Frontline For Children | August + September 2021

We pulled together this month’s 8 most noteworthy child welfare research articles for you. Read them all here and take action today!

  1. 4 in 10 Latino and Black households with children lack confidence that they can make their next housing payment one year into COVID-19 (National Research Center on Hispanic Children & Families)

According to the National Research Center on Hispanic Children & Families, one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, roughly 40 percent of Latino and Black households with children who rent or have a mortgage reported housing insecurity. Roughly half of low-income Latino and Black households with children, and one third of low-income White households with children, reported little or no confidence in their ability to make their next mortgage or rent payment.

TexProtects Takeaway: The COVID-19 pandemic continues to disproportionately effect communities of color. This new data reveals that 40% of Latino and Black households with children are facing housing insecurity vs. 15% of comparable white households. With the recent expiration of the federal moratorium on evictions, many families may now be facing homelessness elevating the risk of child maltreatment. In order to ensure these families and children have secure housing, we must advocate for the American Rescue Plan Act funding (over $40 billion in housing assistance) to be released to the communities that need it most.

2. School-Based Strategies for Addressing the Mental Health and Well-Being of Youth in the Wake of COVID-19* (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine)

According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, there are evidence-based strategies for schools to address the mental health and well-being challenges among youth that arose or were exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic. *This PDF is free but does require creating an account with a valid e-mail address for access.

TexProtects Takeaway: The COVID-19 pandemic has been especially challenging for youth. From the loss of loved ones to loneliness and social isolation, these past 18 months have brought about a unique set of challenges. This new resource identifies strategies to address youth mental health and well-being in the school setting. A few examples include school-wide, mental health screenings and school-based health centers with mental health providers.

3. System Transformation to Support Child & Family Well-Being: The Central Role of Economic & Concrete Supports (Chapin Hall at University of Chicago)

Researchers at the University of Chicago have recently released this overview of policy, programmatic, analytic, and engagement strategies for leveraging economic supports to promote child and family well-being and prevent maltreatment.

TexProtects Takeaway: We know that financial supports reduce child abuse and neglect by enabling families to better access resources and address their own basic needs. The Centers for Disease Control identifies strengthening economic supports to families as one of their strategies to prevent child abuse and neglect. This brief highlights a similar advocacy strategy often championed by TexProtects – that it is best to intervene with a family before a crisis. The recent Child Tax Credit implemented through the American Rescue Plan Act has the potential to dramatically reduce child poverty by giving families access to economic supports on a monthly basis. It would be beneficial for families and children if this tax credit was made permanent.

4. Contact with Child Protective Services is pervasive but unequally distributed by race and ethnicity in large US counties (Edwards, F., Wakefield, S., Healy, K., & Wildeman, C.)

A new study provides county-level estimates of the prevalence of child abuse and neglect in Texas analyzing specifically by race and ethnicity and associated access to prevention and early intervention. A blog post from Duke University discusses the study results in further detail.

TexProtects Takeaway: This study examined CPS data at the county level, revealing the wide range of experiences families face when encountering the child welfare system. Across all counties examined, Black children had the highest risk of CPS investigation and higher rates of later-stage CPS contact (including foster care placements and termination of parental rights). Overall, this study revealed what we already know to be true of our current, often discriminatory child welfare system: risk of involvement in the CPS system is more common for children from historically and/or economically marginalized populations. We must confront these inequalities and continue to work to eliminate disparities at all levels of the child welfare system.

5. Effect of a Universal Postpartum Nurse Home Visiting Program on Child Maltreatment and Emergency Medical Care at 5 Years of Age (Goodman, W.B., Dodge, K., & Bai, Y.)

A recent study concluded that Family Connects, a universal newborn nurse home visiting program, resulted in a 33% decrease in reported cases to CPS and a 39% reduction in emergency medical care use through age 5.

TexProtects Takeaway: This new randomized control trial reveals exciting and promising outcomes for universal postpartum nurse home visiting programs, such as Family Connects. The Family Connects program is a universally offered nurse home visiting program offered to new caregivers. There are six counties in Texas currently operating Family Connects programs. These programs served more than 1,800 Texas families in 2020. To learn more about Family Connects and how TexProtects advocated to expand the program in the 87th legislative session, check out our newly released End of Session report.

6. GrandFacts State Fact Sheets (Casey Family Programs, American Bar Association, & Generations United)

These fact sheets provide data on public benefits, educational assistance, legal relationship options and state laws and Texas’s fact sheet can be found here.

TexProtects Takeaway: 266,337 grandparents are caring for their grandchildren in Texas. Children belong with their families, whenever safely possible. However, not all families have access to the necessary resources to care for additional children. This helpful fact sheet offers grand families a list of resources in Texas including parenting classes, counseling, and food/clothing assistance.

7. Evaluation of a statewide initiative to reduce expulsion of young children (Edge, N., Kyzer, A., Abney, A., Freshwater, A., Sutton, M., & Whitman, K.)

This program evaluation study describes 3 years of implementation of Arkansas’s BehaviorHelp (BH) system, a statewide expulsion prevention support system for early care and education (ECE). The study examined correlation of differences in characteristics including exposure to trauma for children by outcomes including expulsion.

TexProtects Takeaway: The state of Arkansas has launched a statewide effort to reduce suspension and expulsion of young children. Not surprisingly, this study identified children most at-risk for expulsion from school had a history of childhood trauma. We know a child’s reaction to trauma can greatly affect their ability to engage productively in the classroom. Trauma-informed training for all educators is essential to helping children with a history of trauma feel safe and secure in the school setting. Texas requires new teachers to receive trauma-informed care training as part of their orientation, however, a bill passed in the 87th legislative session removes the frequency requirements for trauma-informed care training of current teachers. Texas has a long way to go in ensuring children feel safe and secure in the classroom. A report by Texans Care for Children in 2019 revealed that although the legislature has banned out of school suspensions for pre-k through second graders, a high number of Texas’ youngest students continue to face in-school suspensions at disproportionate rates (highest among students in foster care, special education, and black students and boys).

