Texas Agency Hopes to ‘Raise Bar’ on Preventing Child Abuse

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) announced a new strategic plan to “raise the bar” in preventing child abuse in the Lone Star State. The goal is to move from a plan based primarily on investigation-based efforts to an overall effort to strengthen families.

Officials stated the goal of the plan is to reduce the numbers of incidents of child abuse and neglect. More specifically, the goal is to reduce the numbers of serious injuries and fatalities, according to a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas from DFPS officials.

DFPS faces a monumental challenge after the significant number of resignations and firings over the past year that have left the agency understaffed. DFPS officials hope to turn that around by implementing the new 5-year plan which was developed internally by the Prevention and Early Intervention (PEI) division within the agency.

PEI’s new “public health” approach designated child abuse and neglect as a “community problem that only a community can prevent.” The organization plans to use research and demographic data to identify neighborhoods, cities, and counties where the abuse and neglect is likely to occur. Children who are identified as being the most vulnerable will be turned over to Child Protective Services (CPS) via an information sharing program.

The strategic plan, attached below, details the “staggering economic cost of child abuse.” This information was derived from a 2014 study by the Waco-based Perryman Group. The group estimates that the cost of the maltreatment of children in Texas is $454 billion. The cost considers foster care, health care, unemployment and incarceration.

Texas State Senator Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown) chairs the Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee. “One of our primary duties as lawmakers is to protect the most vulnerable children in our state, and this plan will guide the state’s efforts to better protect them and preserve families,” the senator stated. “I’m encouraged by this plan’s goals to better utilize data to target prevention resources in areas of the state with the greatest needs, increase collaboration and sharing of resources with other entities, and annually report every program’s effectiveness, thereby ensuring Texas children and families receive high quality, evidence-based services and supports.”

His counterpart in the Texas House, Representative Richard Peña Raymond (D-Laredo) said, “Through the years, we have seen that prevention and early intervention efforts can be highly effective – both in terms of helping people and saving funds and other resources. I commend PEI and all the folks at DFPS for putting forth this great plan. I believe it will have a great and positive impact.”

One key component of the plan is to target communities where abuse is more likely to occur and set up early visitation programs to head-off problems before they develop, officials stated. The home-visiting program sends health care and child development professionals to visit mothers of infants at home. One study found that for every public dollar spent for home visits during a child’s first six months, three dollars are saved for fewer emergency room visits.

Some aspects of the new plan have already been implemented. Those include:

  • Services to At-Risk Youth (STAR) provides family crisis intervention counseling, short-term emergency respite care, and counseling.
  • Community Youth Development (CYD) is built to prevent juvenile delinquency and includes mentoring, youth employment programs, and recreational activities.
  • Statewide Youth Services Network (SYSN) provides community and juvenile delinquency prevention programs.
  • Texas Families Together and Safe (TFTS) is designed to alleviate stress and promote parental skills that give families a better chance to become self-sufficient and successfully nurture their children.
  • Community Based Family Services (CBFS) serves families who have been investigated by CPS but whose allegations are low priority or unsubstantiated.
  • Healthy Outcomes through Prevention and Early Support (HOPES) provides parent education, home-visiting, and other support services for families with children five and younger who may be at risk for abuse and neglect.

Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. She has served as a prosecutor and associate judge in Texas. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2.

09-2016 PEI Five Year Strategic Plan


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