Child Protective Services (CPS):
- Investigates reports of child abuse and neglect.
- Protects children from abuse and neglect.
- Promotes the safety, integrity, and stability of families.
- Finds permanent homes or other places to live for children who cannot safely stay with their families.
2014 Accomplishments and Initiatives
CPS’s top priority is making sure children are not in danger of abuse and neglect and that families have the tools to succeed. In FY 2014, CPS focused on:
- Expanding assistance for families.
- Providing more access to services through publicprivate partnerships.
- Promoting better outcomes for children in foster care, and support for relative caregivers.
- Making CPS a better place to work and a more effect program for the people it serves.
CPS also made efforts to improve permanency for children, increase positive outcomes in domestic violence cases, and prepare youth for adulthood.
In FY 2014, CPS began a major transformation effort based on recommendations from the Sunset Advisory Commission, the CPS Operational Review, and Casey Family Programs.
CPS Transformation focuses on building a quality workforce, which is essential to high-quality outcomes for children and families. Many major improvements are underway that began in 2014. Transformation will significantly improve recruitment and hiring, training, policies, information systems, decision-making tools and the way CPS uses data. Transformation aims to create an environment where CPS staff are proud of their job and want to stay.
A quality workforce, however, needs the right tools to be effective. CPS began work on developing a consistent, evidence-based process that will lead to better outcomes for children and families. This will give caseworkers the tools to quickly and accurately assess if children are safe now and help CPS better protect children from future abuse and neglect. CPS also began developing a practice model that will ensure consistency, communication, and best practices that lead to quality outcomes. These efforts will be integrated with improvements in the foster care system. All of these steps will raise the quality of services.
Transformation is a “bottom-up” process that gives regional staff a strong voice. In FY 2014, CPS staff from around the state began laying the groundwork for change and making improvements. Many other DFPS areas are working toward a better CPS and have dedicated resources to the project and are committed to adjusting priorities and overcoming obstacles. Throughout this process, protecting children has been, and always will be, the top priority.
Foster Care Redesign
Foster Care Redesign is a new way of providing foster care services that relies on a single contractor, within various geographic areas. This contractor is responsible for finding foster homes or other living arrangements for children in state care and providing them a full range of services. The purpose is to improve the overall well-being of children in foster care and to keep them closer to home and connected with their communities and siblings.
Foster Care Redesign began in 2010, guided by a partnership of foster youth alumni, the judiciary, providers, advocates, and DFPS. In FY 2013, Foster Care Redesign reached a milestone when children and youth entering foster care from DFPS Regions 2 and 9 were the first served by the new system. These regions cover 60 counties and include the communities of Wichita Falls, Abilene, San Angelo, Brownwood, and Midland/Odessa. For about one year, Providence Services Corporation of Texas was responsible for finding foster homes for all children in foster care in this area and getting the services they needed. On August 1, 2014, Providence ended its contract with DFPS and transitioned its foster care responsibilities back to CPS over a 30-day period, taking care not to disrupt the lives of children.
Also in FY 2014, DFPS awarded the contract for the first metropolitan area for Foster Care Redesign to Our Community, Our Kids (a division of ACH Child and Family Services). This metropolitan area includes seven counties—Erath, Hood, Johnson, Palo Pinto, Parker, Somervell and Tarrant. After a six-month start-up phase, Our Community Our Kids began serving children and youth.
Our Community, Our Kids is responsible for finding foster homes or other living arrangements for all children in paid foster care from this area of the state and for getting them the services they need. CPS still provides case management and makes ultimate decisions on where children live. Children and youth already in foster care will transition into the new system over time to avoid disrupting their lives.
More information about Foster Care Redesign is available on the Foster Care Redesign webpage.
A More Flexible Approach to CPS Investigations
Alternative Response is a new approach that changes the way CPS responds to certain allegations of abuse and neglect. This practice allows for a more flexible approach that engages families without a formal investigation, while still focusing on safety of the children. Alternative Response gives services and support to families in less serious cases of abuse and neglect. Caseworkers team with families to resolve child safety issues and reduce future involvement with CPS. In 2013, the Texas Legislature changed state law and funded the technology needed to develop Alternative Response. In FY 2014, CPS made significant strides to plan and develop Alternative Response. CPS developed policies and procedures and practices to ensure consistency statewide. Alternative Response will begin in FY 2015 in select counties in the Amarillo, Laredo, and Dallas areas, followed by a gradual phase-in of the rest over about three years.