8. Why aren’t kids a policy priority? The cultural mindsets and attitudes that keep kids off the public agenda (Frameworks Institute)

This report by Frameworks institute explores the cultural barriers to prioritizing children in policymaking, as well as the opportunity to develop a new narrative that is asset focused on child wellbeing instead of child need.

TexProtects Takeaway: When the public thinks about children and policy, they most often think about education and family settings. The public struggles to connect other policy areas (healthcare, housing, etc.) to children’s issues. The Prenatal to Three Collaborative (led in part by TexProtects) works to elevate all policy issues that affect our youngest children. Policies recently in the news such as Medicaid Expansion, the Child Tax Credit, and the federal moratorium on eviction, all have a profound impact on children of all ages and their safety and well-being. In order to help the public make this connection, advocates must be open to new ways of thinking and communicating to better serve our youngest Texans.

Get the latest news, reports, and action items delivered right to your inbox, here.

Frontline For Children | June 2021

We pulled together this month’s 8 most noteworthy child welfare research articles for you. Read them all here and take action today!

  1. Racism Creates Inequities in Maternal and Child Health, Even Before Birth

“The child welfare system is overdue for substantial transformation. Families and communities of color have experienced the brunt of the failings and limitations present in current policy and “To inform maternal and child health policy and practice, this brief applies a racial and ethnic equity lens to the review of data from the State of Babies Yearbook: 2021. Specifically, this brief aims to explore why there are disparities in maternal and child health; what disparities exist, and for whom; and how policymakers and practitioners can promote racial and ethnic equity to improve maternal and child health. We use racial and ethnic equity to refer to the process of involving those most impacted by institutional racism in the creation and implementation of policies and practices that impact their lives, and to outcomes in which race and ethnicity do not predict a person’s life course.5 This approach offers recommendations that are discussed in detail in the Recommendations section.” The brief also features multiple state-level data tables, which highlight where Texas has strengths and/or faces challenges.

TexProtects Takeaway: A baby’s future health and potential to thrive begins to take shape even before conception. This connection between maternal and child well-being is especially important among women of color, due to intergenerational trauma and the lived experience of institutional and interpersonal racism. Research has shown that racism can influence maternal health before and during pregnancy – ultimately having a negative impact on a baby from the beginning. The US also continues to struggle with extremely high rates of maternal mortality, in relation to all other high-income countries. In the 87th Texas legislature, TexProtects advocated for an expansion of voluntary nurse home visiting programs, such as Family Connects, to help combat maternal mortality and connect new moms and babies to the resources they need at the right time. Although legislation to expand these home visiting programs did not pass, HB 133 was signed into law, which expands Medicaid coverage for new moms post-partum from 2 months to 6 months. Texas still has a lot of work to do in protecting new moms and babies, but this is a huge step forward!

2. Parental Substance Use: A Primer for Child Welfare Professionals (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau)

“Child welfare professionals can play a critical role in helping identify possible substance use disorders (SUDs) and supporting families in overcoming barriers to safety and permanency related to substance use. This factsheet reviews what SUDs are, how parental substance use affects families, and how child welfare professionals can support these families. It also considers how collaboration between child welfare professionals and SUD treatment providers, as well as others, is an essential component to assisting families. This factsheet is intended to serve as a brief primer on the intersection of parental SUDs and child welfare rather than a comprehensive guide. Additional information and resources are provided throughout to help readers explore the topic in more detail.”

TexProtects Takeaway: Almost 9 million children in the US live with at least one parent struggling with a substance-use disorder (SUD) – over 12% of all children in the US. Living with a caregiver suffering from an SUD is considered an adverse childhood experience (ACE), and increased exposure to ACEs can cause a host of negative outcomes for children later in life.  Substance abuse is a major factor in many child welfare cases and research has shown the existence of a parent with SUD is associated with an increased belief by child welfare workers that the children are experiencing severe risk and harm, regardless of actual risk or harm. This is troubling as a child welfare worker’s assessment of the severity of harm affects the type, intensity, and duration of services offered. Under the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA), states may now use title IV-E funds for substance use and mental health services, that may ultimately prevent a child from being placed in foster care. TexProtects will continue to work with Texas DFPS Prevention and Early Intervention to ensure FFPSA funds are used in the most efficient and effective way possible – to intervene with these families to prevent child abuse and neglect before a crisis occurs.

3. Cumulative Rates of Child Protection Involvement and Terminations of Parental Rights in California Birth Cohort, 1999-2017 (Putnam-Hornstein, E., Ahn, E., Prindle, J., Magruder, J., Webster, D., & Wildeman, C.)

“To document the cumulative childhood risk of different levels of involvement with the child protection system (CPS), including terminations of parental rights (TPRs)”, the authors of this article “linked vital records for California’s 1999 birth cohort (n = 519 248) to CPS records from 1999 to 2017. We used sociodemographic information captured at birth to estimate differences in the cumulative percentage of children investigated, substantiated, placed in foster care, and with a TPR.” Results are as follows: “Overall, 26.3% of children were investigated for maltreatment, 10.5% were substantiated, 4.3% were placed in foster care, and 1.1% experienced a TPR. Roughly 1 in 2 Black and Native American children were investigated during childhood. Children receiving public insurance experienced CPS involvement at more than twice the rate of children with private insurance… Conservatively, CPS investigates more than a quarter of children born in California for abuse or neglect. These data reinforce policy questions about the current scope and reach of our modern CPS.”

TexProtects Takeaway: The authors of this groundbreaking article used records for California’s 1999 birth cohort and CPS records to show cumulative percentages of children investigated by CPS, placed in foster care, and those with parental rights terminated. This study found that while the number of children placed in foster care is small, the number of children investigated by CPS is substantial. Roughly half of all Black and Native American children in this California cohort were investigated by CPS for maltreatment at some point in their childhood. These groups also experienced all levels of CPS involvement at more than twice the rate of White children in the same cohort. Finally, this study also found children receiving public health insurance and missing paternity were strongly related to all levels of CPS involvement. We must continue to dig into the institutionalized and systemic racism that is present at all levels of the child welfare system and enact policies that are equitable and supportive of all families.

