Texas Citizen Review Teams

The State must 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.

Background

There are eighteen Citizen Review Teams as established by the Texas Family Code (TFC §261.312). Four of these teams are designated as meeting the requirements of Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, Appendix I. This report consists of information concerning the issues addressed only by the four Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) teams. All four teams were incorporated as CAPTA teams as of June 1, 1999. They are located in Amarillo (Region 01), Houston (Region 6), 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 statewide.

Structure

As required, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act team members are volunteers who represent a broad spectrum of their communities. The members are nominated locally and approved by the DFPS Commissioner. 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 facilitate the exchange of case-specific information, ensure that confidentiality is maintained, perform the required background checks on nominated members, and arrange for meeting space and clerical support.

Reporting Process

To coincide with the federal fiscal year reporting period, this report covers the period from October 2009 to September 2010. Information presented consists of data gathered by the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act 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 more user-friendly in May 2009.

Agency Response

Citizen Review Team recommendations are placed on the DFPS Web site. In addition to the recommendations from the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) teams, recommendations and concerns expressed by other, non-CAPTA teams are also on the Web site. The Web page for recommendations contains a Citizen Review Team specific mailbox that the public can use to comment on the recommendations. That Web page is:
http://www.dfps.state.tx.us/Child_Protection/CRT/.

State office program staff review Citizen Review Team recommendations and those recommendations are considered when developing policy, training and procedures. The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act teams often have recommendations for the local CPS direct delivery staff about actions they would like to see taken on a particular case. These case-specific recommendations are communicated during the Citizen Review Team meeting to the CPS representatives who are present, and are recorded on the standardized reporting form. Actions on case-specific recommendations are handled at the regional level.

Panel Activities

During the 2010 fiscal year, the Citizen Review Team/Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) teams made significant efforts to meet regularly. Three of the CAPTA teams were able to meet quarterly in compliance with the requirements of the CAPTA. The El Paso County CAPTA team underwent significant change, including a change in the coordinator, and difficulty recruiting volunteers for the team.

The coordinators are CPS staff assigned to this project. In addition to acting as Citizen Review Team coordinators, their other duties are CPS supervisors, program directors, program administrators and program specialists. The Citizen Review Team Coordinators work to establish local and statewide strategic planning, frequent and regular meetings of active teams, and formation of new teams. The Citizen Review Team coordinators meet regularly with state office program staff to discuss better ways to engage the community in the review process. A Citizen Review Team member manual is in the process of being developed. A Citizen Review Team coordinator's manual has been developed and is available as a resource for each team.

Two new Citizen Review Teams have been developed: in Region 03 (Dallas) and Region 06 (Houston). Although these two teams were recommended last fiscal year, they have now been fully staffed and are meeting regularly. These two teams are focusing on disproportionality issues regarding children who have been removed from their families.

The four Citizen Review Team/Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act teams met as follows from October 2009 through September 2010:

  • Region 01 (Amarillo/Potter County): February 12, 2010, March 26, 2010, and June 25, 2010.
  • Region 06 (Houston): October 20, 2009, February 9, 2010, April 27, 2010, and August 24, 2010.
  • Region 07 (Austin/Travis County): October 21, 2009, March 10, 2010, July 12, 2010, and September 23, 2010.
  • Region 10 (El Paso/El Paso County): March 25, 2010

The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act team coordinators continue to work with their communities to engage and encourage volunteers to become involved in efforts to gain feedback from the public.

Summary of Findings

The 2010 findings of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act Citizen Review Teams that have statewide implications (compared to recommendations aimed at local procedures and issues) are summarized below.

Region 01 focused on the importance of having accurate information regarding the criminal history of all adults who have regular contact with children who are the subject of a CPS investigation.

Region 06 focused on a lack of communication between CPS caseworkers and medical providers for children with special medical needs.

