Frontline for Children | September 2020


The Moment is Now: Children’s Bureau August/September Newsletter: Vol. 21, No. 6 (Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau)

This edition of the Children’s Bureau Express newsletter “is a call to action across public, private, philanthropic, and faith-based sectors to chart a different course to strengthen families through primary prevention and create a more just and equitable system focused on child and family well-being. It is a consensus statement that stresses how we must all value and invest in families and communities.” The newsletter highlights equity issues across elements of the child welfare system, from foster care environments to family courts and the justice system.

TexProtects Takeaway: We stand with the authors of this brief in demanding that we do more to demonstrate our commitment to families – especially families of color. The escalating costs and bleak outcomes of our child welfare system make clear that we must do more. The cost of inaction is too high.

Kids’ Share 2020: Report on Federal Expenditures on Children through 2019 and Future Projections (Urban Institute) 

“To inform policymakers, children’s advocates, and the general public about how public funds are spent on children, this 14th edition of the annual Kids’ Share report provides an updated analysis of federal expenditures on children from 1960 to 2019. This year’s Kids’ Share report also provides a baseline view of public expenditures before the COVID-19 pandemic.”

TexProtects Takeaway: Only 9% of the federal budget is spent on children and that is expected to decline to 73% over the next decade. Our increased understanding of the long term social and fiscal impacts of early life experiences should drive stronger investments in our children to ensure we are not faced with the same challenges tomorrow that we have today.

 Supporting Families and Child Care Providers during the Pandemic with a Focus on Equity (Child Trends)

“The purpose of this brief is to explore the specific challenges that families and child care providers are facing, especially those who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and to offer potential strategies that state and local policymakers and administrators can pursue to address families’ and providers’ unique needs.”

TexProtects Takeaway: 40% of childcare centers have reported that, without support, they will be forced to close due to the pandemic. Lack of safe childcare options puts children at risk and impacts parents’ ability to work.


Biological Aging in Childhood and Adolescence Following Experiences of Threat and Deprivation: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis (Colich, N., Rosen, M., Williams, E., & McLaughlin, K.)

“This meta-analysis and systematic review suggests that biological aging following early life adversity, including earlier pubertal timing, advanced cellular aging, and accelerated thinning of the cortex, may be specific to children and adolescents who experienced violent or traumatic experiences early in childhood. No such effect was found for children who experienced deprivation or poverty in the absence of violence or trauma. These findings highlight a potential role of accelerated biological aging in health disparities associated with early life trauma, and a potential target for early interventions.”

TexProtects Takeaway: The evidence on the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) continues to grow. Child safety and well-being are critical for healthy futures. This upcoming legislative session, TexProtects will work with policymakers to draft legislation that would ensure Texas creates a strategic and evidence-informed approach to preventing and mitigating the effects of ACEs.

Improving Children’s Well-Being through Responsible Fatherhood Programs (OPRE, Healthy Marriage & Responsible Fatherhood – HMRF, Mathematica, & Public Strategies)

“Fathers’ parenting engagement (that is, the ways in which fathers interact with their children) is linked to many aspects of children’s well-being, from health outcomes to academic and social outcomes. However, nonresident fathers with low incomes often face barriers to being fully engaged.” This brief explores how responsible fatherhood programs might improve children’s well-being by supporting fathers’ parenting engagement.

TexProtects Takeaway: A strong father-child relationship is associated with fewer behavioral problems and decreased likelihood of smoking and dropping out of school later in life. Many HOPES sites around the state are implementing fatherhood programs as part of their comprehensive prevention work to ensure early relational health between children and all their caregivers. Connection matters.

Central Referral Systems Help Reduce Contributors to Family Toxic Stress (Chapin Hall at University of Chicago)

This brief describes an evaluation of the Help Me Grow system model, which includes a central referral system to orient families to the social services they need by phone, and outreach by staff to build community stakeholders’ understanding of child development and referral processes. “Through interviews with Help Me Grow staff members and pediatricians, and focus groups held with parents and community-based organizations, the study team investigated how these different stakeholders use Help Me Grow, and how these supports impact children’s developmental journeys.”