Increasing Access to Services with Public-Private Partnerships
Partnering with community and faith-based agencies is an important part of protecting children and expanding services to children and families even after CPS is no longer involved. CPS substantially increased efforts in this area in FY 2014. Faith-based organizations and community partners serve children and families involved with or at-risk of involvement with CPS. Faith leaders engage their congregations to provide sustainable goods and services for children, youth and families to prevent children from entering foster care or shorten their stay in foster care. CPS provides technical assistance such as making presentations at meetings. CPS gives local churches information on the needs of children, youth, and families in their area to help them develop their ministries.
Examples of this expanding faith-based effort in FY 2014 include:
- West Texas District Assembly of God committed to work with CPS on a project called Orphan Care Ministries, which provides services to children in foster care and at-risk children in local communities. The district has 109 churches.
- South Texas District Assembly of God also began developing Orphan Care Ministries in its churches. This district includes 300 churches.
- Two ministries in Wichita Falls and Bryan focused on helping youth who are aging out of foster care. Transitioning-youth centers were also being developed in Dallas/Ft. Worth.
On August 1, 2014, CPS launched the Care Portal, an online tool that connects CPS staff with the faith community to support children and families with donations of clothes, bedding, furniture, or whatever they may need.
Promoting and Supporting Relative Caregivers
Permanency Care Assistance
The Permanency Care Assistance (PCA) program had marked success finding permanent families for children who would otherwise grow up in foster care. The program helped 841 children find permanent homes in FY 2014.
This program grew out of the federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, which promotes finding permanent homes for children and youth. Key elements are adoption, care by relatives, and transition services for young adults who have aged out of care.
PCA offers financial help to kinship caregivers who accept legal responsibility for relative children and youth who cannot go home or be adopted. Among other requirements, caregivers must become verified foster parents and care for the child for six months, enter into an agreement with CPS, and get legal custody through the courts.
Promoting and Supporting Relative Caregivers
Kinship care means children, who are no longer able to live with their own parents, live with relatives or other people who have a significant relationship with the child or the child’s family. The Legislature created the Relative and Other Designated Caregiver Program in 2005, commonly known as Kinship Care. Kinship caregivers get one-time payments and reimbursements to help buy items they need to care for the children. They can also receive support services such as training, case management, family counseling, daycare, and help finding public assistance.
The number of children placed with relatives and the number of relatives becoming licensed foster parents continues to increase. Kinship care accounted for 37 percent of all placements by the end of FY 2014, compared to 36 percent the year before. There has also been a steady increase in kinship caregivers becoming licensed foster parents. In FY 2011, only 731children lived in licensed kinship homes. That number has increased 49 percent (1,095) by the end of FY 2014.
In February 2014, Permanency Roundtables became a statewide practice. CPS started using Permanency Roundtables in the Houston and San Antonio areas in FY 2012. Roundtables are consultations to find permanent homes for children in DFPS legal custody. By the end of FY 2014, CPS had held almost 1,500 roundtables across Texas.
Roundtables bring together agency experts to discuss a child’s permanency goal, explore strategies, and develop an action plan for getting each child into a permanent family. Another goal is to make systemic changes, such as policy improvements and community involvement, to help get children into families.
Ten percent of the children discussed in roundtables found permanent homes within one year. Almost half of those who did not leave state care made progress by moving into a placement intended to be permanent, achieving a higher permanency status, or making new connections with family or supportive adults.
Improving Outcomes on Domestic Violence Cases
Domestic Violence Task Force
In 2011, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 434 to create a multi-disciplinary domestic violence task force to improve collaboration between CPS and providers who help victims of domestic violence. Out of this grew the Family-Based Safety Services Domestic Violence Unit in Bexar County, which handles FBSS cases that have both child abuse and neglect and domestic violence. By the end of FY 2014, the unit had worked 153 cases. The goal is to keep children safe by holding the batterer accountable for domestic violence and helping the adult victim stay safe. CPS and stakeholders developed and delivered crosstraining for CPS staff and domestic violence providers in FY 2014. In FY 2015, CPS will evaluate how the unit enhanced the safety of children, adult victims, and caseworkers.