4. 2021/2022 Prevention Resource Guide (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau; Child Welfare Information Gateway; FRIENDS National Center for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention)

The authors created the first resource guide of this type over 15 years ago, “with the goal of raising awareness about emerging child abuse prevention concepts. It was created primarily to support community-based service providers who work to prevent child maltreatment and promote family well-being. However, over the years many others—including policymakers, health-care providers, program administrators, teachers, child care providers, parent leaders, mentors, and clergy—have found the resources useful… This guide has traditionally focused on primary and secondary prevention activities, which endeavor to stop maltreatment before it occurs.” In exploring prevention concepts, the guide uses a framework comprised of the following six protective factors: Nurturing and attachment; knowledge of parenting and of child and youth development; parental resilience; social connections; concrete supports for parents; and social and emotional competence of children.

TexProtects Takeaway: The Administration for Children and Families published this report to “support families all year long in ways that promote and build upon their strengths and enable them to care for their children safely before maltreatment is even a possibility.” This goal is directly in line with one of the top priorities for TexProtects – to prevent child abuse and keep families together. The 2021/2022 guide highlights many innovative ways communities across the US are engaging in purposeful prevention work to keep children safe and strengthen families.

5. Recovery Coaching Interventions for Families Involved with the Child Welfare System: Moving Toward Evidence-Based Practices (Office of Planning, Research & Evaluation – OPRE; Abt Associates; University of Michigan School of Social Work; Faces & Voices of Recovery)

“This report — part of the first phase of the Expanding Evidence on Replicable Recovery and Reunification Interventions for Families (R3) project — describes features of select interventions that use recovery coaches in the child welfare system, characterizes their current stage of readiness for replication and further evaluation, and informs a long-term effort by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to build high-quality evidence on recovery coaching interventions for families involved with the child welfare system.”

TexProtects Takeaway: Parental substance abuse continues to be one of the most common risk factors for families involved in the child welfare system. Research has shown that parents who participate in and complete SUD treatment are more likely to be reunified with their children. Recovery coaching is one solution to increase the likelihood of family renunciation. Recovery coaches work with parents struggling with SUD who have or are at risk of having their children removed. Coaches increase engagement in treatment and other needed services to support the parent’s recovery, while also coordinating with child welfare agency staff. The 2018 Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatmentfor Patients and Communities (SUPPORT) Act required HHS to replicate a family SUD recovery and reunification intervention that used recovery coaches and conduct a three-part evaluation. As a first step, nine eligible interventions were considered for further study. Of these nine, three interventions showed some promise of efficacy. The most effective program with the greatest potential for replicability was the Oregon Parent Mentor Program and Sobriety Treatment and Recovery Teams (START). While more research needs to be done on the evidence of these programs and interventions, this is an excellent start and shows the importance of investing in innovative and evidence-based approaches.

6. Young Child Risk Calculator (National Center for Children in Poverty – NCCP, at the Bank Street Graduate School of Education)

This newly updated calculator serves as a tool for determining young children’s longer-term socioeconomic outcomes, given the number and types of risk factors to which they are currently exposed. Users are able to choose the state, a child’s age range (all below age nine), a family’s income level, and seven different risk factors related to parents’ education levels, housing stability, employment, etc. The creators of the calculator note that “Children with three or more risks are exceptionally vulnerable. Information about the prevalence of young children experiencing these risks can inform policies aimed at improving outcomes for vulnerable children and reducing the number of children experiencing early risks.”

TexProtects Takeaway: There are 1,149,024 children in Texas under the age of 3 and 47% of them are considered low-income (<200% FPT). This tool focuses on several risk factors a child might experience, such as: unemployed parents, low parent education, and residential mobility. Children with three or more risk factors identified are especially vulnerable to negative health, educational, and developmental outcomes. Of children under the age of 3 in Texas, 46% have experience at least 1-2 risk factors and 17% have experienced 3+ risk factors. The prenatal to three period for children is critical for brain development and future outcomes. TexProtects is proud to lead the Texas Prenatal to Three Collaborative with the goal of increasing the number of infants and toddlers in Texas who are healthy, supported, and arrive at school ready to learn. Click here to learn more about the PN3 Collaborative and how you can get involved.

7. Early Childhood Profiles (NCCP at the Bank Street Graduate School of Education)

“NCCP’s Early Childhood Profiles were produced as part of the Improving the Odds for Young Children project. These profiles highlight two-generation state policy choices that promote health, education, and strong families alongside other contextual data related to the well-being of young children.” Texas’s state profile can be found here.

TexProtects Takeaway: NCCP’s Early Childhood Profiles highlight policies that are two-generational in their approach, meaning the policies support the well-being and opportunities of young children as well as their parents. One example of two-generation policy supports is investment in Pre-K programs and high-quality childcare, along with state policies such as the Earned Income Tax credit and raising the minimum wage for low-income workers. Another example is increased access to mental health screenings, along with increased access to quality health care for children and their parents. One concerning Texas data point highlighted in this profile is the number of children under age 6 in Texas without health insurance. The national average is 8% while Texas sits at 15% of children under 6 with no health insurance. Children who do not have access to health insurance are less likely to attend preventive care appointments and wellness checks that could deter chronic conditions earlier. This legislative session, HB 290 (passed as a provision of HB 2658), will allow eligible children to remain continuously enrolled in Medicaid CHIP for 6 months before a mid-year eligibility review. The passage of this legislation will ensure less eligible children are inaccurately kicked-off of their health insurance. 

