COVID-19 Survival Kit

A handy guide for parents and families to thrive during the current health crisis

Parenting is HARD work, and it’s work that can be even more difficult when we are facing stress and adversity. However, we know that there is nothing more important than the parent/child relationship in terms of future learning, behavior, and health. As the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19 continue to unfold, TexProtects wants you all to know we are in this together, Texas! We too are moms, dads and have families – whether we are tending to kiddos out of school and needing guidance, searching for jobs, or finding ways to destress and reduce anxiety, we have put together a Family Survival Kit with some great tips, tools and resources that can help you and your family better weather the storm during these trying times – a parents’ survival guide to ensure your family can thrive.

There are actions each one of us can take to reduce the stress and burden on ourselves and parents we know during this time. Offer to provide childcare so parents and caregivers are not in difficult situations and potentially leaving children unsupervised or in neglectful environments. Deliver a meal. Take a break or ask your spouse or partner to step in and help. Check in on your neighbor to ensure they have what they need, and most of all, remember, there is no way to be a perfect parent but millions of ways to be a good one–so give yourself and your children an extra dose of compassion and care during these challenging days.

General Parenting Support

Help And Hope offers parenting tips (by age and topic), a parent resource libraryfamily activity ideasvideos, and connections to programs in your county. They remind us that focusing on your child for just 15 minutes a day can make a big difference!

Sign up for Bright by Text for free games, tips, and resources sent right to your cell phone. Messages are targeted to your child’s age (ages 0 through 8) and include information on child development, language and early literacy, health and safety, behavioral tips, games, and more! It’s free and available in English or Spanish.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has a parent resource with tips to help families work and learn during the health crisis. Healthy Children breaks the resources out by prenatal, baby, toddler, preschool, gradeschool, teen, and young adult.

The Centers for Disease Control offers free tools and additional resources to help you understand and track your child’s developmental milestones. They remind us that talking is teaching!! Reading, singing, and talking to your child is easy and dramatically increases their language and social development. If your child has not had a developmental screening, you can complete one online for free here.

Support for Fathers

Having an involved father with positive parenting experience can be an important part of a child’s development. The National Center for Fathering has general information on fathering as well as resources on fathering during the COVID-19 health crisis, like how social distancing can mean more father involvement.

The National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse also has tips, hints, and programs about fatherhood for you to peruse, including their dadtalk blog and library of resources related to research and issues impacting responsible fatherhood.

Families Learning Together

Babies are born ready to learn, and they love to learn with their parents. The time you spend together helps their brain grow strong and creates a safe attachment that will encourage them to explore the world and thrive. While every day is rich with opportunities to engage and learn together, the increased time at home and out of school resulting from the COVID-19 may mean that you are looking for new ways to keep your child (and yourself) active and learning. The resources below will provide you numerous ways to take advantage of this time together and have some fun.

KERA Education out of Dallas has put together an At-Home Education Toolkit to help parents and caregivers with kids and teens PreK-12 who are at home, as well as educators who are teaching children remotely. There are more than 60,000 videos, lesson plans, games, activities and other resources in all subject areas–most are aligned to the TEKS and TX PK Guidelines.

Zero to Three offers a library of activities for playing and learning with your child based on their age.

The Kennedy Center offers short tutorials on fun ways to learn together with your child. Take a creative lunch break and draw with your child with the guidance of a fabulous teacher.

Check out a printable list from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network that offers simple activities for your family. Most do not require a screen or any supplies but all of them can create opportunities to make good memories during this difficult time.

Coping with COVID-19

Information and details regarding COVID-19 are changing rapidly. Staying informed about the outbreak and learning how to be prepared can reduce your stress. In addition, managing your own anxiety and emotions is critical to ensuring that your child can cope with their own feelings and worries during this time of uncertainty.

For the latest updates on the COIVD-19 outbreak, visit the CDC site. Included on the site is information to help prepare as a family as well as tips for self-care. While everyone experiences stress differently, the unprecedented challenges resulting from this pandemic will likely create new anxiety for all of us. Remember to take care of your body, take breaks when you feel stressed, stay informed (but limit news exposure), stay connected, and get help if needed.

This resource from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network Parent/Caregiver Guide to Helping Families Cope with the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (PDF; en español) will help you think about how an infectious disease outbreak might affect your family—both physically and emotionally—and what you can do to help your family cope. You can support your child by encouraging their questions, keeping them informed, maintaining routines when possible, and make time for fun and meaningful activities that can help everyone connect and relax.