Investigations of Child Abuse and Neglect Reports
State law requires anyone who believes a child is being abused or neglected to report it so CPS can investigate. Interviewing children, parents, and others who know about the family is an important part of a CPS investigation. These interviews help determine if abuse or neglect happened, if children are safe, and assess the risk of further harm. If needed, CPS caseworkers may refer families for services such as individual or family therapy, parenting classes, healthcare, mental health services, substance-abuse assessment and treatment, and financial help with utilities, rent, or child care.
When CPS caseworkers are concerned about the continued safety of a child, they refer the family for family-based safety services. These services are provided in the home and help make sure children are healthy and safe. If these services cannot ensure the child’s safety, CPS may ask the court to remove the child from the parents’ custody and place the child in a relative’s care or foster care.
Family-Based Safety Services
CPS provides in-home services to help stabilize families and reduce the risk of future abuse or neglect. Familybased safety services (FBSS) can help avoid the need to remove children from their homes. They can also make it possible for children to return home by strengthening the family’s ability to protect their child and reduce threats to the child’s safety.
Services include family counseling, crisis intervention, parenting classes, substance abuse treatment, domestic violence intervention, and day care. Most children receiving these services live at home while CPS works with their families. In some cases, children may live elsewhere temporarily, usually with relatives or close
For more information on in-home services, see: DFPS Data Book, pages page 45.
Family Group Decision Making
Family Group Decision Making describes various practices to work with and engage children, youth, and families in decision making as well as safety and service planning.
- Family Team Meetings are a rapid response to address critical child safety and placement concerns. CPS uses them to ensure child safety in the earliest stages of a case. These meetings help families, community members, and other caregivers make critical decisions about child protection, safety, placement, and permanent living arrangements.
- Family Group Conferences bring families together with relatives, friends, and others to develop a plan to ensure children are safe, cared for, and protected from future harm. This includes private time to give the family a high degree authority and responsibility to make decisions about their situation.
- Circles of Support are youth-focused, youthdriven meetings to develop a plan for older youth to transition from substitute care to adulthood and to connect them to caring adults who will support them. For more information on Circles of Support, see the “Youth Transitioning out of Care” section of this report.
For more information, see: DFPS Data Book, pages 69-70.
Finding Care for Children
Before removing a child from the home, CPS explores every reasonable alternative to keep the child safe from abuse and neglect. Removing the child occurs only when there is no other reasonable way to protect the child from abuse or neglect in the immediate or short-term future. When children cannot live safely with their own families, CPS may ask the court to remove them from their homes and place them temporarily with relatives or in a foster family, an emergency shelter, or a foster care facility.
When removing a child from a home, CPS and the courts must consider temporary placements with relatives and other people who have a significant relationship with the child or child’s family. CPS asks parents to provide contact information for relatives and close family friends who may be able to care for their children. CPS notifies relatives and explains their options and the state support that is available. Kinship caregivers may also provide permanent homes by adopting or accepting legal responsibility for children. Kinship care gives children more stability and a connection to family when they cannot live with their parents.
Children may live in foster care if kinship care is not an option. Foster families get a daily payment for the costs of caring for children. CPS and foster parents arrange all educational, medical, dental, and therapeutic services the child needs. Some children with emotional or other needs that are difficult to address in a foster home may live in specialized group homes, residential treatment centers, or other facilities. If parental rights are intact, CPS provides services to the parents until the family is reunited or the courts approve another permanent living arrangement for the children. The court has ongoing oversight while a child is in foster care.
Permanency means a child leaves DFPS care to live in a permanent home or other appropriate setting. Planning for permanency begins when CPS removes a child from a home. It ends when the child leaves DFPS legal custody, preferably to live with a family.
The first goal is to reunite every child in state care (foster care, kinship care, etc.) with their parents, except when a court decides that is not an option. CPS provides reunification services to families immediately before and after a child returns home from state care.
