Winter Storm Uri Reminds Us To Put Kids and Families First This Legislative Session

Dallas – Last week was hard for all of us; it was heartbreaking and traumatizing for Texans. We hope you and your loved ones are faring well after what seemed like a week that would never end.

As the beautiful weather ushers out the intense cold of last week, many of us are fortunate enough to put these hardships behind us. While many of us can ease back into some stability and normalcy, maybe with an anecdotal story about the hardships or inconveniences we experienced, they are likely different than the stories of families that were in an existing storm of what surely feels like insurmountable challenges.

Too many Texans who are already experiencing a too-wide disparity gap and who have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 will see the aftermath of the winter storms compound already record-high levels of stress and trauma.

This crisis reminds us there is a clear and urgent need to put children and their families first in this legislative session.

We need to ensure the immediate safety and protection of children who are survivors of child abuse and neglect. We must work with the Legislature on smart solutions to invest in upstream programs that prevent child abuse and neglect and mitigate the negative impact of events like Winter Storm Uri.

Although Texas families are experiencing back-to-back, once-in-a-lifetime events, we at TexProtects recognize that these hardships do not define families nor lead to child abuse. But what we do know is that thousands of little precious lives and families need our help and support more than ever. It’s our collective responsibility to ensure we have networks in place for families to turn to.

Here are ways you can help:

  1. Look for ways to help your community by donating or volunteering.
  2. Learn to recognize the signs of child abuse and neglect and how to help

    families in need.

  3. Encourage policymakers to listen to their constituents’ stories and work across

    the aisle for the common good of children and the state. You can even share

    your own story!

Thank you for your support and your dedication to helping us build safer childhoods for all children to secure Texas’s future.

Click to view PDF.

TexProtects Public Testimony on Article II Budget for FY 2022-2023

The best way to get policymakers to make the changes we need to protect children and families is to provide them with evidence that proves investing in prevention works. Not only will our state finances see the benefits but so will Texas children at risk of abuse and neglect. Jennifer Lucy, our Managing Director of Policy, submitted the public testimony below to the House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees proving that investing upstream works; it saves dollars and makes sense!

By Jennifer Lucy, Managing Director of Policy for TexProtects, on Article II budget for FY 2022-2023.

TexProtects is the only statewide organization singularly focused on the prevention of child abuse and neglect, and we serve as the Texas Chapter for Prevent Child Abuse America and as a steering committee member for the Texas Child Protection Roundtable and Prenatal to Three Collaborative. We applaud the maintenance of prevention funding in the base budget and appreciate the work of this committee in ensuring that the health and well-being of the next generation remain primary in our approach to COVID-19 response and recovery.

Texas has an opportunity to use what we learned during COVID-19 to transform systems in ways that support families, rather than removing children, and roll out proven prevention strategies BEFORE a crisis. Like any smart investor, it’s critical that we pay for the outcomes we do want rather than those we don’t. This requires a shift upstream and will result in downstream cost savings across multiple systems for decades to come as today’s children grow up to be the strong Texas of tomorrow.

The cost of the status quo and inaction is clear. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) like child abuse and neglect are associated with negative outcomes for individuals across the lifespan including poorer health, lower educational attainment, and higher likelihood of experiencing unemployment. Individuals and governments incur significant costs as a result. Bellis et al. (2019) estimate that annual costs attributable to ACEs across North America are approximately $748 billion with 82% of the costs resulting from individuals who had two or more ACEs.[i] With one in 10 American children living in Texas, we can expect to incur a significant percent of those costs if we are not better able to prevent ACEs.

Healthcare costs are the most well-documented, but there are also criminal justice, child welfare, and education costs, among others. Each case of child abuse or neglect results in $830,000 in costs across the victim’s lifetime.[ii] This translates to over $55 billion in costs as a result of confirmed abuse and neglect in Texas in 2019 alone. We can continue to pay for the effects of childhood adversity, or we can work to prevent it.  