8. State of Babies Yearbook 2021 (ZERO TO THREE)

“The State of Babies Yearbook: 2021 compares national and state-by-state data on the well-being of infants and toddlers… We present this report after a year in which all of us, but especially families with young children, have faced unprecedented challenges from the pandemic, its economic fallout and social isolation, and nationally visible incidents of racial injustice that resonated in our study of babies’ lives in America… This year, we show how those inequities that pre-existed COVID-19 illuminate the disparate economic and social impacts of the pandemic on families of color and those with low income [as we supplement our usual data sources with data from the Rapid Assessment of Pandemic Impact on Development in Early Childhood survey].” Texas’s 2021 data can be found here.

TexProtects Takeaway: The State of Babies Yearbook is an excellent tool to see where Texas stands versus other states on many key indicators of healthy and safe babies and toddlers. One policy area where Texas is lagging is an area the Yearbook calls Strong Families. These are policies designed to address disparities by race, ethnicity, and income. A few examples include safe and stable housing, home visiting services, and tax credits for families with young children. Texas falls on the lowest tier in this category compared with all other states and Texas is doing worse than the national average on indicators such as the percentages of families who report being resilient and babies living in crowded housing. One solution to this problem is increasing access to voluntary home visiting services. These programs have a strong return on investment and have been shown to increase protective factors and strengthen families by connecting them with the resources they need most. Click here to learn more about home visiting in Texas.  

Get the latest news, reports, and action items delivered right to your inbox, here.

Frontline For Children | May 2021

We pulled together this month’s 10 most noteworthy child welfare research articles for you. Read them all here and take action today!

  1. Transforming Child Welfare: Prioritizing Prevention, Racial Equity, and Advancing Child and Family Well-Being (National Council on Family Relations)

“The child welfare system is overdue for substantial transformation. Families and communities of color have experienced the brunt of the failings and limitations present in current policy and practice. A transformed approach is needed that prioritizes maltreatment prevention, racial equity, and child and family well-being. The Family First Prevention Services Act is an important step in this effort, although its scope falls short of the significant changes that are needed to effectively serve children and families. Transformation requires intentional efforts to disentangle poverty and child neglect, and investments in communities to build robust, accessible continua of prevention services.” With the goal of transforming the child welfare system in mind, the authors of this policy brief offer five recommendations for policymakers: reconceptualize the mandatory reporting system; expand primary prevention programs to families in their communities; address institutional racism within child welfare programs; invest in evidence-based interventions; and allocate more resources for kinship caregivers, equivalent to what is available for nonrelative foster parents.”

TexProtects Takeaway: Since the establishment of formalized state child protection systems, the majority of funding and resources have been directed to child abuse/neglect investigations and out-of-home placements. In 2016, only 15% of the $30 billion invested nationally was directed toward prevention services. This is also true in Texas, where prevention makes up only 5% of the DFPS budget.

2. Strategies to Build Evidence for Kinship Navigator Programs Under the Family First Act

“The 2018 Family First Prevention Services Act (Family First Act) provides funding for kinship navigator programs that demonstrate evidence of effectiveness. Many agencies believe their kinship navigator programs benefit kinship caregivers and their families; however, to qualify for Family First Act funding, stronger research evidence is needed to understand whether and how families benefit. This brief identifies common challenges agencies face in building this evidence and suggests ways to address these challenges, including defining the program model; selecting a comparison group; ensuring an adequate sample size; selecting appropriate outcomes and reliable and valid measures; and collecting data.”

TexProtects Takeaway: Kinship Navigator Programs can be a critical lifeline for kinship caregivers involved with the child welfare system. While it is always the goal for children to remain with family members, kinship caregivers are often unprepared for the financial burden of caring for another child and are unable to navigate the complicated web of resources available to them. Investing in Kinship Navigator programs will help to mitigate child trauma by ensuring more children are able to remain with their family members.  

3. State Child Abuse & Neglect (SCAN) Policies Database (Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation – OPRE, Children’s Bureau in the Administration for Children and Families, Mathematica, and Child Trends)

“SCAN Policies Database includes data on select definitions and policies related to child maltreatment incidence for 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. The data is organized into six variable domains: 1. Definitions of child abuse and neglect; 2. Reporting policies; 3. Screening policies; 4. Investigation policies; 5. Child welfare responses; 6. Child welfare system context.” Texas’ most recent profile, including data collected from May 2019 to July 2020, can be found here.

TexProtects Takeaway: Although federal law identifies certain acts or behaviors as child maltreatment, each state has their own legal definitions of child abuse and neglect. This leads to differing state policies and implementation in child maltreatment reporting and investigations. The SCAN database is able to be linked with other child welfare data sources, revealing important trends such as the incidence of child maltreatment, the child welfare system response, and ultimately child safety and well-being outcomes.  At a time when the Texas child welfare system is under extreme strain due to COVID-19 and the on-going federal lawsuit, we must take the time to identify what is working in Texas and what is not, in order to better support and protect our children.

4. Child Maltreatment Reporting in Rural vs. Urban Areas (Children’s Bureau Express)

“Most of the research on child maltreatment focuses on children in urban areas since they outnumber those in rural areas. A recent article in Children and Youth Services Review emphasizes child maltreatment statistics in rural areas, comparing maltreatment reports, report sources, and service outcomes with those in urban areas. The study examines three research questions: Do maltreatment reports differ between urban and rural areas during the study period (2003–2017)? Do report sources differ between urban and rural areas? Does the probability of substantiation and post response outcomes differ by report source and urban or rural area? This is the first major study in recent years to examine and compare national data for child maltreatment reports, report sources, and services outcomes for rural and urban areas. It is important to note that there are several limitations to the study, such as that it relied on official child maltreatment data and screened-in reports, which may undercount the actual occurrence of maltreatment.”

TexProtects Takeaway: Most research on child abuse/neglect reporting has historically focused on children in urban areas, exposing a gap in data pertaining to children in rural areas. This study revealed children in rural areas have higher rates of abuse/neglect reports and re-reports, a critical reminder that we must continue to work on investing in and expanding access to prevention services across the state of Texas. Your zip code should not determine if your family can access support services before a crisis occurs.

