New Developments on the Texas Foster Care Lawsuit Crisis

Earlier in the month, Judge Janis Jack conducted a hearing to follow up on the progress made on the thirteen remedial orders. The Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) and Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) were not in compliance and were previously held in contempt.

Ahead of the hearing, the court-appointed Special Monitors filed two reports, one of which detailed the information they compiled regarding updates on these remedial orders and the other that went into more depth about the placement capacity crisis, which has left children without placement and being housed in unlicensed facilities.

Ultimately, the reports indicated substantial progress in some areas, including:

  • Ensuring new caseworkers have graduated caseloads as they learn the job;
  • Notifying caseworkers of allegations of abuse or neglect in the placement of a child on their caseload;
  • Shorter wait times and fewer referrals are being inappropriately downgraded at Statewide Intake; and
  • Timeliness of initiating and completing investigations.

While there have been improvements, some startling information reveals that the state continues to place children at an unreasonable risk of harm. Also, concerns were raised about the safety and lack of placements. In fact, 23 children in the Permanent Managing Conservatorship of the state have died since the Fifth Circuit issued its final ruling in July 2019. The reports and two-day-long hearing continued to point out that licensed placements continue to operate despite their long histories of deficiencies. Judge Jack repeated numerous times her concerns with placements being able to close their facilities and open up a new placement under a different name to avoid enforcement measures. Information was also revealed about children being housed in unlicensed facilities when a placement can’t be secured. Furthermore, 339 children have slept at least one night in a DFPS office since August 2020.

Interestingly, this was the first hearing in which the Single Source Continuum Contractors (SSCCs) in areas in which Community-Based Care (CBC) has been implemented were present and questioned alongside DFPS. Judge Jack made it very clear that the SSCCs were also under the same orders as DFPS. However, the information provided by the Special Monitors revealed that DFPS outperformed the SSCCs in several areas. They also raised questions about the implementation of CBC and the ability of DFPS to provide proper oversight, including concerns with:

  • Higher caseloads for caseworkers who work for SSCCs than DFPS;
  • Inadequate training for new caseworkers for SSCCs; and
  • Unreliable or nonexistent data for SSCCs.

Throughout the hearing, the resounding question from Judge Jack was “when?” in reference to what the plan is to come into compliance with each remedial order. While the hearing ended with Judge Jack expressing some optimism for the state agencies and SSCCs, there is no doubt that some major issues need to be addressed. We are approaching two years since the remedial orders have been mandated. We all share with Judge Jack’s standing questions of “when.” The stakes are high. For the sake of children’s wellbeing and lives, there is no time to waste.

Read our full statement on the CPS crisis in our sate here and for additional commentary from our CEO, Sophie Phillips, click here.

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)

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 Stands Up | Disproportionality in the Child Welfare System

 TexProtects’ vision is one where every child is safe, nurtured, and resilient — no matter the color of their skin. This vision cannot be realized while families of color continue to be wounded by systemic racism and injustice. As part of our effort to speak out and stand up against injustice, this blog is part of a series to highlight existing inequalities in our child protection systems. A deepened understanding of these issues can help us know better and do better so that Texas is a safe place to be born – where families can thrive and where every individual is seen and valued equally.

TexProtects’ mission and vision are to prevent children from the trauma of abuse and neglect and to keep families together when children can be kept safe. However, due to various circumstances impacting child safety and risk, some children and families come into contact with the child protection system. Unfortunately, data shows that from intake (recognizing and reporting abuse) to permanency, Black families and children are disproportionately represented and disparities in outcomes are present in the child protection system in Texas.

Black children are 1.8 times more likely to be reported as abuse victims, 2 times more likely be investigated, and 1.7 times more likely to be removed from their home than their White counterparts due to biases and racism at personal, community, and systemic levels. The stakes are higher the further Black children move through the system. They experience more placements, wait longer to be adopted, and are more likely to age out of care.

Tackling disproportionality in the child protection system cannot be done in isolation. Families often interact with so many other systems: healthcare, education, juvenile justice, criminal justice, and more. Therefore, it is crucial we collaborate across systems when addressing disproportionality. Unfortunately, targeted efforts to do this in a thoughtful, systematic way were defunded in Texas in 2018.

The Office of Minority Health Statistics and Engagement was initially created in 2010 to work in the context of Child Protective Services (CPS) but later recognized the value of working across systems so it expanded to include other state agencies. Housed within the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), the office was tasked with studying and solving the issue of racial inequities and providing context to the issue of disproportionality. After it was disbanded, CPS subsequently created the role to continue the work within their own agency (Department of Family and Protective Services). Tanya Rollins, the State Disproportionality Manager, now leads the agency’s efforts to address institutional racism. CPS continues to provide its workforce with training on racial and ethnic identity and cultural awareness, as well as poverty simulations.

Despite these activities, the system clearly continues to produce more negative outcomes for Black families and their children. To do better, to create long term change, there must be increased dedication, support, and resources toward both describing and solving the problem. 

We all have a part to play and plenty of areas for growth and change: on an individual level, on a policy and practice level, and on a systems level. TexProtects will continue to speak up and stand up against injustice and inequality, and we commit to addressing inequities through our policy and programmatic work to help ensure that the child welfare system no longer disproportionately produces outcomes that negatively impact Black children. We call on you to participate in and support this work too. 

Promoting Positive Family and Community Engagement For CAPM

This Child Abuse Prevention Month, TexProtects worked to increase awareness and provide families with ideas and resources.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, a special observance to highlight the current initiatives improving the child welfare system. Protecting children is an everyday mission for TexProtects and our partners.

According to the Department of Family and Protective Services DataBook, in 2019:

  • There were 294,739 total reports of child abuse, 23% of which were victims of child maltreatment and 14% of which were confirmed investigations
  • Of the confirmed allegations of abuse and neglect, 55.5% of victims were ages 0-5, 27.1% were ages 6-11, and 17.3% were ages 12-17
  • 72.7% of all confirmed child maltreatment victims were due to neglectful supervision
  • 235 children died of abuse and neglect, an 11% increase from 2018
  • 18,615 children were removed from their families due to child maltreatment

The prevention of child abuse and neglect is especially important due to the challenges that COVID-19 has created. Evidence shows that numerous risk factors, including social isolation, financial instability, and other stressors have high potential to increase risk for abuse and neglect. With the impact of this pandemic, a primary concern is that although reports of abuse may decline, incidents of child maltreatment may be increasing. Educators and medical professionals make up the majority of reporters for suspected child abuse. But with stay-at-home orders leaving fewer eyes on kids, how can we, as communities, help prevent child maltreatment in the midst of this crisis?

TexProtects has proactively created a variety of tools to promote positive family and community engagement. These include:

In addition, through op-eds and statements to the press, we are working to increase awareness of child abuse and neglect prevention strategies. We are also working to provide families and communities with actionable ideas and resources to better support families and ensure children are safe, nurtured, and resilient.

Child Abuse Prevention Month carries a more meaningful purpose during this April, but the solutions remain unchanged. We must ensure that families are plugged into the network of support in their communities because no family can do it all alone. And by supporting families, we can better ensure that every child has a nurturing, responsive caregiver on which to depend. In big and small ways, each one of us has a unique opportunity to be part of this solution especially in times of social isolation. Check on a neighbor, help connect families in need to resources, offer support to the parents in your own life, and of, course, if you suspect child abuse or neglect, make a report.

To report suspected child abuse or neglect, you can call the Texas Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-252-5400 or report online at

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.