TexProtects worked with Child Trends to look specifically at the potential impact of COVID-19 on child abuse and neglect risks and found reason to believe that increases in unemployment, mental health struggles, family violence, substance use issues, and parental stress may result in increased abuse and neglect. Research during the last recession found that for each point the unemployment rate rises, physical and emotional abuse increase by 12-15%.[iii]

However, with the large majority of Child Protective Services (CPS) cases addressing neglect rather than abuse and much abuse/neglect going unreported, we know families need support more often than they need protection. The most cost-efficient and effective approaches offer supports BEFORE A CRISIS occurs and during the first years of life when a stable, safe, nurturing caregiver is THE KEY to healthy child development.

The 87th legislature can increase access to proven support strategies that protect children by implementing the following recommendations in the 2022/2023 budget for Texas.

  1. Fully fund the Prevention and Early Intervention Exceptional Item Request for $10 million to strengthen community based, primary child abuse prevention programs for children prenatal to age 5 through Healthy Outcomes Through Prevention and Early Support (Project HOPES) and other prevention strategies.

Proven prevention programs administered through the Prevention and Early Intervention (PEI) division at the Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS) have been critical lifelines for families during COVID-19 and depend on an infrastructure of community providers who work together to support families. Over the past decade, state and federal investments have helped build community-driven prevention infrastructure that accelerates the work of local nonprofits to deliver parenting support, information on local resources, and health screenings to children and their families. These voluntary programs have a proven return on investment of between $1.26 and $8.08 and have impacts across multiple domains and two generations. [iv]

Only 4% of the families in highest need currently have access, therefore, expansion is critical if Texas desires the statewide impact and cost savings that could result from widespread access to these programs. The current PEI strategic plan indicates that to adequately protect families, a 20% increase in prevention funds is needed every biennium. Currently, DFPS only spends 5% on early prevention efforts compared to CPS costs.

  • Prevent early childhood trauma and entries into foster care by leveraging the opportunities in the federal Family First Prevention Services Act to offer families at imminent risk of removal access to evidence-based mental health, substance use, and parenting supports.

Texas must be proactive and innovative in determining how to maximize the opportunity of the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) to access federal matching funds for prevention funding that can be used to directly address the key drivers of child abuse/neglect: substance use, mental health, and parenting skills. With the large majority of CPS cases addressing neglect rather than abuse, we know families need support more often than they need protection. As noted by the DFPS 2018 Prevention Task Force Report, “Preventing 3% of removals (593) would save upwards of $20.3 million.”

Use of these funds should be prioritized for evidence-based programs that will prevent entry into the foster care system as this is the primary way to ensure better outcomes for children, family preservation, and long-term cost savings for the state.

The current plan provided by the agency proposes that $33.9 million of the $50.4 federal transition funds go toward prevention. All prevention strategies recommended here rely on community contracts rather than staff who work for DFPS.

Option 2D (A pilot for prevention services carried out by DFPS’ PEI division): PEI offers services to families to prevent child abuse and neglect. Their efforts focus mainly on primary prevention, which aims to reach families before the first occurrence of child maltreatment. However, some of their programs also focus on secondary prevention, which targets families who are at high risk of child maltreatment, such as families participating in Family-Based Safety Services (FBSS). Grants would be awarded to up to six regions. One community contractor would receive the grant in each region and then decide which programs to fund and deliver either through their own services or those of local subcontractors.

Option 2E (Expand HIP [Helping through Intervention and Prevention] for all pregnant and parenting foster youth):HIP is an effective program through PEI that serves current and former foster youth who are pregnant or parenting a child under the age of 3 by providing in-home parent education services. Additional funds would allow expansion of these voluntary support services.

These options focus on strategies that are evidence-based and have shown that they can keep children safe and reduce child maltreatment. They also already have an established and successful infrastructure. Some of the programs also have experience serving families participating in FBSS, who fit the eligibility definition and have already been approved by the Clearinghouse, including Healthy Families America, Nurse-Family Partnership, and Parents as Teachers.