5. Distinguishing Racism, Not Race, as a Risk Factor for Child Welfare Involvement: Reclaiming the Familial and Cultural Strengths in the Lived Experiences of Child Welfare-Affected Parents of Color (Stephens, T.)

“Child welfare-affected parents of color (CW-PaoC) are often described using language that is deficit-focused, their families depicted as fragile and living in a near constant state of crisis and need. This commentary challenges the stereotypes created by hyper-attention to these parents’ struggles and situates them, and their families, within the broader context of the American appetite for family separation, wherein specific types of families are targeted for scrutiny, intervention and regulation. The concept of fragility within families is dissected to illustrate the ways in which racism and classism demarcate certain families for separation. Excerpts from two separate interviews conducted with Black mothers in 2014 and 2020 are used to illustrate how the appetite for family separation is currently fed. Familial and cultural strengths that counteract the prevailing deficit-focused narrative of CW-PaoC, particularly Black parents, are discussed. This commentary ends with a call for the dissolution of the CW system in its current regulatory form and the rebuilding of family-centered supports that center familial strengths.”

TexProtects Takeaway: Families of color continue to be grossly over-represented in the US child welfare system. It is time for the child welfare system to recognize and acknowledge the strengths within families of color and commit to a strengths-focused approach when interacting with  families, ensuring that each family receives fair, equal, and equitable treatment.

6. Maltreatment of Children with Disabilities (Legano, L., Desch, L., Messner, S., Idzerda, S. & Flaherty, E.)

“The purpose of this clinical report is to ensure that children with disabilities are recognized as a population at increased risk for maltreatment. This report updates the 2007 American Academy of Pediatrics clinical report “Maltreatment of Children With Disabilities.” Since 2007, new information has expanded our understanding of the incidence of abuse in this vulnerable population. There is now information about which children with disabilities are at greatest risk for maltreatment because not all disabling conditions confer the same risks of abuse or neglect. This updated report will serve as a resource for pediatricians and others who care for children with disabilities and offers guidance on risks for subpopulations of children with disabilities who are at particularly high risk of abuse and neglect. The report will also discuss ways in which the medical home can aid in early identification and intervene when abuse and neglect are suspected. It will also describe community resources and preventive strategies that may reduce the risk of abuse and neglect.”

TexProtects Takeaway: The rate of child abuse and neglect is at least 3x higher among children with disabilities than in the typically developing population. However, not all disabilities confer the same risks of child/abuse neglect. Researchers discovered children with milder forms of disabilities are at a higher risk of abuse/neglect than more profoundly affected children, and certain types of disabilities are associated with different forms of child abuse. For example, children with behavioral difficulties are at a greater risk for physical abuse and children who are nonverbal or hearing impaired are more likely to experience neglect or sexual abuse. In order to mitigate these risks, it is critical that children have a trusted Pediatrician and medical home. This is just one way families can receive the support and education they need.

7. Supporting School Stability for Children in Foster Care during COVID-19 and Beyond (American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges)

 “This alert highlights: Why prioritizing education is important for children in foster care; Critical education issues for children in foster care; Who is involved in advocating for the education of children in foster care; Judges’ roles in keeping children in care on track in school; And how courts can collaborate with schools and child welfare agencies to help children in care succeed in school.”

TexProtects Takeaway: We know that having a supportive relationship with a caregiver or adult can help to mitigate the devastating effects of childhood trauma and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Due to COVID-19, many children have lost access to their teachers and school counselors who offer safety and stability. For children involved in the child welfare system, the situation is even more dire, as they are at a high risk of school disruption leading to significant learning loss, increased behavior issues, and a higher drop-out rate. As we continue to navigate the ever-evolving COVID-19 crisis, it is imperative that we prioritize stability for children in every phase of the child welfare process.  

8. Interpretability of Machine Learning in Child Welfare (Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago)

“Despite the predictive power of machine learning (ML) models, they are difficult to apply and interpret. This has stymied translation of research into practice and policy in child welfare. As a proof of concept, we sought to bridge this gap in child welfare by testing a novel interpretation methodology in ML, Shapley Additive Explanation or SHAP (Lundberg et al., 2020). First, we developed a random forest ML model to predict the risk of youth running away from care within 90 days of entering a child welfare system. Second, we applied SHAP to the random forest ML model to identify and quantify the influence of important predictors and combination of predictors on the predicted risk of runaway. Demonstrating that SHAP can be used in child welfare research might facilitate end users of ML, such as child welfare administrators and caseworkers, in making relevant policy and practice changes.”

TexProtects Takeaway: This exciting new research tool, machine learning models, is able to mine data and “learn” underlying patterns, leading to more accurate predictions. As the child welfare field has become increasingly interested in using predictive analytics to better inform prevention strategies, these models can be used to predict which families would most benefit from prevention supports. These tools will allow for a more upstream approach and the ability to intervene with a family BEFORE a crisis occurs.  

9. CDC Resource Addresses Pandemic-Related Youth Mental Health Challenges (Children’s Bureau Express)

“While its impact has been quite visible through the news media and the restructuring of family, work, and school life across the globe, less visible are the mental health effects the pandemic has had on individuals, particularly children, youth, and young adults. Recognizing the social, emotional, and mental health challenges facing this young population, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed a resource kit for parents, caregivers, and other adults to support their efforts to identify and respond to these challenges and ensure the well-being of the young people in their lives. This toolkit is also beneficial for those caring for and working with families involved with child welfare, as these families are already experiencing increased stress and trauma made worse by the loss of face-to-face supports, meaningful family visits, and school and work adjustments.”

TexProtects Takeaway: Unfortunately, we are already beginning to see the devastating effects COVID-19 has had on young people in the US. Youth have faced isolation, loss of normalcy, and educational setbacks during the pandemic. Each one of us has a role to play in supporting the young people in our lives and our communities. This CDC resource can help and can be accessed here.