TexProtects Takeaway:  Texas has six communities who are working to implement the Help Me Grow model and the Department of State Health Services is serving as the hub for this innovative work. With an integrated framework, these systems ensure families can access the right services at the right time and that stakeholders know more about the needs and capacity within their community.

Program Integrates Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Assessment into Primary Health Care; Connects Families with Services (Chapin Hall at The University of Chicago)

“Support, Connect, and Nurture (SCAN) is a program that integrates Family Development Specialist services and assessment of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) into health care provided to expectant parents and parents receiving routine health care in a Patient Centered Medical Home. The key goals of SCAN are patient education and influencing help-seeking behavior related to social determinants of health.” This brief highlights a recent longitudinal study of the SCAN intervention, including the experiences of adult patients and health clinic staff who took part in the intervention from 2015-2019.   

TexProtects Takeaway: Texas healthcare providers could use the SCAN model to better reduce provider stress and facilitate conversations about trauma and resiliency with caregivers. A strategic plan on preventing and mitigating the effects of ACEs could include looking into programs like SCAN as part of a cross-sector approach to increase family well-being.


Connecting the Dots: A Resource Guide for Meeting the Needs of Expectant and Parenting Youth, their Children, and their Families (Center for the Study of Social Policy)

This resource guide, designed to support expectant and parenting youth in foster care (mothers and fathers), strives to: “1) provide a comprehensive set of resources for jurisdictions working to achieve safety, permanency, and well-being for these young families; 2) enhance knowledge of evidence-informed and promising practices that holistically address the developmental needs of expectant and parenting youth in foster care (EPY), their children, and families; and 3) build evidence for effective interventions that are informed by and specifically target EPY.”

TexProtects Takeaway: The Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) makes available a federal match to provide pregnant and parenting foster youth with evidence-based substance use treatment, mental healthcare, and in-home parenting programs. Texas must capitalize on this opportunity to offer transformational services to survivors of abuse and neglect as they work to break the cycle and provide a safe home for their own children.

Recommendations for Trauma-Informed Care Under the Family First Prevention Services Act (National Child Traumatic Stress Network & Chapin Hall at University of Chicago)

This resource outlines “recommendations for how jurisdictions can understand Family First’s policy requirements for trauma-informed approaches and ensure that implementation of the law meets the trauma-related needs of children, youth, and families.”

TexProtects Takeaway: Given the prevalence of trauma in system-involved children and their families, child welfare staff must be well-trained in understanding and navigating trauma responses. Trauma informed strategies help build trust and engagement between staff and families ensuring better decisions and outcomes within the child protection system. FFPSA can help fund this kind of training, if Texas policymakers make it a priority.

Frontline For Children | March 2020

Where Science Meets Policy

In light of the urgent and staggering impacts of COVID-19, this month’s Frontline for Children includes a new “Practice” section aimed at parents as they navigate new challenges with their own children.

Child Protection Research

During the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth can help connect home visiting services to families

“Research shows that child abuse, intimate partner violence, and substance abuse increase during times of crisis, so it is now more important than ever to provide support to families who may face barriers to accessing services.” This resource summarizes research-supported technological outreach strategies for home visiting programs.

TexProtects’ Takeaway – Home visiting programs, Early Childhood Intervention, as well as physical and behavioral health services are quickly expanding their telehealth capacities in light of the challenges of COVID-19. Learnings from the field should ensure high quality adaptations that can better serve families with challenges to access both now and in the future and include cost considerations.

Scaling Evidence-Based Programs in Child Welfare (IBM Center for the Business of Government)

This report illustrates how policymakers might scale a pilot program that has been successful in its early stages, using three different child maltreatment prevention services as examples: home visiting, mental health services, and substance use services.

TexProtects’ Takeaway – As Texas develops a comprehensive and effective plan for implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act (Family First), it’s critical that evidence from the field is considered. Successful scaling requires active and targeted support from lead agencies and sufficient resources to ensure fidelity to core quality components.