Prevent Child Abuse America has assembled a great list of activities and resources to help parents and children. They remind us to stay connected and offer ideas for connecting to family, friends, our culture, and ourselves even when we have to be physically apart.

Talking About COVID-19 With Your Children

With news and conversations about COVID-19 everywhere, it’s important to talk to children about what they are seeing and hearing in a way that is developmentally appropriate and reassuring. Children worry more when they are kept in the dark. The resources below can help if you are wondering how to start.

The Child Mind Institute’s article Talking to Your Children about the Coronavirus has a great short video from Dr. Jamie Howard, Director of Trauma and Resilience Services, who goes over quick tips on how to discuss the pandemic with your kids. The most important thing? Be developmentally appropriate.

Last but not least, other organizations also have tips for families to talk with children about the current health crisis. Check out these tips from Zero To Three, and videos, games and activities from PBS Kids and BrainPOP.

What resources did we miss?

Let us know in the comments what has been helping you and your family to stay safe and connected. What has helped your family have fun and learn during this health crisis? How are you and your loved ones growing your resilience together? We want to hear from you!

*Find more resources from TexProtects here.

Stay Informed and Learning During Social Distancing

Child welfare and early childhood media to watch, read, and listen to during this time of social distancing.*

Help us keep our mission moving by staying informed about how to keep all children safe, nurtured, and resilient. Here is a short list, curated by our team, of the most compelling educational documentaries, shows, podcasts and books related to our mission to protect children from the trauma of abuse and neglect. With the practice of social distancing and more time at home in the days and weeks ahead, we encourage you to fill some extra down time you may have with mission-driven media that helps you stay engaged and connected to our work.

Available on Netflix:

The Beginning of Life – This series uses breakthroughs in technology and neuroscience to show the importance of adult-child interaction, a child’s stages of learning, and the challenges of becoming a parent.

Babies – The producers of this series followed 15 infants and spoke to 36 scientists over one year to explore the groundbreaking science behind how infants develop.

Note: The following two suggestions have content warnings for graphic depictions of child maltreatment.

I Am Jane Doe — A documentary about child sex trafficking that highlights real cases, including a recent case that involved Congress.

The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez – This documentary peels back the curtain on a young child’s brutal murder and the public trials of his guardians and the social workers tasked with checking in on him.

Available on Hulu:

Foster – A documentary that follows stories of foster children and teens, their foster parents, and former foster youth in the L.A. County child welfare system.

Available on Amazon Video:

Instant Family – This feel-good movie is on the lighter side and based on a true story about foster care parents and the three siblings they took in from the foster system. It also highlights the process and case management aspects of foster care.

Books and Audiobooks Available on Amazon:

Note: Amazon is limiting all deliveries to essential items but their e-books and audiobook offerings are still available for purchase!

Cradle to Kindergarten: A New Plan to Combat Inequality – This book presents a blueprint for fulfilling the promise of reducing educational and economic inequalities for children by expanding access to education and financial resources at a critical stage of child development.

The Power of Showing Up: How Parental Presence Shapes Who Our Kids Become and How Their Brains Get Wired – Dr. Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D. explore the four core building blocks of a healthy child’s development: feeling safe, seen, soothed, and secure.

Note: The following suggestions also have content warnings for graphic depictions of child maltreatment and other trauma.

Spilled Milk: Based On A True Story – This is an easy but powerful read. It’s a real story that highlights the cracks in Child Protective Services reporting and investigating, politics, and the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences on a child throughout their lifespan. (Also available as an audiobook.)

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma – This book takes at the neuroscience behind how trauma affects children and adults. It also goes in-depth on paths to healing from that trauma. (Also available as an audiobook.)

The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity —  Written by California Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, this book explores how deeply our bodies can be impacted by Adverse Childhood Experiences for a lifetime.

Available Podcasts:  

Child Welfare information Gateway Podcast Series – This podcasts series provides interviews and panel conversations for child welfare and social work professional. It covers a wide range of topics like implementing evidence-based programs, tribal courts and child welfare, reunifications, and other issues surrounding casework.

The Brain Architects – This new podcast from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University focuses on topics that surround the developing child’s brain from brain architecture to toxic stress to serve and return.

*On March 19, Governor Greg Abbott and Dr. John Hellerstadt, Commissioner of the Department of State Health Services, declared a state of public health disaster for Texas. Apart from encouraging hygiene and cleanliness practices, limiting gatherings to no more than 10 people, and shuttering dine-in options at restaurants, we are being asked to do our part for the community by staying socially isolated except for essential trips. Spending a lot of time stuck inside during the COVID-19 health crisis is important to “flatten the curve” to slow the virus’s infection rate.

