flexible.

She began to coach me towards economic self-sufficiency. She suggested I attend a women’s entrepreneur program, which inspired me to think about the possibility of owning my own business. I set and achieved goals to complete enrichment education courses. In the middle of this, I also got married and together we have been working towards providing a stable and prosperous future for our family.

Five years ago, I wasn’t even sure having a family was a possibility, and now we have a beautiful and bright 2-year-old daughter with a vocabulary that surpasses her peers. Daphne has already begun reading and loves to dress up and dance to music in the kitchen. It is amazing to see the world unfold through my child’s eyes.

Nurse Suzanne showered me with positive and unyielding support, and I achieved my full potential as a caring and nurturing mother. Now, I am embarking on a new journey as a Nurse-Family Partnership Parent Ambassador. I wish all moms could experience this life-changing program. It is the gold-standard in improving outcomes for at-risk mothers. With my new team of fellow Parent Ambassadors, we are making a difference for moms and families in our communities.

To learn more about Nurse-Family Partnership, please visit

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!