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Origins of House Bill 1549

Origins of House Bill 1549

Evidence-Based Home Visiting Outcomes. Click here to view.

TexProtects, the Protect Our Kids Commission (the child abuse fatality prevention commission) the Child Protection Roundtable and other advocates provided the blueprint for HB 1549. We are a child abuse prevention research, education and advocacy organization funded exclusively by foundations and individuals. We are not funded by any federal, state or local government, nor are we tied to vendors. Our mission is to reduce child abuse and neglect in our state through prevention, reform of CPS and healing victims in order to stop the intergenerational cycle of maltreatment.

TexProtects understands and shares concerns about government overreach in general, and we empathize with how the bill analysis information may not have been clear in that regard. The organization is a proponent of civil and parental rights and we want to ensure our advocates know that HB 1549 was developed specifically to:

1 - Prevent child abuse and neglect;
2 - When we cannot prevent, do all we can to ensure children remain with their families while their parents are offered services to help them maintain their children at home;
3 - When parents are not able/willing to change (stop substance abuse, refrain from domestic violence), and if child removal is the only avenue to child safety, ensure that the state does all in its power to keep children with relatives;
4 - Only if and when there are no safe or appropriate relatives should children be removed and placed in foster care; and
5 - If foster care is the only option after exhausting all other options, then children should be placed in a foster home closest to their family home to ensure regular visits with the family and to ensure that they remain in the same school. Foster homes must also be the “best fit” in meeting children’s specific needs.

The one program researchers have found to yield the best evidence of preventing child maltreatment (as well as enhancing maternal and child health, increasing child cognitive development, and improving family self-sufficiency, among other outcomes) is through voluntary home visiting programs. The standards of home visiting programs are outlined in the “Home Visiting Accountability Act” SB426-83-R.

The research showing efficacy must include a randomized-controlled trial from a professional peer-reviewed journal (such as the Journal of American Medical Association).

These programs are not mandatory - home visiting programs do not work if they are mandated. Home visiting families voluntarily enroll by (1) reaching out to one of the home visiting provider parent organizations (The United Way, for instance) or directly to the home visiting provider entity in response to websites, referrals, etc.; or (2) through the referral of an OB-GYN, PCP, Pediatrician, nurse or other medical provider who refers a high-need, high risk family to a home visiting provider; or (3) through a referral from a WIC clinic, foster care transition resource center, teen pregnancy service in schools or churches, etc. Again, new mothers or families can only enroll voluntarily regardless of the referral source. These are strictly families that have not had prior involvement with CPS.

The families that enroll in voluntary home visiting programs have experienced the following outcomes as demonstrated in the image.

These evidence-based home visiting programs include: 1-The Nurse-Family Partnership, 2-Parents as Teachers, 3-Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool youth, 4-Positive Parenting Program, 5-Healthy Families, among others. These programs were housed under the Texas Health and Human Services Commission until last legislative session when the legislature’s sunset bill moved them under the Department of Family and Protective Services Prevention and Early Intervention Division (“PEI”). PEI is a separate division from CPS. PEI is focused on working with families to prevent maltreatment, while CPS is set up to respond to maltreatment after it occurs. In other words, the point of PEI is to keep families from ever coming into contact with CPS. We understand why there is confusion and concern about having both of these systems under one “parent” agency. We fought to keep the prevention programs under HHSC to avoid confusion.

Our goal is to expand the availability of home visiting programs to ensure families have the option to consent and enroll in services. We have identified high-risk areas of the state for Texas to focus its scarce resources rather than using a “shotgun” approach. TexProtects has developed a “ZipRisk” map that provides relative zip code risk ranking based on the following covariates correlated with child maltreatment and child abuse fatalities: substantiated child maltreatment, child abuse and neglect related fatalities, teen birth, substance abuse and child poverty rates.

This interactive tool, developed in conjunction with UT-Dallas’ Computer and Engineering Department, is meant to be a resource to community providers, decision makers (including state agencies, such as PEI), advocates, and the public-at-large to demonstrate the quantifiable need for more targeted investments in child abuse and neglect prevention services in Texas.

This zip code risk analysis is a guide for the PEI division when developing requests for proposals. PEI has the option to direct funding assistance to non-profits that serve those high-risk zip codes to ensure that services are available to these families. We are not proposing any type of specific “household” or neighborhood targets. There was a provision in the bill that would allow the state to use another risk mapping tool entitled “risk terrain modeling” from Cook Children’s Hospital that does look at risk based on crime in neighborhoods. However, that provision has been removed.

Again, the whole point of prevention is to keep children out of the CPS system. Our staff includes former therapists and caseworkers who have seen firsthand the horrors that children experience after they are abused. The abuse is often complicated further with removals of children who are then placed with a poor-fit home or institution that is far from their school, their family, their childhood friends, after-school activities, etc. We want children to remain with their families, as we know the research shows that children have better outcomes if raised by their family or relatives, regardless of poverty, poor neighborhoods, etc. Our home visiting proposals are specifically designed to ensure that children are safe, families in crisis have their needs met, and parents’ rights are respected and that they can access assistance if needed and requested.

We are also mindful that state programs should be evaluated for return-on-investment (“ROI”) in a cost-benefit analysis. The evidence-based home visiting services that have the best outcomes for children and families have also shown positive ROI that results in taxpayer savings. Our goal is to prevent abuse to the point where we can reduce the need for a CPS system and shrink this enormous agency as a result of fewer incidents of child maltreatment.

TexProtects is happy to meet or speak with anyone to discuss these goals. We have worked tirelessly on these projects in our joint mission to end child abuse in Texas. We would be delighted to discuss the bill’s intent and bring other advocates on board to better ensure that we have government accountability in our CPS system and that our children are best protected from the societal scourge of child maltreatment.

Please see the research behind this proposed legislation here:

You may reach us madeline@texprotects.org

Posted on May 5, 2017.

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Our mission is to protect Texas children from the trauma of abuse and neglect and empower families to thrive through education, research, and advocacy. Our vision is that all children are safe, nurtured, and resilient. Learn more about the work we do. You can help protect Texas children from abuse & neglect. Find out how you can help.

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