10. A Resource Guide for Developing Integrated Strategies to Support the Social and Emotional Wellness of Children (ACF)

This resource guide first emphasizes the importance of supporting young children’s social and emotional needs through an integrated early childhood system of care, which involves children, families, and providers. The guide goes on to discuss considerations for implementing social-emotional early childhood initiatives, including the use of theories of change and logic models, stage-based frameworks, prevention-based approaches, and professional development strategies for caregivers. Each initiative discussed is supported by both implementation strategies and implementation examples.

TexProtects Takeaway: As young children develop, their early emotional experiences literally become embedded in the architecture of their brains (National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2004, p.1). With this knowledge, “identifying strategies to support a child’s social and emotional well-being is just as important as his or her physical health.”

Frontline For Children | April 2021

We pulled together this month’s most noteworthy child welfare research articles for you. Read them all here and take action today!

  1. Reframing Childhood Adversity: Promoting Upstream Approaches (Frameworks Institute)

“This brief offers guidance on positioning and explaining the issue of childhood adversity, as well as the need for promoting upstream approaches. The guidance has implications for a wide variety of communications goals and contexts, but it is most relevant for efforts designed to educate the public about strategies that work at the community and policy levels. These framing recommendations were developed for advocates, researchers, and practitioners working to address issues including child abuse and neglect, family violence, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), early trauma and trauma-informed care, and toxic stress. At a high level, child adversity must be framed as: A public issue; A preventable problem; A solvable problem. This brief discusses each of these recommendations, showing what they look like and explaining how they help. It also offers insight into some of the framing dilemmas and what not to communicate, and why.”

TexProtects Takeaway: Childhood adversity is a public health issue and a preventable and solvable problem. Strategic talking points can help ensure that lawmakers prioritize proactive and early interventions rather than continuing to pay for problems we have the power to prevent.

2. Supporting Parents and Caregivers with Trauma Histories during COVID-19 (Child Trends)

“For parents with unresolved histories of adversity and trauma—resulting from experiences such as abuse, assault, or domestic violence—the risks associated with pandemic-related stress may be further compounded. To promote positive family adaptation to the COVID-19 pandemic, policymakers should increase targeted supports, services, and policies for parents and caregivers with trauma histories. This brief includes information on the impact of COVID-19 on parents and caregivers, particularly those with trauma histories; outlines resiliency factors for this population; and provides guidance for policymakers, providers and agencies, and families on supporting parents and caregivers with trauma histories during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.”

TexProtects Takeaway: Parenting can be stressful for everyone, but when you add in the impact of COVID-19 and a history of trauma, that stress can impact a caregiver’s ability to provide nurturing and safe care for their children. COVID-19 recovery plans must include increasing access to proven supports and programs that can improve family stability and parental coping skills to buffer the effects of the pandemic on children.

3. Child Welfare Financing Survey SFY2018 (Child Trends)

“Child welfare agencies across the United States are charged with protecting and promoting the welfare of children and youth who are at risk of, or who have been victims of, maltreatment. State and local child welfare agencies rely on multiple funding streams to administer programs and services. While many funding sources are available to child welfare agencies, each has its own unique purposes, eligibility requirements, and limitations, creating a complex financing structure that is challenging to understand and administer. Each state’s unique funding composition determines what services are available to children and families and the way in which child welfare agencies operate. Child Trends conducted its 11th national survey of child welfare agency expenditures to promote an understanding among various child welfare stakeholders of the challenges and opportunities that agencies face in serving children and families.”

Note that this report includes state-level data from state fiscal year 2018 and survey data collected in 2019 and 2020.

TexProtects Takeaway: The unique challenges of 2020 offer the opportunity to examine state investments in child welfare to determine if our dollars actually reflect our priorities, how funding can best be utilized to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on our child welfare system, and how existing investments may be perpetuating disproportionality in our systems. For TexProtects, the answer lies in doing more upstream work to support families rather than continuing to invest in more investigations and removals.

4. Findings from the First 5 California Home Visiting Workforce Study (Child Trends)

“The First 5 California (F5CA) Home Visiting Workforce Study collected data to help the state understand the landscape of California’s home visiting workforce, including characteristics of home visitors and supervisors, implementation supports for staff, and program needs for workforce recruitment, development, and retention. The following summary presents key findings from a survey of more than 900 home visiting staff representing 171 home visiting programs across the state. […] Key findings from this workforce survey include a description of the California home visiting workforce, the ways they are meeting the needs of families, changes in their work due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and how home visitor well-being and program supports affect workforce retention.”

TexProtects Takeaway: Home visitors, funded through various funding streams at the Prevention and Early Intervention (PEI) Division of DFPS, have been critical lifelines for families who voluntarily enroll; however, the pandemic has made that work even more challenging. Effective training, recruitment, and retention strategies are critical to ensuring a healthy workforce that can effectively support families and keep children safe and well.

5. Challenges, Benefits Found in Providing Home Visiting Services for Pregnant and Parenting Foster Youth (Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago)

“In 2015, the Illinois Home Visiting Task Force established a subcommittee to design and implement a pilot project to connect pregnant or parenting youth in foster care with home visiting services. A major goal of that pilot project was to promote collaboration between the home visiting and the child welfare systems. Results from an implementation study of the pilot project point to both the ongoing challenges and benefits associated with providing home visiting services to pregnant or parenting youth in foster care.”

TexProtects Takeaway: Project HIP and the Family First Prevention Services Act provide great opportunities for Texas to do more to ensure that pregnant and parenting foster youth have access to proven prevention programs like home visiting. Although engaging pregnant and parenting foster youth in home visiting programs has unique challenges, flexible approaches and evidence-based practices can increase positive parenting practice, co-parent relationships, and knowledge of child development.