When a child cannot safely return home, the court may end the parents’ rights and make the child available for adoption. The number of children adopted from CPS care increased significantly from FY 2005 to FY 2014. One major factor was the number of kinship adoptions, which includes adoptions by relatives and others with significant, longstanding relationships with the children or families. Kinship adoptions in Texas have more than doubled since 2005 and now account for 49 percent of DFPS adoptions. In FY 2014, 5,175 DFPS children were adopted. DFPS approves adoptive homes and also contracts with licensed, private child-placing agencies to increase the number of parents available to adopt children in foster care.
The Texas Adoption Resource Exchange (TARE) website (AdoptChildren.org) is an important tool for recruiting foster and adoptive parents. The website’s most prominent feature is a photo listing as well as profiles and videos of Texas children awaiting adoption. TARE also has a toll-free nationwide Adoption and Foster Care Inquiry Line (800) 233-3405. Information from these calls is forwarded to local CPS staff for follow up.
CPS also helps adopted children overcome the abuse or neglect they have suffered. These children often need help coping with these experiences and the loss of their birth families. CPS contracts with private agencies to provide post-adoption services to children and their families, such as case management, counseling, crisis intervention, parent training, and support groups.
Youth Transitioning Out of Care
In some cases, CPS cannot find someone to take permanent custody of a child. These youth generally stay in state care until age 18. CPS works to connect these youth with caring adults who have a permanent commitment to the youth and can provide support. These youth may stay in foster care until the age of 21 while they pursue an education or a job. CPS provides various services to help these youth learn to live successfully on their own.
Health Care Benefits
Texas provides healthcare to children in foster care and to youth who age out of care up to the month of their 26th birthday. These youth get healthcare through STAR Health, a form of Medicaid. STAR Health includes a medical home for each child, coordination and management of services, 24-hour nursing and behavioral health helplines, and monitoring of psychotropic medication. For more information on STAR Health, see the “Working with Partners” section of this report.
When a youth aging out of DFPS care needs long-term care or support due to a medical, mental, or physical condition, DFPS refers them to the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS). This process begins when a youth turns 17. If a court appoints DADS as guardian, DADS assumes the main responsibility for the youth when the youth turns 18 or when the court makes its ruling. DFPS may continue to provide foster care for young adults even if they receive DADS guardianship services.
Preparing Youth for Adulthood
The Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) program helps youth in foster care make the transition to adulthood more successfully. PAL services include independentliving assessments, financial help for a limited time, and training in such areas as financial management, job skills, educational planning, and interpersonal skills. The statewide Youth Leadership Council meets quarterly to review policies and practices and recommends ways to improve services.
CPS provides aging-out seminars to youth at age 17 before they leave foster care. The seminars build on information from the Preparation for Adult Living lifeskills training and include information about DFPS programs and services, benefits, and resources to help them succeed.
Transition centers are clearinghouses for many DFPS partner agencies to serve youth (ages 15½ to 25) who are preparing to or have already aged out of foster care. These centers are separately funded, privately operated, and supported by partnerships between DFPS, providers, and the Texas Workforce Commission. The centers provide Preparation for Adult Living services, employment readiness, job search classes and assistance, and mentoring. Partner agencies provide other services, including substance abuse counseling, housing assistance, and leadership development training and activities. There are centers throughout the state, and more information is available at TexasYouthConnection.org.
The Texas Youth Connection website is a resource for youth in Texas foster care, alumni of foster care, or other youth seeking general tips and information. This website was designed with input from youth and includes information and resources on topics such as education, finances, personal records, diversity, health, employment opportunities, food, housing, and others. The Texas Youth Connection Facebook page is another way that CPS shares important information with youth, young adults and providers.
Extended Foster Care
Most foster youth leave state care after their 18th birthday but they can stay in extended foster care through age 21 or 22, depending on their circumstances, while they pursue a high school diploma or GED. They can also remain in extended foster care:
- To attend college or a vocational or technical training program.
- To participate in a program or activity to help them get a job.
- To work at least 80 hours a month. If they can’t perform the activities above due to a documented medical condition.
- Young adults ages 18 to 20 who have aged out of DFPS care may return to extended foster care.
Supervised independent living (SIL) is where young adults live in a less restrictive, non-traditional living arrangement while continuing to receive casework and support service to help them become independent and self-sufficient. SIL is available for a young adult who is:
- Turning 18 while in DFPS care and approved for extended foster care.
