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. 

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