6. Reframing Transition Age Foster Youth (Frameworks Institute)

“Once people learn who transition age foster youth are, they are generally sympathetic, but they still struggle to think about ways to support them. We are fortunate to have two narratives to improve understanding and build support for addressing the needs of transition age foster youth. The first narrative, ‘Advancing Well-being,’ shows people how effective supports aid the healthy biological, psychological, and emotional development of transition age foster youth. The second narrative, ‘Expanding Opportunities,’ helps people understand the racial and economic factors that create disparities leading to foster care involvement, the disparities perpetuated by that system, and the ways in which supports for transition age foster youth can address those inequities. This strategic brief outlines how we can do this together by: Showing the most effective ways to change perceptions and build support for reform; Giving examples of what this looks like in practice; Reviewing the research that underlies each recommendation.”

TexProtects Takeaway: Transition-age foster youth are young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are transitioning out of the foster care system as they reach adulthood. All of us need support to become successful adults, but transition-age foster youth often lack these things because they don’t have the same family connections to rely on. We need strong programs to ensure transition-age foster youth receive the care that all young people need to thrive.

7. Parental Substance Use: A Primer for Child Welfare Professionals (Children’s Bureau, Office of the Administration for Children and Families – ACF, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – DHHS)

“The effect of substance use disorders (SUDs) on parenting and child safety is a common reason families come into contact with the child welfare system. Child welfare professionals can play a critical role in helping identify possible SUDs and supporting families in overcoming barriers to safety and permanency related to substance use. This factsheet reviews what SUDs are, how parental substance use affects families, and how child welfare professionals can support these families. It also considers how collaboration between child welfare professionals and SUD treatment providers, as well as others, is an essential component to assisting families.”

TexProtects Takeaway: 66% of removals in Texas in 2019 were related to substance use. Although SUDs can be a lifelong struggle, merely having one does not prevent a person from being a successful parent. With the proper identification, treatment, and support, parents with SUDs can safely maintain their children in their homes, ultimately producing the best outcomes.

8. College Choice and Enrollment among Youth Formerly in Foster Care (Gross, J., Stolzenberg, E., Williams, A.)

“Despite being among the most disadvantaged groups with respect to college access and success in the United States, youth formerly in foster care (YFFC) remain an understudied population in higher education research. Although they aspire to college at high levels, youth in foster care enjoy less postsecondary access and success than their peers who have not experienced foster care. This study seeks to better understand how youth formerly in foster care (YFFC) compare to their peers regarding college preparation, choice, enrollment, and financing; academic self-concept and degree aspirations; and concerns about paying for college. Using Perna’s (2008) college choice model and data from the 2016 The Freshman Survey (TFS), we conduct bivariate comparisons and regression analysis to compare college readiness and enrollment between YFFC and non-YFFC who are first-time, full-time freshmen. We report the results of our findings and discuss how these contribute to existing research and apply to the financial and educational needs and strengths of YFFC.”

TexProtects Takeaway: Youth formerly in foster care face challenges including academic preparation, mental health challenges, and affordability that, despite high aspirations for college attainment, can create barriers that make completion more difficult than their peers. More work should be done to identify the supports that can best ensure that these young adult survivors have every opportunity to succeed.

Frontline For Children | March 2021

We pulled together this month’s top 10 most noteworthy child welfare research articles for you. Read them all here and take action today!

  1. Toward a Better Approach to Preventing, Identifying, and Addressing Child Maltreatment (American Academy of Political and Social Science)

This issue of The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science focuses specifically on approaches to preventing, identifying, and addressing child maltreatment. Articles in the feature cover a number of topics within the field, including child welfare system financing, the ways in which families experience and interact with Child Protective Services, and racial disproportionality and disparities in child welfare.

TexProtects Takeaway: The future of child maltreatment prevention should seek to expand capacity for implementing evidence-based prevention programs while addressing the adverse community experiences that exacerbate child maltreatment risk. This will take education, research, policy, and personal action to ensure that every child has a safe and healthy start. Visit TexProtects Advocacy Gateway to let our policymakers know that we need to put children and families first this legislative session to prevent child abuse and neglect.

2. Pathways to Prevention: Early Head Start Outcomes in the First Three Years Lead to Long-Term Reductions in Child Maltreatment (Green, B. et al.)

“Using longitudinal, experimental data from the Early Head Start (EHS) Research and Evaluation Project (EHSREP) linked to child welfare agency records for 2,794 children, we examined the effectiveness of EHS birth-to-three services in preventing child maltreatment during children’s first 15 years of life.” Results showed that by a “children’s second birthday, families randomly assigned to participate in EHS had lower family conflict and parenting distress, and more positive parent-child interactions; these impacts, in turn, led to later reductions in the likelihood of children being involved with the child welfare system through age fifteen.… Findings suggest that early two-generational programs, like EHS, that are able to successfully decrease family conflict and stress and support positive, emotionally responsive parenting and child development, may reduce the likelihood of abuse and neglect later in life.”

TexProtects Takeaway: Texas must invest this legislative session in doing more of what works and less of what doesn’t. Early childhood and family support programs have short-term impacts and reduce the need for costly interventions later – in this case, reducing child maltreatment through age 15. Join TexProtects in letting policymakers know that prevention takes all of us.

3. Child Well-Being Spotlight: Children Living in Kinship Care and Nonrelative Foster Care Are Unlikely to Receive Needed Early Intervention or Special Education Services (Office of Planning, Research, & Evaluation – OPRE, RTI International)

This brief highlights findings from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW) about children with developmental delays or disabilities and their placement within the child welfare system. NSCAW is a “nationally representative sample of children reported to child protective services. The survey collects data on a representative sample of the child protective services population by administering questionnaires and direct child assessments through face-to-face interactions with caseworkers, children, and caregivers.”

TexProtects Takeaway: Early intervention for children with developmental delays or disabilities may prevent future need for special education services. Texas is already addressing a finding of noncompliance related to federal special education and early childhood intervention guidelines and this report reveals that children in kinship care and foster care are even more unlikely to receive these critical services.