- Already approved and participating in extended foster care.
- Returning for extended foster care from trial independence or afterwards.
Young adults have more responsibilities with minimal supervision in supervised independent living. They receive assistance with the transition to independent living, education and employment goals, accessing community resources, life-skills training, and relationships.
Education and Training Opportunities
The Education and Training Voucher (ETV) program gives financial assistance to eligible youth before and after they leave CPS care to help them with college expenses such as rent, computers, books, daycare, and transportation. Youth who receive permanency care assistance after age 16 are also eligible. ETV supplements the state’s Preparation for Adult Living program, as well as a waiver of state tuition and fees at state-supported universities, colleges, junior colleges, and vocational schools.
Since 1993, former foster youth and certain adopted youth have been exempt from paying tuition and most fees at state-funded colleges, community colleges, universities, and vocational schools in Texas. The law was later changed to extend this benefit to all youth adopted from DFPS or those whose legal guardian is not their parent.
In FY 2014, CPS continued efforts to reduce disproportionality in collaboration with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission’s Center for Elimination of Disproportionality and Disparities. CPS is working to reduce the disproportionate representation of children of color in the child welfare system. For African-American children, disparities are consistent across the seven largest counties. CPS considers disproportionality and disparities in all its initiatives, policies, and practices to assure they are fair to all children. Since 2004, thousands of youth, community members, staff, providers, and others have participated in training, such as Undoing Racism, Knowing Who You Are, Poverty Simulation, and Working with Families Who Are Impoverished. CPS continues to work with our stakeholders, including three federally recognized tribes in Texas, the judiciary, universities, and regional disproportionality advisory committees.
In FY 2014, African-Americans and Hispanics continued to leave state care to live with relatives at a high rate. Since FY 2012, the percentage of children of all races and ethnicities who were adopted within 12 months of termination of parental rights has increased. The greatest improvement has been for Hispanic children.
Using Data to Make Better Decisions
The newly created deputy assistant commissioner position manages the process for finding opportunities for improvement and making those changes happen. The deputy assistant commissioner coordinates quality assurance, data analysis, predictive analytics, program evaluation, policy development, IT and legislative support, and CPS Transformation work into an in-tegrated system. This integrated system and analysis provides a more comprehensive understanding of how the CPS system is operating at all levels and will help identify emerging problems and assess the impact of changes.
The deputy assistant commissioner helps all CPS areas analyze information to prioritize, make improve-ments and changes, and use limited resources efficiently. Separating this work from day-to-day operations ensures objectivity yet maintains the critical connection to field and state office operational divisions.
CPS started the Fatherhood Initiative in 2009 to increase permanent living solutions for children in foster care and encourage fathers or paternal family members to get involved in their children’s lives.
A key part of the CPS Fatherhood Initiative is collaborating with local and national stakeholders. The Fatherhood Initiative participated in the Preconception Peer Educator (PPE) Program Planning Committee as well as the Fatherhood Committee to develop a survey for doctors to find out what they need to help fathers become more involved with their children shortly before and after birth. The initiative also assisted in creating a video in FY 2014 focusing on the father’s prospective to help CPS learn to engage fathers more effectively.
CPS continues to recognize the importance of having fathers involved in all aspects of developing CPS policy, practice, and implementation. And, fathers are participating more in policy review and in community presentations about fathers with children in the child welfare system.
Child and Family Services Review
The Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) Accountability Division conducts structured case reviews using the federal CFSR review instrument. In FY 2014, the accountability team reviewed 360 conservatorship and 360 Family-Based Safety Services cases as well as the investigations that led to those cases. The division shares findings and discusses strengths and areas needing improvement. This helps CPS develop best practices and improve outcomes for children.
The Division of Accountability reviews a limited sample of Title IV-E cases to assess if eligibility was correctly determined for children in foster care. CPS uses the results for quality assurance and continuous quality improvement, while preparing for the Title IV-E Secondary Review scheduled for FY 2015. CPS will conduct a statewide on-site review in 2016.
The Division of Accountability also lends its case expertise as needed. It helped redact the case records of 381 children in FY 2014 so they could be adopted.
