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.”

New Developments on the Texas Foster Care Lawsuit Crisis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Real-time Child Abuse Data

How to ensure that accurate and timely child welfare data is available in Texas.

View the One-Pager.

The State of Texas Families BEFORE COVID-19

How Texas ranks in child welfare areas and the ways to improve.

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Child Welfare at a Glance

The number of children and families in Texas that need child abuse and neglect protection and support.

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Family Connects

A breakdown of the benefits of Family Connects across Texas.

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Winter Storm Uri Reminds Us To Put Kids and Families First This Legislative Session

Dallas – Last week was hard for all of us; it was heartbreaking and traumatizing for Texans. We hope you and your loved ones are faring well after what seemed like a week that would never end.

As the beautiful weather ushers out the intense cold of last week, many of us are fortunate enough to put these hardships behind us. While many of us can ease back into some stability and normalcy, maybe with an anecdotal story about the hardships or inconveniences we experienced, they are likely different than the stories of families that were in an existing storm of what surely feels like insurmountable challenges.

Too many Texans who are already experiencing a too-wide disparity gap and who have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 will see the aftermath of the winter storms compound already record-high levels of stress and trauma.

This crisis reminds us there is a clear and urgent need to put children and their families first in this legislative session.

We need to ensure the immediate safety and protection of children who are survivors of child abuse and neglect. We must work with the Legislature on smart solutions to invest in upstream programs that prevent child abuse and neglect and mitigate the negative impact of events like Winter Storm Uri.

Although Texas families are experiencing back-to-back, once-in-a-lifetime events, we at TexProtects recognize that these hardships do not define families nor lead to child abuse. But what we do know is that thousands of little precious lives and families need our help and support more than ever. It’s our collective responsibility to ensure we have networks in place for families to turn to.

Here are ways you can help:

  1. Look for ways to help your community by donating or volunteering.
  2. Learn to recognize the signs of child abuse and neglect and how to help

    families in need.

  3. Encourage policymakers to listen to their constituents’ stories and work across

    the aisle for the common good of children and the state. You can even share

    your own story!

Thank you for your support and your dedication to helping us build safer childhoods for all children to secure Texas’s future.

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