This section addresses the ACYF-CB-PI-05-04 Program Instruction requirement that is listed below:

A.2 (f) Submit a copy of the annual report(s) from the citizen review panels, and a copy of the State agency’s most recent response(s) to the panels and State and local child protective services agencies, as required by section 106(c)(6) of CAPTA.

Status Report as of September 2004

Program Purpose

This report provides a summary of the activities by the Texas Citizen Review Teams from October 2003 to September 2004. It is being submitted as required by the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), Section 106 “Grants to States for Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention and Treatment Programs” [42 U.S.C. 5106a]. This information will be included in the Title IV-B Child and Family Services Plan (CFSP) for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS).

Background

There are multiple Citizen Review Teams (CRTs) as established by Texas Family Code (TFC §261.312). Four of these teams are designated as meeting the requirements of CAPTA, Appendix I. This report consists of information concerning the issues addressed only by the four CAPTA teams (CRT/CAPTA). All four teams were incorporated as CAPTA teams as of June 1, 1999. They are located in Amarillo (Region 01), Fort Worth (Region 03), Austin (Region 07), and El Paso (Region 10). These sites represent a mixture of urban and rural communities, and reflect the broad range of issues encountered by Child Protective Services (CPS) statewide.

Structure

As required, the CRT/CAPTA team members are volunteers who represent a broad spectrum of their communities. The members are nominated locally and approved by the Commissioner of DFPS, Carey D. Cockerell. CPS state office staff provide assistance in the areas of coordination, team development, training, and statewide distribution of team reviews and recommendations. Local CPS staff facilitates the exchange of case-specific information, ensures that confidentiality is maintained, performs the required background checks on nominated members, and arranges for meeting space and clerical support.

Reporting Process

To coincide with the federal fiscal year reporting period, this report covers the period from October 2003 to September 2004. Information that is presented consists of data gathered by the CRT/CAPTA teams. The teams utilize the Citizen Review Team Reporting form, a standardized form that was developed by CPS state office for the teams, put into use in April 2000, and modified to be user-friendlier in the automated environment in July 2003.

Agency Response

In order to ensure a statewide forum for the CRT/CAPTA recommendations, the state Child Safety Review Committee (CSRC) reviews CRT/CAPTA recommendations to identify statewide implications for CPS policy, practice, and training. The CSRC was established in 1999 to consider policy implications resulting from an internal review of child fatalities. The CSRC meets quarterly and has representatives from the professional development division, child-care licensing, legal department, statewide intake, risk directors (now knows as Child Safety Specialists), regional program administrators, the Texas Council on Family Violence, and CPS state office.

The state CRT coordinator compiles an ongoing report listing the CRT/CAPTA recommendations and any action items identified by the CSRC. This report is used by the CSRC to record progress on agency initiatives related to CRT/CAPTA recommendations. CPS District Directors receive copies of these reports on a regular basis.

The CRT/CAPTA teams often have recommendations for the local CPS field staff about actions they would like to see taken in a particular case. These case-specific recommendations are communicated during the CRT meeting to the CPS representatives who are present and are recorded on the standardized report form. Actions on case-specific recommendations are handled at the regional level.

The CSRC met in July 2004 and November 2004. During these meetings, the committee reviewed statewide recommendations from the CAPTA CRTs. Due to the Texas Legislative Session that began in January 2005, ongoing work on the CPS Reform Project which began in September 2004, and restructuring and staff changes within CPS State Office, the CSRC did not meet during the spring of 2005. Nonetheless, during federal fiscal year 2004, CRTs statewide continued to meet and submit their reports. State office program staff reviews CRT recommendations, and those recommendations are considered when developing policy and procedure recommendations. CRT recommendations have been particularly important during this period of major change for CPS in Texas. Beginning in May 2005, the new CPS State Office structure began to form and should be complete by July 31, 2005. The CSRC should be able to begin meeting regularly beginning in September 2005.

The recommendations contained in this report were placed on the DFPS website in June 2005. In addition to the recommendations from the CRT/CAPTA teams, recommendations and concerns expressed by other, non-CAPTA teams are also on the website. The web page for the recommendations contains a CRT-specific mailbox that the public can use to comment on the recommendations. The State CRT Coordinator will organize the responses and formulate a process whereby public input received through the designated mailbox can be used to enhance CPS operations. The webpage is located at: http://www.dfps.state.tx.us/Child_Protection/CRT/.