Child abuse and neglect causes long-term trauma for children, families, caregivers, and the staff who serve them. CPS chartered a multi-disciplinary workgroup with a goal of making the child welfare system more responsive to the effects of trauma. The ultimate goal is to improve outcomes for the children, youth, and families that CPS serves. DFPS has a sponsored group for trauma-informed care and four subgroups of internal and external stakeholders working on assessments and screenings, training, caregiver support and secondary traumatic stress.
DFPS collaborated with the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) in FY 2014 to produce the Texas Health Steps TIC Training Module, which is available to the public on the DSHS website. Cenpatico, the company that provides the behavioral healthcare training for STAR Health, found more than 544 foster care providers and clinicians who meet the requirements for being in the Trauma Informed Care Specialty Network. 80 percent of them were qualified STAR Health providers.
As of FY 2014, Cenpatico conducted about 1,600 trauma trainings to more than 24,000 stakeholders, including CPS caseworkers, caregivers, child-placing agency staff, and child advocates. 1,907 CPS employees took the Trauma Informed Care Refresher Training. In the future, all new caseworkers will get STAR Health training—which includes trauma informed care.
CPS is developing a practice model to define the values, principles, relationships, approaches and techniques used at the system and caseworker level. Practice models set out a framework for the standards, approaches, and methods used at the system and individual case work levels throughout the life of an individual case, including assessment, interventions, services and support, and case closure.
Practice models include elements that support consistent values and evidence-based practice, provides parameters for employee roles and performance, and illustrates values and methods for policy, training, and quality management. Additionally, a practice model defines the essential elements of how CPS interacts with children and families and expectations of the child or family’s interaction with CPS.
Expected outcomes include:
- Increased consistency of case practice over time based on standards and expectations.
- Improved quality of case work integrated with professional development and mentoring and improved assessment and decision-making.
- Supporting lower staff turnover by uniting staff around a common vision and providing consistent framework for case practice at all stages of service.
CPS was finalizing the practice model in FY 2014 and will begin to implement it in 2015.
Working with Partners
Foster Parents and Other Providers
Thousands of children are in state care (DFPS legal conservatorship) because of abuse and neglect. Foster parents, private child-placing agencies, residential treatment centers, and other providers that partner with DFPS to support these children. DFPS supports foster and adoptive parents by providing federal funds to the statewide Texas Council on Adoptable Children and the Texas Foster Family Association. DFPS also provides federal funds to local foster parent associations for education, training, and retention of foster and adoptive parents so they can better meet the needs of children.
DFPS works with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) who are volunteers appointed by courts to be independent advocates for children in CPS cases. DFPS developed the Case Connection so CASA staff and volunteers can quickly get information about the children they represent.
Case Connection is a web-based application that gives CASA key information and printable documents from a child’s electronic case file. CASA volunteers and staff can use any computer or mobile device with internet access to log into Case Connection at any time of the day. Case Connection contains the most pertinent information about the child, but not the entire case file. CASA staff began getting access to Case Connection in late FY 2014 and volunteers will get access in 2015.
DFPS collaborates with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to oversee and coordinate healthcare for children in foster care. STAR Health is a Medicaid managed-care plan that coordinates services for each child in foster care and manages services for children with more serious health and behavioral health needs. It also oversees and reviews use of psychotropic medications, provides an electronic health passport, nurse and behavioral health hotlines, and liaisons who partner with CPS staff.
Superior Health Plan operates the provider network, and CPS has specialists who are experts on the STAR Health program and serve as the primary link between Superior and CPS staff.
Committee for Advancing Residential Practices
The Committee for Advancing Residential Practices is a stakeholder group dedicated to improving practices in residential and foster care. Residential child care contractors, associations, and DFPS representatives meet quarterly to strengthen our partnership, improve communication, and work to improve the safety, permanency, and well-being of children.
Child Welfare Boards
Many counties provide additional resources to help Child Protective Services meet the needs of children in state care. More than 200 counties have child welfare boards appointed by their commissioner’s courts. These boards provide significant support to enhance care and services for children in foster care and their families and help with child abuse prevention efforts.