A New Way to Talk about the Social Determinants of Health (Robert Woods Johnson Foundation)

“This guide discusses why we need a better way to talk about the social determinants of health, and best practices to assist in conversation with different audiences around the topic.”

TexProtects’ Takeaway – Our health is influenced by where we live, learn, work, and play so we need to invest not only in where health ends, but where it begins! To do that, it’s essential that we communicate in ways that connect with leaders and voters across the political spectrum. This report has great advice on how to do so!

Preventing and Addressing Intimate Violence when Engaging Dads (PAIVED): Challenges, Successes, and Promising Practices from Responsible Fatherhood Programs

This report addresses how responsible fatherhood programs prevent and address intimate partner violence.

TexProtects’ Takeaway – A father’s role in promoting safety and well-being for children cannot be underestimated; however, there are numerous barriers to effective fatherhood engagement in programs that could offer support. When offering support to fathers who use violence, it’s important to help them understand the impact of violence on their children and to help them process their own trauma. Trauma-informed approaches are critical.

Child Protection Policy

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information, News, & Resources for Child Welfare Professionals and Others (Child Welfare League of America; CWLA)

This link features tips, sample (state) policies and protocols, and resources that CWLA has collected regarding the outbreak.

TexProtects’ Takeaway – Child Welfare agencies, including our own Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, are having to rapidly respond to the changing environment as a result of COVID-19 while still ensuring child safety. TexProtects is closely monitoring and offering recommendations along the way and will continue to keep you updated on important developments and concerns as they arise.

Child Care is Essential and Needs Emergency Support to Survive (National Association for the Education of Young Children; NAEYC)

This position statement describes NAEYC’s response to COVID-19 and 10 steps for states and districts to support child care during this time.

TexProtects’ Takeaway – The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted how essential and under-resourced our early childhood systems are. Now more than ever, we need to ensure that these centers and staff are supported and protected to ensure their sustainability during this crisis and beyond it.

State Fact Sheets: How States Spend Funds Under the TANF Block Grant (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)

“In 2018, states spent only about a fifth of the funds on basic assistance to meet essential needs of families with children.”

TexProtects’ Takeaway – In contrast, Texas only spent 6% of their TANF funds on basic assistance. TANF funds provide essential funding for not only basic assistance, but also childcare, child welfare, and Pre-K. However, the TANF block grant has been frozen since its creation and has lost 40% of its value due to inflation.

New Recommendations Released – Historic Opportunity for Reform in Child Welfare: Quality Residential Services (FosterClub)

The National Foster Care Youth & Alumni Policy Council recently released a statement with six priorities, including Quality Residential Treatment Centers (QRTP) and moving towards “a 21st Century Child Welfare System”.

TexProtects’ Takeaway – The Family First Prevention Services Act offers unprecedented opportunities to increase quality in congregate care settings. The voice of youth with lived experience should be a driving force in the process of determining the most impactful improvement to the child welfare system.

Child Protection Practice

Parent/Caregiver Guide to Helping Families Cope with the Coronavirus Disease (National Child Traumatic Stress Network)

“This resource will help parents and caregivers think about how an infectious disease outbreak might affect their family – both physically and emotionally – and what they can do to help their family cope.”

TexProtects’ Takeaway – In addition to physical health and safety, families have a unique challenge in helping themselves and their children deal with the stress of the isolation and anxiety due to COVID-19. Remember to take care of yourself, take a break, and offer yourself and your children more room to breathe and relax than normal. And stay connected! Your presence and calm will be the largest determinant of how they experience this time.

Coronavirus Resources & Tips for Parents, Children & Others (Prevent Child Abuse America)

This webpage offers tips on staying emotionally and socially connected while physically distancing during the COVID-19 crisis.

TexProtects’ Takeaway – Even when we are apart, we can get creative and stay connected to family, friends and neighbors, our culture, and ourselves. Our connections are protective and will be the ties that hold us together during challenges. Find ways to make this time fun when you can. We are in this together.

Resources for Supporting Children’s Emotional Well-being during the COVID-19 Pandemic

… research on natural disasters makes it clear that, compared to adults, children are more vulnerable to the emotional impact of traumatic events that disrupt their daily lives. This resource offers information on supporting and protecting children’s emotional well-being as this public health crisis unfolds.”