Panel Activities

The four CRT/CAPTA teams met as follows through September 2004:
Region 01 (Amarillo/Potter County) — October 2003, January 2004, May 2004 (4 cases)
Region 03 (Fort Worth/Tarrant County) — September 2004
Region 07 (Austin/Travis County) — October 2003, January 2004 (2 cases)
Region 10 (El Paso/El Paso County) — none

The Region 01 and Region 07 CRTs held reviews that were case-specific. The Tarrant County Team concentrated on renewing their CRT efforts; therefore, they focused primarily on organizational activities that resulted in distribution of a local CRT Manual distributed in February 2005. The El Paso Team is in the process of renewing its efforts to review cases and submit recommendations.

Summary of Findings

The findings of the CRT/CAPTA teams that have statewide implications (as opposed to recommendations aimed at local procedures and issues) are summarized below according to the formatting structure of the Citizen Review Team Reporting Form that is designed to cover Intake (INT), Investigations (INV), Family-Based Safety Services (FBSS), and Substitute Care (CVS) issues.

INT/INV/near death (Region 07): The Austin/Travis County CRT had the following concerns related to the 2 cases reviewed:

  • A worker did not visit a relative’s home before placing a child there; the subsequent home study was favorable.
  • An alleged perpetrator was determined to be a non-family member/ non-caregiver, so was not within CPS jurisdiction to hold responsible for abuse/neglect.

INV/near death (Region 01): The Amarillo/Potter County CRT had the following concerns:

  • Although children who are home schooled succeed academically, the team expressed concern about the lack of standards and monitoring of home schooling – due to a case in which children who were home schooled, who came into foster care, were very academically delayed.
  • A delay in providing services occurred due to a conflict between CPS insisting that a parent accept responsibility for abuse/neglect, and a parent’s attorney’s stance that doing so would subject the parent to criminal charges.

FBSS (Region 01): The Amarillo/Potter County CRT had the following concerns:

  • In a case where there were 7 prior referrals, including 3 cases in which the case findings or disposition was "family moved" - all allegations were not addressed once the family was found.
  • Criminal charges were not filed regarding alleged sexual abuse.
  • There is a lack of resources for relative placements, especially to pursue custody.

CPS Protection Initiatives

The CRT/CAPTA teams identified the internal and external factors that may have affected the department’s ability to protect children.

The following chart describes CPS actions that relate to CRT-identified issues. Each initiative reflects CPS efforts to respond to and improve the quality of the services it provides to the children and families of Texas.