Texas’ Child Maltreatment Fatality Data Shows There is Still Work to Do

Every week, more than four Texas children die because of child abuse and neglect.

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) recently released their Child Maltreatment Fatalities and Near Fatalities Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2019. The report collects and provides context for the number of child deaths that occurred throughout the state, a troubling reminder that we have much more work to do in preventing child abuse and neglect. This year, there were a reported 235 confirmed abuse or neglect-related child fatalities in Texas, the highest number of fatalities we have seen in the last decade since it peaked in 2009 at 280 deaths, and on the rise from a low of 151 in 2014. Texas’s number of child fatalities is well above the national average with a 2.70 per capita rate for child abuse and neglect fatalities over the national average of 2.39.

Overall Takeaways:

  • The top causes of child abuse and neglect related fatalities included:
    • Neglectful Supervision (total of 141 cases)
      • Drowning (48 cases)
      • Unsafe Sleep (30 cases)
      • Vehicle Related (19 cases)
    • Physical Abuse (total of 94 cases)
      • Blunt Force Trauma (56 cases)
  • In 91% of the child fatalities, there was no open Child Protective Services (CPS) investigation or case at the time of the child’s death.
  • There was no prior CPS history with either the child or the perpetrator in approximately 55% of the child abuse or neglect fatalities. This percentage remained steady from Fiscal Year 2018.

These percentages still reveal that several families had previous or active involvement with CPS. Therefore, families who experienced a child death were not receiving the support they needed or something about the services these families received did not work.

Victim Characteristics:

  • 72% of child deaths were between the ages of 0 and 3
  • There was an increase involving children age 4 through 6.
  • 56% of the child fatalities were due to neglectful supervision, which is specified as physical/medical neglect, and unsafe sleep practices accompanied by substance abuse.

This concerning information illustrates the importance of prevention and early intervention efforts like Project HOPES and home visiting programs that support families in the early years when brain development is at its peak and families may not be connected to other resources that could help them create safe and nurturing environments for their children before a crisis occurs. As the Prevent Child Abuse Chapter for Texas, TexProtects is on the front lines to increase access to evidence-based prevention programs so that children can be safe, and their families can get the support they need.

Another concern about what the data shows is that we are still seeing some populations disproportionately represented in child deaths across the state:

  • Hispanic children made up the largest percentage of deaths (35%).
  • African American children were the highest rate per capita (7.85 vs 3.14).
  • 29% of the fatalities were children with special medical needs.
  • Approximately 57% of all child deaths were male (133).

It is worth noting that Texas defunded the Office of Minority Health Statistics and Engagement in 2018, leaving one person at DFPS leading the efforts to address racial inequities. In the report, DFPS mentions their cross-sectional work with other agencies and stakeholders, but it is worth considering how that work can be more targeted and effective specifically as it relates to equity issues.

Underlying Issues Faced by the Perpetrators of Abuse/Neglect:

  • 48% of the child fatalities involved substance use of a caregiver.
  • A parent/caregiver in the child’s household reported active mental health concerns in 32% of the child fatalities.

This is where we can leverage federal dollars for prevention services eligible through the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) for families. These federal dollars intend to address the key drivers of child abuse and neglect: substance use, mental health, and lack of parenting skills. Key policymakers and state agencies are making decisions now about how to implement FFPSA in Texas. TexProtects believes that making high quality, evidence-based prevention services available to families that address these issues will provide parents and caregivers with the tools they need to meet their children’s needs and safely keep their families together.

The Child Maltreatment Fatalities Report makes clear to advocates and policymakers alike why it is so necessary that Texas invests in child abuse and neglect prevention efforts. Every week, more than four children die because of child abuse and neglect. At TexProtects, we believe these deaths can be prevented. Join us as we work to ensure that they are. 

Frontline for Children | February 2020

Where Science Meets Policy

New and Noteworthy – Child Protection Research

Trends in Pediatricians’ Developmental Screening Rates 2002 – 2016 (American Academy of Pediatrics)

A study released last week shows that 63% of pediatricians reported utilizing standardized developmental screening tools in 2016. That’s up 21% since 2002, but well short of the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that ALL children be screened at 9, 18, and 30 months.