The other options presented by DFPS would require a great length of time before they could be implemented (i.e. carrying out prevention services through Community-Based Care) or would be relying on FBSS caseworkers to deliver programming that is outside their area of expertise and/or credentialing requirements. Both would require significant deviation for systems and staff and potential conflicts of interest or complexities that do not make it feasible.

  • Fully restore MedCARES (Medical Child Abuse Resources & Education System) funding of $5.96 million which was completely cut from the Department of State Health Services budget.

In 2009, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 2080 to establish the MedCARES grant program as part of a strategic response to growing numbers of child abuse and neglect-related fatalities. The bill was championed by Senator Jane Nelson with the help of now Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick; Representatives Garnet Coleman, Tan Parker, Toni Rose, Rafael Anchia, and Abel Herrero; and now Senator Jose Menéndez.

MedCARES provides grant funding to hospitals, academic health centers, and facilities with expertise in pediatric health to prevent, assess, diagnose, and treat child abuse and neglect. MedCARES grant recipients give communities easy access to medical providers who support education for the general public, case reviews for other physicians, trainings, and expert courtroom testimony by child abuse specialists. MedCARES providers include general pediatricians, child abuse pediatricians (CAPs), nurse practitioners, social workers, and sexual assault nurse examiners.

COVID-19 has exacerbated child abuse risks due to increased family stress, increased substance use, and heightened economic insecurity. Cutting MedCARES compromises critical infrastructure we have in place to protect children in Texas. Last year alone, almost 22,000 professionals attended child abuse prevention trainings through MedCARES and more than 2 million individuals participated in prevention program activities.

Thank you for your attention to these critical investments that not only support families and protect children today–but ensure a brighter Texas tomorrow.

We look forward to working with you. Please contact us anytime if we can provide support or resources as you address these and other child protection issues.

Jennifer Lucy

Managing Director of Policy


Members of our Advisory Board include:

The Hon. Darlene Byrne, J.D. | Rebel Calhoun | Leslie Carpenter | John Castle, Jr., J.D. | Leslie DeCillis Debra Decker | The Hon. Maurine Dickey | Catherine Estrada | Robert Estrada | Kathleen Fletcher, Ph.D. Laura Gardiner | Tammy Cotton Hartnett | The Hon. Lee Jackson | Scott Murray | Len Musgrove

Janet Pozmantier, MS, LPC | Dick Rogoff | The Hon. Peter Sakai, J.D. | The Hon. Florence Shapiro

Lisa K. Simmons | The Hon. Mark Strama | The Hon. Royce West, J.D.

About TexProtects

TexProtects’ mission is to protect Texas children from the trauma of abuse and neglect and empowers families to thrive through education, research, and advocacy. Our vision is that all children are safe, nurtured, and resilient. To achieve our mission, TexProtects engages in research, advocacy and education. We advocate for better policies, reforms and appropriate increases in federal, state and local funding for three priority areas: 1) Prevention: Increasing investment in proven child abuse prevention programs, 2) Protection: Strengthening and reforming the CPS system, and 3) Healing: Ensuring victims receive adequate and accessible treatment.

[i] Bellis et al (2019)

[ii] Peterson et al (2018)

[iii] Schneider, W., Waldfogel, J., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2017).

[iv] : Prinz, R. J., Sanders, M. R., Shapiro, C. J., Whitaker, D. J., & Lutzker, J. R. (2009); Chaffin, M., Hecht, D., Bard, D., Silovsky, J. F., & Beasley, W. H. (2012). DuMont, K., Mitchell-Herzfeld, S., Greene, R., Lee, E., Lowenfels, A., Rodriguez, M., & Dorabawila, V. (2008); Olds, D. L., Kitzman, H. J., Cole, R. E., Hanks, C. A., Arcoleo, K. J., Anson, E. A., . . . Stevenson, A. J. (2010); Olds, D. L., Kitzman, H., Hanks, C., Cole, R., Anson, E., Sidora-Arcoleo, K., et al. (2007); Olds, D. L., Robinson, J., Pettitt, L. M., Luckey, D. W., Holmberg, J., Ng, R. K., . . . Henerson, C. R. (2004)

The safety of our children is not an either-or-situation

Read the latest op-ed by Sophie Phillips, TexProtects CEO, at the Austin-American Statesman.