TexProtects’ Takeaway – Reassurance, routines, and regulation can do so much for supporting children’s emotional health. And remember that reactions and behaviors will likely vary depending on the day.

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) Emergency: Information and assistance for young people in and from foster care (FosterClub)

This website provides links to resources, information, and opportunities for young people who experienced or are experiencing foster care to find support during the pandemic.

TexProtects’ Takeaway – Older youth in the foster care system as well as those who have aged out are especially vulnerable during this emergency. Access to information and resources will be critical to help them establish safety plans during this time.

Frontline for Children | Where Science Meets Policy

Launching our new monthly feature

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

New and Noteworthy – Child Protection Research

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New and noteworthy – Child Protection Policy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Family First Transition Act passed with bipartisan support

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

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

How To Get Involved During the Interim

Your Voice – and Action – Matters Between Legislative Sessions

As summarized in our last blog post on the legislative interim, the work toward next session really does begin now.

During the interim, legislators and their staff spend more time in both their district and capitol offices, which means they have more bandwidth and availability to develop relationships and learn more about topics of interest. The voice that matters most to legislators, is the voice of their constituents. So while the work of session can often seem complicated, overwhelming, and better left to the professionals (which it’s not!), the interim is the period in which local providers, stakeholders, parents, teachers, and YOU can use their voice to speak up for Texas kids.

Keep this in mind while bending the ear of a legislator: You don’t have to be an expert. You don’t have to understand the political system. You don’t have to know all the data inside and out. This is where the support and expertise of TexProtects can come into play – but we need you to tell your story and why it matters.

To speak to your district’s policymakers, you simply have to share your values (and it certainly helps understand theirs!), experiences, knowledge, and the issue/topic to which you’re passionate. Then, let them know that their community is expecting them to deliver in ways that are meaningful. In our case – that is keeping kids safe and empowering our families to thrive.

Maybe you have ideas about what needs to change regarding the issue at hand. Maybe you have some ideas about solutions – even better! Maybe you have personal experiences with children or families that you know will provide a compelling narrative and is the extra push needed to see change happen. If you follow the work TexProtects does, if you are reading this blog, if you engage with us on social media, you definitely have a story and a connection to your community that could deepen and inform the conversation around how to make meaningful change in child welfare.

If you’re ready to get involved, here are few ways you can begin:

  • Find out who represents you and find a way to get to know them and their staff.
    • Go to a campaign event or a town hall.
    • Schedule a visit to talk about topics of interest.
    • Invite them to an event that highlights critical issues and programs to build investment.
  • Attend an event! TexProtects holds community events through the state year-round on child protection related issues. Check our website for any upcoming events.
  • Join local and statewide collaboratives on your areas of interest to amplify your voice and inform your positions. For example, TexProtects provides leadership for the following collaborations: TexProtects Public Policy Committee, Texas Prenatal to Three Collaborative, the Child Protection Roundtable, and the Home Visiting Consortium. Contact if you are interested in more information about those collaboratives.
  • Write a letter of thanks to legislative champions. Everyone appreciates a thank you and unfortunately, our policy makers often hear from their constituents only when they are unhappy. Take time over the interim to thank your legislator for their public service and take the opportunity to point out a child protection bill from last session that they supported. You can use our end of session report to get a list of important bills from last session. Texas Legislature Online will let you search for a bill to see who voted for it, what actions were taken toward it, and the language of the bill. If you need assistance, contact TexProtects would be glad to help you draft the letter or determine which bills might be relevant to mention.
  • Be sure you are signed up for our newsletter and advocacy alerts (sign up in the orange box on our home page and connect with us on social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) to stay up to date on the latest child welfare news  and state and federal policy. We will let you know when there is an important hearing so that you can attend, stream online, or provide written or oral testimony.
  • Have a policy idea related to child protection? We want to hear it!

If you hit a roadblock or need a cheerleader, a contact, or a data point, please don’t hesitate to reach out, we are here to help.