Frontline for Children | Where Science Meets Policy

Launching our new monthly feature

TexProtects is pleased to launch our latest monthly feature, Frontline for Children. In it, we will share the newest and most noteworthy child protection research and resources to keep you in the know and inform your work. Our new partnership with Child Trends–the nation’s leading nonprofit research organization focused exclusively on improving the lives and prospects of children, youth, and their families–has expanded our ability to ensure that we are able to keep you connected to innovations and data that will inform policy and program to ensure that every child is safe, nurtured, and resilient.

New and Noteworthy – Child Protection Research

Pediatricians and Child Psychiatrists Suggest Comprehensive Approach in Caring for Children who Have Been Maltreated (American Academy of Pediatrics)

“’Ideally, pediatricians work closely with therapists and psychiatrists when treating children who have been maltreated, but we know this is not always possible,’ Dr. Keeshin said. ‘This report offers pediatricians some tools to help children and families address mental health problems that stem from maltreatment.”

TexProtects’ Takeaway: To ensure the most effective interventions for healing and to minimize the use of psychotropic medications, medical, social, and trauma histories should be integrated when working with children who have experienced maltreatment.

Opportunities for States to Improve Infant Health Outcomes (Center for American Progress)

Features an interactive map of infant health outcomes by race and ethnicity, across states. In Texas, the state average infant mortality rate is 5.8 per 1000; however, for African American/black infants the rate is 9.8 per 1000. Similarly, 8.4% of Texas infants are born low birth weight; however, that rate jumps to 12.4% for African American/black infants.

TexProtects’ Takeaway: Infant health outcomes are closely tied to a mother’s health during pregnancy. Texas must do more to ensure equitable access to maternal care and home visiting programs to ensure healthy beginnings for our children, particularly in our rural communities where there are the greatest disparities.

Children with special health care needs are more likely to have adverse childhood experiences

Child Trends analyzed data from the 2016-2017 National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH), which asks parents or guardians to report whether their child has experienced any of nine out of the 10 ACEs. We found that the prevalence of ACEs is higher among children with special health care needs than among their peers.

TexProtects’ Takeaway: Trauma-informed practices should be incorporated into programs and services for these children and their caregivers to mitigate the long term-impacts associated with adverse childhood  experiences. Children with SHCN are three to four times more likely to experience abuse and neglect which make up five of the ACEs.

New and noteworthy – Child Protection Policy

Who’s paying now? The explicit and implicit costs of the current early care and education system (Economic Policy Institute)

“The U.S. is already pouring billions of dollars into the current system through government expenditures and parental contributions. And yet the current system is failing parents by stretching family budgets and keeping millions out of the labor force.” 

TexProtects’ Takeaway: High quality early childhood education has a positive return on investment in terms of societal benefits as well as increases in revenue and savings for government. Our Prenatal to Three Initiative with Texans Care for Children and Children at Risk has set a policy agenda to further improve this system in Texas.

Impact of $550 Million in Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCBDG) Funding Increase for States (Center for Law and Social Policy)

Offers an estimated distribution of the $550 million increase in CCDBG funds across states in 2020. Texas is estimated to receive $56,939,000 in additional funding.

TexProtects’ Takeaway: CCBDG is the largest source of federal funding for childcare; however, even with this increase, only a fraction of eligible children will have access.

Family First Transition Act passed with bipartisan support

New legislation bolsters support for the foster care system by establishing funds to help states implement prevention pieces of the 2018 Family First Act.

TexProtects’ Takeaway: These funds will allow Texas to invest in family preservation by offering high risk families evidence-based mental health, substance use, and parenting programs. The Family First Prevention    Services Act is an unprecedented opportunity that should be a top priority for agencies and lawmakers involved in child protection.

TexProtects Update from the Frontlines

Pictured left to right: Kate Murphy with Texans Care For Children , Alison Mohr Boleware with NASW Texas , Sarah Crockett with Texas CASA, Inc. , Kerri Judice with TexProtects, and Adrian Gaspar with Disability Rights Texas.

DFPS Hearing on the Family First Prevention Services Act

On Jan. 30, TexProtects joined advocates from around the state at the Department of Family and Protective Services’ (DFPS) public hearing on the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA). In the 86th legislative session, TexProtects championed S.B. 355 which directed DFPS to develop a strategic plan for the implementation of FFPSA. DFPS published their Texas Child Welfare Changing Landscape Action Plan several months ago, and this hearing offered the public an opportunity to provide feedback toward their planning process and the opportunities presented by FFPSA. 

As a refresher, FFPSA changes the way federal dollars can be spent:

  • Title IV-E dollars previously could only be used for children once in substitute care, but now this funding is available for evidence-informed services for children and families to prevent removal. Specifically, these federal dollars intend to address the key drivers of child abuse and neglect: substance use, mental health, and lack of parenting skills. The idea behind this strategy is to provide the supports necessary to keep families safely together.
  • For families who require legal intervention from CPS, funding will be designated for family-like settings and congregate care placements that provide higher quality services.

The provisions of FFPSA also aim to better support kinship caregivers and provide older youth in care with more supports as they transition into adulthood.

TexProtects provided testimony alongside our advocacy partners from Texas CASA, Texans Care for Children, Disability Rights Texas, National Association of Social Workers, Parents as Teachers, Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP), Nurturing Parenting, Center for Public Policy Priorities, and several community providers. In our testimony we emphasized the importance of getting the eligibility criteria right for these critical prevention services so that families have access to needed supports. We also discussed the importance of preserving funding for primary prevention efforts through Prevention and Early Intervention (PEI) initiatives such as Healthy Outcomes through Prevention and Early Support (HOPES) and NFP at DFPS and using the infrastructure already in place to expand services to higher risk families. Finally, we noted the importance of supporting kinship families and exploring the provisions of FFPSA that would allow further support of older youth in care.

We were glad to see such a great turnout at the hearing and the amount of meaningful, intentional recommendations provided for DFPS to consider. Texas’ deadline to implement the provisions of FFPSA by October 2021 is just around the corner, and we hope to see DFPS incorporate this feedback as they carry out their work.