“We must consider additional actions we can take to prevent children from experiencing the trauma of abuse altogether. According to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, nearly 80 percent of child abuse in Texas is severe neglect often caused by a lack of basic supports or skills, unhealthy coping mechanisms, or underlying mental health challenges, all of which parents and caregivers can be equipped to combat if provided access to needed support. The proven, most effective way to prevent abuse and neglect is to invest in community-driven prevention programs that get to root causes.”

Frontline For Children | February 2021

  1. More than One in Four Latino and Black Household with Children Are Experiencing Three or More Hardship during COVID-19 (Child Trends)

 “During the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of families experiencing hardships across the country has risen dramatically, with a disproportionate impact on Latino and Black communities.… For the analysis presented in this brief, we used nationally representative data from the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, which has tracked the well-being of U.S. households during the pandemic, to examine seven types of hardships: unemployment, difficulty paying expenses, not being caught up on rent or mortgage, food insecurity, physical health problems, symptoms of anxiety or depression, and lack of health insurance.”

TexProtects Takeaway: The hardships brought on by COVID-19 affecting Black, brown, and indigenous families trickle down to their children. Issues like economic distress, food insecurity, and mental health challenges, exacerbated by the pandemic, impact how families can care for their children during this crisis and in the future. This places more stressors on caregivers, who are less able to help children cultivate the protective factors and resilience that help mitigate adverse experiences in childhood. To read more from TexProtects about the disproportionate impact on these families during COVID-19, click here.

2. Strategies to Virtually Support and Engage Families of Young Children during COVID-19 (Child Trends)

“As preschools and schools continue to reopen, caregivers (e.g., childcare providers and teachers) are quickly pivoting to using virtual platforms to support and engage families in children’s learning. This rapid transition has left little time to assess what we know (and do not know) about family engagement best practices within the virtual space. This brief offers an overview of four best practices and lessons learned from research and practice to assist caregivers and teachers with the transition to engaging families virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic, and beyond.”

TexProtects Takeaway: Virtual learning can be a strain on parents and children’s mental health and time. It is imperative that caregivers and teachers use all the tools necessary to ensure education and resources are provided in the least intrusive, most beneficial ways possible to ensure children, especially those at the critical ages of 0-5, are getting what they need out of virtual learning and early childhood experiences.

3. Buffing Child Maltreatment: School Connectedness as a Protective Factor in a Community Sample of Young Adults(Goldstine-Cole, K.)

“Identified or not, maltreatment increases the risk for substance use disorder, depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder across the lifespan. This study examines whether school connectedness (SC), the sense of belonging at school derived from affective relationships in the school context and commitment to learning, protects against such effects. Specifically, in paper one, data from 349 young adults who completed the Protective Factor Questionnaire is used to develop a retrospective five-indicator, measurement model of school connectedness for K-12 and elementary, middle, and high school.… Paper two evaluates SC as a moderator in the relationship between childhood maltreatment and mental well-being during early adulthood, ages 18-25. Results indicate that SC buffers against intrafamilial maltreatment as well as five individual forms of abuse and neglect.… These results suggest that schools have roles beyond that of mandatory reporter in supporting the wellbeing of maltreated children.”

TexProtects Takeaway: Child abuse and neglect numbers may have risen during the pandemic and schools’ closures, despite fewer reports. Teachers and school staff are one of the main reporters of abuse and neglect, and with the move to virtual learning for many, picking up on the signs is more difficult. TexProtects is working to spread awareness in schools about staff intervening in abuse or neglect, not just as mandatory reporters. See our resources on recognizing abuse on our website.