CPS works with the Texas Council of Child Welfare Boards (TCCWB) to develop resources, programs, and strategies to improve services for vulnerable children and families. Members advocate at the local, state, and national level for children who otherwise might have no voice. TCCWB volunteers create, promote, and support events such as Child Protection Day at the Capitol and Go Blue Day to raise awareness about child abuse prevention.
CPS and law enforcement conduct joint investigations of reports alleging a child has been a victim of a crime and there’s immediate risk of death or serious harm. CPS and law enforcement also work together in cases where children are exposed to selling and manufacturing drugs. Law enforcement notifies CPS if they plan to raid a home so CPS can prepare to protect the children. CPS contacts law enforcement if it finds evidence that may warrant criminal prosecution. CPS and law enforcement also work together on cases involving human trafficking.
Children's Advocacy Centers
Children’s advocacy centers (CACs) provide a safe place where law enforcement, CPS, and other professionals can interview children who are suspected victims of sexual abuse, severe physical abuse, or who witnessed a violent crime. Many CACs also offer services such as counseling, medical exams, and classes for abuse victims and their families. CACs have also partnered with CPS to train caseworkers on child welfare topics.
Giving Texas Children Promise
Children across Texas receive help from three “community-partners” programs developed by Giving Texas Children Promise (GTCP). These programs are Rainbow Rooms, the Adopt-a-Caseworker Program, and the Purchasing Partnership Program.
- Rainbow Rooms help meet the critical needs of abused and neglected children. These resource rooms supply car seats, clothing, shoes, underwear, baby formula, school supplies, and safety and hygiene items to children entering foster or relative care as well as children receiving CPS services at home.
- The Adopt-a-Caseworker Program connects CPS caseworkers with individuals, churches, businesses, and organizations to help meet needs of children involved with CPS. Groups have also furnished items such as birthday presents, prom dresses, household goods, and groceries.
- The Purchasing Partnerships Program obtains drastically reduced prices on many essential items stocked in Rainbow Rooms across Texas. In FY 2013, this program delivered 318 new car seats, 3,493 boxes of lice treatment and bedding spray, 1,000 blankets, and 250 port-a-cribs at no cost to local sites.
In FY 2014, there were 155 rainbow rooms covering 197 counties across the state of Texas. Thousands of caseworkers have been adopted by local organizations and approximately 60,000 children and youth in state care have benefitted from the Rainbow Room community partners.
In FY 2014, the Texas Supreme Court’s Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth, and Families continued its collaboration with DFPS through partnerships and projects that focused on:
- Improving medical and behavioral healthcare for foster youth.
- Family visitation for children, parents, and siblings.
- Written guidance to help parents navigate the child protection system.
- Addressing disproportionality and disparities in the child welfare system.
- The need and importance of strengthening education stability and outcomes for some 15,000 school-aged children and youth in DFPS legal custody.
Notably, DFPS and the Children’s Commission made significant strides in expanding the relationship between Texas’ three federally recognized Native American Tribes and both DPPS and the judiciary.
The Commission and DFPS collaborate on various matters and both organizations are deeply committed to a continued partnership between the executive and judicial agencies charged with caring for and protecting children in the state’s foster care system. There is at least one executive level DFPS staff member on every Children’s Commission committee, but usually several participate. The Children’s Commission also sponsors a bi-weekly conference call with child welfare stakeholders, including DFPS executive staff, Office of Court Administration, Court Appointed Special Advocates, and child welfare advocates. The Children’s Commission’s executive director serves on the Texas Child and Family Services Review Team and the Public- Private Partnership, which oversees Foster Care Redesign. There were also several jointly developed training events for judges, attorneys, caseworkers, and other child welfare partners.
As in years past, FY 2014 saw a consistent and meaningful dialogue about child welfare policy, procedure, practice and legislation.
Parent Collaboration Group
The statewide Parent Collaboration Group (PCG) is a partnership between DFPS and parents who have been in the CPS system and succeeded. The group includes regional parent-representatives who meet quarterly to help CPS improve its policies and practices. The goals are to identify:
- Gaps in services for families and children.
- Services that are working and should continue.
- Ways parents can improve a caseworker’s skills in relating to parents.