TexProtects’ Takeaway: As part of our Prenatal to Three Policy Agenda, TexProtects will be working throughout the interim and into next session on ways to increase the rates and quality of developmental screenings, as well as ensuring that appropriate referrals are provided in response to those screenings. It’s about getting families to the right community resources at the right time!

Prenatal and Infancy Nurse Home Visiting and 18-Year Outcomes of a Randomized Trial (American Academy of Pediatrics)

A randomized control trial of 742 pregnant, low-income women with no previous live births found that children whose mothers had participated in nurse home visiting demonstrated better receptive language, math achievement, and a number of other secondary cognitive-related outcomes.


Prenatal and Infancy Nurse Home Visiting Effects on Mothers: 18-Year Follow-up of a Randomized Trial (American Academy of Pediatrics)

An 18-year follow-up of 618 out of 742 low-income, primarily African-American mothers with no previous live births enrolled in an randomized clinical trial of a prenatal and infancy nurse home visiting program concluded that nurse-visited women incurred $17,310 less in public benefit costs compared with program costs of $12,578.

TexProtects’ Takeaway: Since its inception, TexProtects has advocated for the expansion of evidence-based home visiting programs like Nurse-Family Partnership: they have an amazing return on investment and positive outcomes across multiple domains and two generations. Despite significant progress, less than 4% of families who could benefit from these programs have access to them. Expanding home visiting programs through the Prevention and Intervention Division, the Family First Prevention Services Act, and other funders is a critical part of our Prenatal to Three policy agenda.

New and Noteworthy – Child Protection Policy

States can improve supports for infants and toddlers who are in or at risk of entering foster care (ChildTrends)

Child Trends fielded the 2019 Survey of Child Welfare Agency Policies and Practices for Infants and Toddlers in–or who are candidates for–Foster Care to understand what policies and services are already in place for infants and toddlers involved in and at risk of entering foster care, as well as to understand where the child welfare field can leverage the opportunities provided by the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA).

TexProtects’ Takeaway: With FFPSA, states have a new opportunity to use federal funds to support the children and families who are at risk of becoming involved with the foster care system. Texas will likely need to increase its capacity to provide a robust array of services for infants and toddlers who are candidates for foster care, as well as their families. FFPSA is included in interim charges to multiple committees that will hold hearings in the coming months to monitor the Department of Family and Protective Service’s (DFPS) planning and implementation. Stay tuned for ways you can participate and speak up for Texas children.

Using implementation science to make sure evidence-based policy is sized to fit target populations (ChildTrends)

Child Trends’ Lauren Supplee recently appeared on the Freakonomics podcast to discuss evidence-based policy and implementation science, the study of what factors make it possible to scale up research-tested programs to serve larger populations in different communities.

TexProtects’ Takeaway: Evidence-based policy ensures that children and families benefit from proven programs. However, implementation matters! Investments in continued evaluation, adaptations for unique populations, and model fidelity are critical components in taking what works in one place to a larger scale. Thankfully, innovators at Child Trends as well as the Child and Family Research Partnership (CFRP) at the University of Texas are leading the way in designing solutions for these challenges.

Supporting Early Learning in America – Policies for a New Decade (New America)

New America makes eight recommendations to further policy actions that will help “America’s children become lifelong learners who are able to think critically and inventively, manage their emotions and impulses, and make smart decisions.”

TexProtects’ Takeaway: There is much that can be done to support the healthy development of a child’s brain in the early years, both inside and outside the home. TexProtects appreciates the recommendations to support two-generation programs (like home visiting) and ensure that they are integrated with other early childhood systems, as well as the recommendation to identify stable funding sources for early education and care so that parents can plan ahead, knowing they will have access to high quality and affordable care while they are at work.

State Child Care Assistance Policies: Texas (National Women’s Law Center)

NWLC compiled a sheet of child care assistance policy-related facts based on the landscape of care in Texas in 2019.


The Child Care Crisis Causes Job Disruptions for More Than 2 Million Parents Each Year (Center for American Progress)

“Unsurprisingly, it is mothers’ employment that suffers most when families are unable to find a child care program that suits their needs. The child care crisis not only affects families’ bottom lines; it also costs the economy $57 billion in annual lost revenue, wages, and productivity.”

TexProtects’ Takeaway: Texas policymakers must do more in the upcoming legislative session to ensure low-income families are able to receive child care assistance, which is critical for the parents’ ability to support their families. High-quality child care is also critical for children’s safety and brain development. 16,379 children on wait lists for child care assistance (as of February 2019) is too many.