4. Trauma-Informed Care in Child Welfare: An Imperative for Residential Childcare Workers (Brend, D. & Sprang, G.)

“Rates of traumatization among residential child welfare professionals are alarmingly high. The well-being of these professionals is associated both with their intention to stay in their jobs and outcomes of children in their care.… This manuscript details experiences empirically shown to have potential negative impacts on professional well-being, discusses why these impacts are of particular concern for residential childcare workers, and describes the types of organizational cultures and climates that appear to mitigate these negative impacts. Trauma-informed care at the organizational level is proposed both as a means to reduce harm to child welfare professionals and promote the rehabilitation of children within the child welfare system.”

TexProtects Takeaway: Organizations and agencies working with children from hard places need to implement trauma-informed care training for all staff. Not only does training help mitigate secondary trauma of professionals, but it also helps professionals best serve the children they are working with. TexProtects worked on HB18 last session to ensure school staff receive trauma training; however, Texas has more work to do to ensure high quality training and implementation are consistent across all sectors that impact children and families.

5. AGED OUT: How We’re Failing Youth Transitioning Out of Foster Care (Cancel, S., Fathallah, S., Nitze, M., Sullivan, S., & Wright-Moore, E)

“To understand the aging out experiences of foster youth, Think Of Us and Bloom conducted in-field discovery sprints using proven human-centered design and participatory research methodologies in five participating locations” (Santa Clara, Solano, San Francisco, and San José counties in California, Hennepin County in Minnesota, and New York City). “During these sprints, we spoke to a total of 206 people in 92 research sessions. The research team conducted in-depth interviews and participatory design workshops with a wide range of foster youth, former foster youth, child welfare staff and leadership, supportive adults, foster parents, and more…Over the course of the project, three key themes began to emerge. To us, these themes represent where the child welfare system is most failing transition-age youth, and where we must urgently focus our attention. These themes are: 1. Healing and dealing with trauma; 2. Centering youth in their preparedness; and 3. Helping youth build a supportive network.”

TexProtects Takeaway: The state must not forget the needs of youth transitioning out of the foster care system. TexProtects is supporting our partners’ work this legislative session to support improved services for transitioning youth. Check out our bill tracker to learn more.

6. Why Do We Focus on the Prenatal-to-3 Age Period? Understanding the Importance of the Earliest Years (Prenatal-to-3 Policy Impact Center at LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin)

This research brief discusses why researchers and practitioners in early childhood consistently describe the first few years of life as being the most critical period for children’s development. The authors highlight that investing in families during a child’s earliest years can have a lasting impact on children’s lifelong health and well-being. They point to key practices that can strengthen families, and therefore, promote the healthy development of children. Some of these factors include access to quality health care for mothers, safe and supportive childcare settings, and other social services, such as early intervention programs for children with developmental delays or disabilities.

TexProtects Takeaway: TexProtects is part of the Prenatal to Three initiative alongside our partners Children at Risk and Texans Care for Children. We support investment in increasing the following for low-income mothers and infants and toddlers: access to prenatal and postpartum health services; health screening and successful connection to necessary services; and access to high-quality childcare programs. Read more about the initiative.

7. Three Trimesters to Three Years: Promoting Early Development (Princeton University and the Brookings Institution)

“The period from pregnancy through age three is the one in which the most rapid growth of the brain and behavior occurs. Yet most researchers and policy makers have treated the nine months of development during pregnancy separately from the first three years of life. Prenatal experiences are part and parcel of the postnatal experience of mothers and their babies; the postnatal period is sometimes referred to as the fourth trimester, a way to highlight the fact that after a child’s birth, mothers themselves need continuing services and screening. Indeed, children’s wellbeing very much depends on their mothers’ health and wellbeing. The title of this issue of the Future of Children, “Three Trimesters to Three Years,” highlights continuity in development, the continuing intersection of mother and baby, and the rapid growth that occurs from conception to three years of age.”

The prenatal and postnatal periods are critical to a child’s health and development. We advocate for investment in home visiting programs that support families in nurturing their children’s development and resilience from an early age, such as Family Connects and Nurse-Family Partnership. Read more on home visiting programs.

Gov. Abbott’s New Commitment: An Update on the Foster Care Lawsuit

TexProtects continues to follow the latest developments on the foster care lawsuit. For the first time since the lawsuit began, Governor Greg Abbott publicly stated at the beginning of this month that the state would cooperate and that he would work with legislators this session to get the funding necessary to be in compliance with Judge Janis Jack’s orders. 