4. Supporting the First 1,000 Days of A Child’s Life: An Anti-Racist Blueprint for Early Childhood Well-Being and Child Welfare Prevention (Center for the Study of Social Policy)

“To support the health and well-being of children and families of color, we must implement comprehensive strategies that address systemic and institutional racism. This report offers a blueprint for creating equity-centered, anti-racist policies that support the health and well-being of children and families of color.”

TexProtects Takeaway: TexProtects is a steering committee member of the Prenatal to Three Collaborative, which is focused on improving outcomes for children in the early years. To do so requires public agencies to leverage existing resources to create a continuum of supports, meeting families where they are and directly addressing policies that have resulted in disproportionate access to prevention and support for Black and brown families and their increased chances of involvement with child welfare systems.

5. Freeing Children for Adoption Within the Adoption and Safe Families Act Timeline (Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation)

“Permanency, that is ensuring children have long-term, enduring connections to family or other caring adults, is one of the three primary goals of the child welfare system, along with safety and child well-being. This study explores how frequently states make exceptions to this timeline and highlights issues behind states’ difficulties in achieving timely permanency for children. Two reports describe the findings. The first report discusses quantitative findings based on analysis of federal administrative data, and finds considerable variation among states both in the frequency with which children entering foster care experience TPR, and in the likelihood that TPR is conducted timely. The second report analyzes findings from state monitoring visits and data from key informant interviews with officials and stakeholders in three states and describes themes regarding barriers to TPR and timely adoption.”

TexProtects Takeaway: Recent child welfare innovations, including the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) that focuses on preventing foster care placements, are important. Yet, for the population of children in out-of-home care, we must do more to increase the likelihood of timely permanency by increasing consistency in practice, strengthening access to services, and decreasing caseworker turnover and caseloads.

6. Treatment For Opioid Use Disorder May Reduce Substantiated Cases of Child Abuse and Neglect (Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation)

“Buprenorphine treatment has been found to be an effective treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD). Child welfare systems have been partnering with treatment providers to increase access, yet little is known about its role in improving outcomes related to child maltreatment. This paper finds, for the first time, that increased availability of buprenorphine treatment predicts reductions in certain types of child maltreatment caseloads in 25 states.”

TexProtects Takeaway: 66% of removals in Texas in 2019 were related to substance use. The Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) provides a federal match for state investments that provide evidence-based substance use services to families at imminent risk of entering foster care. This could dramatically increase the number of families who can stay together safely. Read more about FFPSA here.

7. Child Maltreatment 2019 (Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau)

“Child Maltreatment 2019 is the 30th edition of the annual Child Maltreatment report series. States provide the data for this report through the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS). NCANDS was established in 1988 as a voluntary, national data collection and analysis program to make available state child abuse and neglect information. Data have been collected every year since 1991 and are collected from child welfare agencies in the 50 states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia.” One key report finding is as follows: “The national rounded number of children who received a child protective services investigation response or alternative response decreased from 3,534,000 for federal fiscal year (FFY) 2018 to 3,476,000 for FFY 2019.”

TexProtects Takeaway: In Texas, the number of children who received a Child Protective Services (CPS) investigation or alternative response increased by 3.8% between 2015 and 2019. Overall, Texas’s rate is 8.7 per 100 children (lower than the national average of 8.9); however, the rates for children age three exceed the national averages. We must do more to support families with young children.

8. The Cost of Implementing a Home Visiting Program Designed to Prevent Repeat Pregnancies Among Adolescent Mothers (Family & Youth Services Bureau, OPRE, Mathematica)

“This brief provides information on the cost of implementing a home visiting program for adolescent mothers. The information comes from an evaluation of the Steps to Success home visiting program in San Angelo, Texas…. As part of the evaluation, trained staff from Healthy Families San Angelo (HFSA) provided Steps to Success to pregnant or recently postpartum mothers ages 14 to 20. HFSA developed Steps to Success by enhancing a traditional home visiting program offered by the organization. While HFSA’s traditional home visiting program focused on child development and parenting, the enhanced program included additional program components designed to (1) promote healthy birth spacing, (2) encourage father involvement, and (3) support mothers’ education and career aspirations. For both Steps to Success and HFSA’s traditional home visiting program, mothers receive program services for up to two years.”

TexProtects Takeaway: TexProtects is the Texas chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America, the home of Healthy Families America. Home visiting models are innovating and evaluating variations in their models to better meet the needs of diverse families. Read more about home visiting here.

9. Professional Development Supports for Home Visitors and Supervisors: Strengthening the Home Visiting Workforce (OPRE)

“This short report examines issues related to professional development for home visitors and home visiting supervisors. The findings presented are based on a national study of the home visiting workforce in Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program-funded agencies and interviews with experts in higher education and in the home visiting field. The report also shares information from a scan of online resources related to training and professional development for home visiting program staff.”

TexProtects Takeaway: Home visiting works and home visitors have been flexible and innovative front-line workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Understanding how to recruit and retain a highly-skilled workforce for the impactful strategy is critical.

10. Glossary of Student Mental Wellness Concepts (Education Commission of the States)

“This Policy Outline defines several common terms related to child development, student mental health and wellness, and school-based health services. Understanding these terms, which are distinct but connect in various ways, is critical to the policymaking process.”

TexProtects Takeaway: Half of American children have experienced at least one Adverse Childhood Experience (ACEs). Do you know the difference between trauma, toxic stress, and ACEs? As a result of TexProtects’ work on House Bill 18 last legislative session, all educators in Texas will now receive training on these critical topics and how they impact student learning and health. Read more about ACEs and our recommendations for the current legislative session here.

A Family Support – Home Visiting

Breakdown of how investing in home visting can give children a strong start in Texas.

View the One-Pager.

Project HOPES – Community Based Prevention

A breakdown of the benefits of Project HOPES to high-risk counties throughout Texas.

View the One-Pager.

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.

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.