District/Region Issue Addressed Recommendation CPS Initiatives
Northwest/01 Although children who are home schooled succeed academically, the team expressed concern about the lack of standards and monitoring of home schooling - due to a case in which children who were home schooled, who came into foster care, were very academically delayed. None CPS does not have authority to address standards for home schooling. However, for children in foster care and for those in Family Based Safety Services, the Education Specialists in each region have been very active over the past year in ensuring that information regarding educational advocacy for children is widespread. The regional analyses conducted based on the Child and Family Services Review model have been instrumental in emphasizing the importance of educational achievement and advocacy for children served by CPS. This is an area that is still in need of improvement statewide. CPS will continue to utilize the regional and state Education Specialists to strengthen this aspect of CPS service delivery. Training for caseworkers and supervisors is being revised as part of the CPS Reform Project. Educational advocacy is a part of the new training modules on multiple levels.
  Concern about delay in providing services due to conflict between agency insistence that a parent accept responsibility for abuse/neglect, and parent's attorney's stance that doing so would subject the parent to criminal charges. None Although the legal rights of clients must be respected, CPS is exploring new ways in which to approach investigation and intervention based on forensic investigation and interviewing practices. When evidence is gathered in a more systematic manner, the question about whether or not criminal charges can occur may be less uncertain - one way or the other. Additionally, CPS is re-vamping its expectations of contractors (performance-based contracting) and placing more emphasis on the ability to work with involuntary clients rather than assessing general therapeutic intervention methodologies. Training for staff is being revised as part of the CPS Reform Project to emphasize approaches to working successfully with involuntary clients. The Director of Field has been assigned to strengthen the Parent Collaboration Group Project in which parents who have received CPS services provide orientation and mentoring services to current CPS clients - an expected outcome is that parents will be motivated to succeed in their service plans because they are being instructed and mentored by parents who have been successful in navigating the CPS system.
  Regarding an in-home services case in which there were 7 prior referrals, including 3 in which the case findings or disposition was "family moved" - there was concern about whether or not all allegations were followed up on after the family was located. None In December 2004, new policy requirements were released regarding procedures that apply when an investigation cannot be completed, including when a family moves during the course of an investigation. These and other designated cases must contain case findings of "Unable to Complete" (the "Family Moved" disposition was eliminated). If a subsequent referral is received after an investigation is closed with an "unable to complete" or "moved" disposition, and the investigation was completed within the previous 12 months, a Priority 1 intake must be generated and a new investigation initiated. Reports meeting these criteria cannot be downgraded and contact must be initiated within 24 hours. During the new investigation, the worker must address allegations contained in the previous case as well as any new allegations.
  Expressed concern that criminal charges were not pursued on a father who sexually abused his daughter. None At the direction of Governor Rick Perry, and as a major part of the CPS Reform Project initiated by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, a Statewide Director of Investigations was hired in June 2005 under whose direction there will be emphasis on strengthening investigations. This division will be responsible for ensuring that forensic interviewing and investigation skills and techniques are used by CPS investigators (training modules to be developed by September 2005), that senior investigators with law enforcement investigation experience will be available to all CPS investigation units (began hiring in March 2005), that risk assessment and safety protocols will be improved (Fall 2005) and training enhanced ( new Risk Assessment Refresher training for supervisors and managers was introduced in Region 8 and will be finished by July 2005). The Investigation Division will be responsible for revising and improving investigation policy and procedure, and for ensuring that training - both basic and advanced - is available on an ongoing basis. Another major task is to improve the working relationship among CPS, law enforcement and prosecutors. One step has been to place the senior investigators cited above in field units to guide CPS staff in their interactions with law enforcement. Another is to work directly with the Children's Advocacy Centers of Texas to enhance the multidisciplinary model of investigation and service delivery. Additionally, at the state office and regional levels, specialists will be assigned specifically to interface with CPS and local law enforcement officials to improve working relationships at a systemic level.
  Lack of resources for relative placements, especially to pursue custody. None Both the CPS Reform Project and the recently completed Legislative Session mandated statewide expansion of the kinship pilot that has been very successful in the South Texas District. This expansion includes additional monetary resources for relatives, case management, legal advocacy, training for caregivers of special needs children, support groups, etc.
East Central/07 Concern that worker did not visit relative's home before placing child there. Subsequent home study was favorable. Staff training needed on conducting a home visit prior to recommending placement. Barrier discussed was workload impact on decision not to conduct a home visit prior to placement. The Texas Legislature allocated funds during the 2005 Session to bring CPS caseloads down from an average of 70+ to 45. Along with caseload reductions, additional resources in the areas of support personnel (administrative techs and case aides) and specialty staff such as nurses, and education/disability staff have been funded. Program policy is being enhanced to include required protocols to be followed when considering relative placements for children - especially the home study and home visit procedures. Issues related to relative placements - initial and ongoing - are part of the now-developing training modules to be standard for all field staff, effective in Fall 2005.
  Alleged perpetrator was a non-family member/ non-caregiver so was not within CPS jurisdiction to hold responsible for abuse/neglect. None The Texas Family Code was not changed during the 2005 Legislative Session in regard to CPS jurisdiction. However, with the emphasis on strengthening investigations and on improving the relationship among CPS, law enforcement, and local prosecutors as described above, along with the lowering of investigation caseloads, protection of children within their own homes - no matter who a perpetrator may be - will be greatly enhanced.

Conclusion

The CRTs are an important component in the department's attempt to improve Texas' child protective system. Members voluntarily take time to review the cases with care, always upholding the high standards of the agency. By considering innovative ways the community can work together with CPS for child protection, members have shown that improvement of the system is possible and needed. The issues identified and recommendations made by the CAPTA/CRT teams are critical to identifying opportunities for statewide improvements in CPS policy, practice and training.