Both the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) and the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) included Exceptional Items for a total of almost $75 million above their base budgets to cover the expenses of the lawsuit. A supplemental request now increases that number to more than $126 million for the 2022-2023 biennium. In a session where state agencies have had to scale back spending and are trying to maintain service levels without cutting supports to children and families, finding $126 million in the Article II Health and Human Services budget will be no easy task.  

For the sake of child safety, we are glad to see this shift in Governor Abbott’s approach to the lawsuit. It is also critical that Texas comply with the remedial orders ongoing from a financial perspective. Every possible fine and every dollar spent on this lawsuit, while necessary to keep kids in the system safe, is costing the state a lot of money. This has the potential of taking away necessary services for children and families from other areas of the agencies’ budgets and hinders opportunities to make smarter investments in new, innovative, and effective strategies.  

Read the complete Dallas Morning News article here and check out TexProtects’ full statement on Governor Abbott’s public response

In our last update in July 2020, we brought you up to speed on the findings in the Special Monitors report to Judge Jack, which showed how practices by both DFPS and HHSC were still placing the children in state custody at an unreasonable risk of harm. Since this time, the state has been held in contempt and threatened with hefty daily fines for not complying with more than a dozen of the Judge’s remedial orders, including the failure to comply with: 

  • Caseload sizes to ensure workers aren’t overwhelmed and can do optimal work; 
  • Timeliness of investigations;  
  • Communication both internally and externally with placements about safety issues; and 
  • Ensuring a system is in place to review a licensed provider’s history so that children are not placed in or remain in placements with significant histories of deficiencies that subject children to risk of harm. 

Governor Abbott spoke out in December 2020 soon after these findings and directed both state agencies to comply.  

TexProtects on Gov. Abbott’s Pledge to Comply with Foster Care Lawsuit

Austin – Yesterday, Gov. Greg Abbott pledged to comply with orders by U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack in a nearly 10-year-old class-action lawsuit over long-term foster care conditions.

Sophie Phillips, CEO, TexProtects:

“We applaud Governor Abbott in his vow to bring the state of Texas into compliance with the longstanding lawsuit against the Texas Foster Care system, recognizing that it is fundamental to ensuring the immediate safety and protection of the nearly 50,000 children who are survivors of child abuse and neglect and come through the state’s foster care doors every year. The CPS system was built to protect. However, for thousands of children, it caused trauma on par, if not more significant than what launched them into foster care initially.

The Governor’s vow is a substantial promise and will require from our Legislature this session an investment to the tune of $126 million – significant, yet worth every penny to protect the safety of our children. It will also require leaders within our child protection agency to positively disrupt the challenges that have plagued the system for so long – coming up with innovative solutions and significant overhauls to infrastructure and systems. The reality is that while compliance with the lawsuit is necessary to solve many grave problems, it will not bring about transformational change – it is just the foundation and floor upon which we must build.

An investment of $126 million to address the many issues in the lawsuit will not erase the trauma those kids suffered.

We must consider what additional actions can be taken to prevent children from experiencing the trauma of abuse in the first place. The proven, most effective way to prevent abuse and neglect is to invest in community-driven prevention programs that get to root causes.

In addition to the $126 million investment needed, the state will spend more than $2 billion on the “back end” of the child protection system this year (i.e., foster care, abuse investigations, case management). Less than 5% – will be spent on programs and strategies that prevent abuse – which has demonstrated upwards of a 50% reduction in CPS involvement.

There should not be an “either” “or” when it comes to protecting our state’s most vulnerable. We urge Gov. Abbott and our lawmakers to fulfill the promise to comply with the lawsuit and further commit to fewer children in foster care, which is no permanent place for a child to grow up. Together we can build and restore the foundations of childhood and build healthy families – securing the future of Texas.”

TexProtects is the only nonprofit and nonpartisan advocacy organization with a singular focus: smart solutions to child abuse and neglect for the state of Texas. Visit for more resources.