The group has developed parent-support groups in all CPS regions since its formation in 2002. These support groups help parents learn about the CPS process and navigate the child welfare system. There has been extensive growth and involvement from parents across the state, including a partnership with Casey Family Programs and training from Via Hope.
A key component to the CPS Fatherhood Initiative is collaboration among stakeholders. CPS has partnered with the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) and Texas Women’s University (TWU) in Dallas to launch a pilot of a peer parent-mentoring program called Parent Partners.
Parent partners are parents whose children were removed by CPS, but stayed committed and made the necessary changes in their lives so their children could be returned home. A parent partner is matched up with a family as soon as possible. The employment of these parents as a resource and mentor to parents with open CPS cases increases engagement and the likelihood of family reunification.
The partnering universities are responsible for the pilot, including hiring guidelines. Both UTEP and TWU are fully staffed with Parent Partners, having 30 families assigned to the program. Each site has fully implemented the referral process, developed a matrix of families entering and exiting the child welfare system and is currently developing a feedback process to ensure effective communication when making recommendations for closing cases.
Parent Partners brings the knowledge and empathy of “having been there” that helps them develop trust with families more easily than a caseworker can. CPS knows it is important to get to know families to serve them, and Parent Partners is a systematic approach for working with families.
Children with Serious Emotional Disturbances
Senate Bill 44 of the 83rd Texas Legislature directed DFPS and the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) to study and make recommendations to prevent the parents from giving up custody of children to the state solely to obtain mental health services. As part of the study, the law requires DFPS and DSHS to consider the advantages of providing mental health services using temporary residential treatment and intensive community-based services.
DFPS and DSHS contracted with the Child and Family Research Institute at the University of Texas at Austin to conduct the study. After reviewing the findings, the two agencies developed the following recommendations:
- Continue the current DSHS and DFPS services and initiatives geared toward prevention, early intervention, and treatment of children and youth with serious emotional disturbances.
- Increase the number of treatment beds for the DFPS/DSHS Residential Treatment Center Project.
- Explore expanding Community Resource Coordination Groups in high risk areas.
- Continue to expand the Youth Empowerment Services waiver.
- Expand emergency crisis and respite services.
- Expand mental health training opportunities for professionals who frequent interact with children, such as DFPS caseworkers, educators and law enforcement.
- Increase DFPS consideration of Joint Managing Conservatorship for families who meet statutory criteria.
- Make information on parental rights regarding relinquishment more readily available.
The law requires DFPS to annually report the number of children who are in its custody because their parents gave up custody to get mental health treatment. A case review conducted in 2014 indicated that 107 children may have entered foster care in FY 2011 and FY 2012 solely to get mental health treatment.
In May 2014, a new indicator was added to the DFPS case management system, which will allow DFPS to track children in this situation. The law requires an updated report every even-numbered year after the first report, including the status of each recommendation. The Health and Human Services Commission executive commissioner must review the recommendations and may direct DFPS to implement them within current resources.
The Legislature also gave DSHS more than two million dollars for 10 beds in private, residential treatment centers (RTC) to help address this problem. In FY 2014, 14 children received these services and 20 more were on the waiting list. Five children with plans to reunite with their families have been discharged from RTCs, and those on the waiting list are being enrolled in outpatient services. Seven children were able to stay in their homes with increased community services and did not require residential treatment center care. The collaboration between DSHS and DFPS is providing vital mental health services to severely emotionally disturbed children who are at risk of their parents giving up custody. These services are improving behavior of children and youth, stabilizing families, and letting CPS end its involvement.
Unaccompanied Refugee Minor Program
The U.S. State Department identifies refugee children who are eligible for resettlement in the United States but do not have a parent or a relative in the U.S. who can care for them long-term. These children are placed into the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors (URM) program when they arrive in the United States and get refugee foster care services and benefits. The URM program is operated by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), a part of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission coordinate with the Office of Resettlement, while DFPS oversees services for the children and contracts with Catholic Charities of Houston and Fort Worth to provide services. DFPS also provides technical assistance to the contractors. The URM program is funded by the federal government. Unlike foster care, DFPS does not have legal custody of children in the URM program. Instead the contractor has legal custody and control of these children. The Texas URM program served 83 URM youth in federal FY 2014. The projection for FY 2015 is 120.