House and Senate Proposed Budgets for the 2022-2023 Biennium

The 87th Texas Legislative Session is underway, and both the House and Senate have released their proposed budgets for the upcoming 2022-2023 biennium. With more revenue available than expected, the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) fared pretty well when compared to other Health and Human Services agencies in the Article II budget. While the two chambers had different approaches to spending, they both proposed providing DFPS with a total of $4.4 billion in All Funds, including over $13 million in General Revenue.

The best news in the DFPS budget is that prevention funds were maintained and, in some cases, strengthened in both the House and Senate base budgets. Increased federal funding as well as efficiencies in Prevention and Early Intervention Programs (PEI) resulted in slight increases to the STAR program, child abuse prevention grants, and home visiting programs.  As prevention programs have been especially vulnerable in prior recessions, this is great news for the start of the 87th session as we continue to advocate for strategic growth and smart investments in prevention.

Unlike prior sessions, the House and Senate budgets begin with a host of similarities. Unfortunately, in general, many of those similarities reflect a maintenance of the status quo. Both chambers introduced budgets that fail to make meaningful investments to improve:

  • Workforce turnover rates in each program area.
  • Caseloads in each program area, including Conservatorship despite an ongoing lawsuit that continues to find caseloads to be overly burdensome.
  • Average hold times at Statewide Intake.
  • Relative caregiver payments.
  • Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) purchased services.

And in some cases, the budgets are aligned in ways that could result in decreased quality in DFPS operations. For example,

  • Compared to FY 2021, this budget decreases funding for Child Protective Services (CPS) direct delivery staff to carry out their responsibilities.
  • Relative caregiver payments are also lower than FY 2021 in both proposed budgets.

Despite being overwhelmingly similar, there are some key differences in the House and Senate budgets.

  • Workforce: The House took a more generous approach with the workforce and takes into consideration the agency’s Exceptional Item request for additional workers. The House wants to see the agency more fully staffed, which also accounts for the higher funding amounts allocated for salaries. The Senate, on the other hand, proposed funding approximately 400 less employees which would require the additional Exceptional Item request to be considered.
  • Delivery of CPS Services: Both chambers suggested different amounts to fund CPS direct delivery staff to carry out their responsibilities. Both chambers came up shy of Fiscal Year 2021 spending levels: the Senate proposed an amount that is $15 million short, whereas the House came up with a number that is $33 million short. This is significant because DFPS asked for an additional $107 million above the base budget across the biennium to perform their duties adequately, so this is an even larger gap to fill to be able to meet the needs of children and families.
  • Community Based Care (CBC): The Senate seems more willing to keep up the momentum of CBC that has been building over the last couple of sessions. While both chambers provided funding for continued progress in existing catchment areas, the Senate went a step further in providing funding to see the expansion of case management into Region 8A and continued progress in Region 8b, which has not been procured yet. DFPS wants to expand even further, so they have included an Exceptional Item request to contract with providers in four new catchment areas and transfer case management responsibilities in two existing regions. Considering what has been funded in each of these proposed budgets could provide insight as to if that request will be approved. Based on this information, it seems like the Senate is more likely to consider it than the House.

The budget is the single most important piece of legislation each session and is the only task that the legislature is required to complete. Lawmakers’ priorities and funding decisions determine if agencies will be able to provide appropriate and timely services and ensure the best outcomes. Members of the House and Senate still have work to do to reconcile the differences between their proposed budgets and consider what is most important for the safety and well-being of children and families. We encourage you to get involved in the House Appropriations and Senate Finance process as they continue to determine what the budget will look like for the upcoming biennium. The Senate Finance Committee will be hearing invited testimony on February 25th and allowing public comment on March 1st. It is critical that we encourage lawmakers to invest in the health and success of children and families by educating legislators on what works, what doesn’t, and the benefits of investing in smart solutions.

For guidance and resources on how you can champion child protection this legislative session, visit our website and sign-up to receive our advocacy alerts by texting TEXPROTECTED to 25994.

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