Region 07 focused on multiple areas of concern, including staff turnover and high caseloads, engagement of non-resident fathers during CPS cases, lack of drug treatment resources for parents, lack of training for frontline staff on disproportionality issues, lack of training for staff on identifying risks, and how to work with families with special needs children.

Region 10 focused on a lack of clear documentation of communication between caseworkers and supervisors.
Specific recommendations included:

  • Management should take steps to assure there is consistency for families when there are multiple changes in staff on the family's case.
  • Staff need training and guidance on how to engage non-resident fathers.
  • Staff need more resources for drug testing parents.
  • Frontline staff need training on disproportionality issues.
  • Staff need more guidance about working with children with special needs.

CPS Protection Initiatives

The following chart describes CPS actions that relate to Citizen Review Team 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.

Region

Issue Addressed

Recommendation

CPS Initiative

1

CPS caseworkers need to coordinate with law enforcement to obtain accurate criminal history and to locate all adults who have regular contact with children who are the subject of a CPS investigation.

That a system be designed to notify CPS regional staff when a person who is listed on an investigation is a registered sex offender or has a previous designation as a perpetrator of serious or fatal child abuse.

 

6 Investigation and Family Based Safety Services staff minimized or did not appear to thoroughly understand the safety threats in the home. Medical issues for a special needs child were not followed up on with medical providers. Documentation must be complete and recorded timely in all stages. Training on how to review case history, documentation and safety. Better communication with medical providers. CPS is currently working on procedures for caseworkers and supervisors to follow when working with children with special medical needs.
6 Investigation actions and quality were minimal. Investigations did not follow up with medical needs of a special needs child with the medical provider. Documentation must be complete and recorded timely in Family Based Safety Services (FBSS) stage. In FBSS, staff minimized safety issues.
Develop best practice for how investigations and FBSS regarding children with special needs are done. CPS is currently working on procedures for caseworkers and supervisors to follow when working with children with special medical needs.
6 CPS did not ensure the family kept medical appointments and there was a lack of communication with medical staff. CPS should develop a standard for how cases regarding children with special medical needs should be worked. CPS is currently working on procedures for caseworkers and supervisors to follow when working with children with special medical needs.
7 Staff turnover and high caseloads have an affect on the outcomes for the families. Recommend that management take steps to provide consistency for the families when there are multiple changes of staff on cases. CPS has been involved in the Workforce Support and Retention Initiative to improve selection and retention of staff. This workgroup focuses on implementing proactive strategies, policies, procedures and practices that:
  • Promote employee communication and input;
  • Improve hiring practices;
  • Strengthen supervision;
  • Manage workloads;
  • Enhance work environment; and
  • Value employees.
Some of the accomplishments are:
  • Created an employee communication reporting tool;
  • Created a mechanism to ask questions of the CPS Assistant Commissioner;
  • Enhanced the job preview to provide a realistic job overview for prospective new hires;
  • Developed a skills-based core training for new caseworkers;
  • Developed a skills-based supervisor core training;
  • Developed a managing workload clearinghouse Web site;
  • Established policy for telecommuting staff; and
  • Identified means for employee recognition.
7 Staff have difficulty engaging non-resident fathers while working their case. Staff should receive training and guidance on how to engage and work with non-resident fathers. The CPS Fatherhood Program Specialist is involved in providing training and guidance for staff throughout the state. This includes:
  • Presenting information about engaging non-resident fathers in every region;
  • Giving presentations at different conferences such as the Strengthening Families conference, the Conservatorship conference, and the Fatherhood Symposium;
  • Partnering with outside agencies to provide services to non-resident fathers;
  • Developing a Fatherhood Web site where staff can gain information about identifying and engaging fathers; and
  • Participating in the Fatherhood Roundtable with fathers from CPS, members of the judiciary and other child welfare system stakeholders from around the state.
7 Staff lack resources for treatment of parents with drugs issues Develop more inpatient and outpatient treatment programs for these parents. The Department of State Health Services and CPS are actively pursuing the expansion of drug courts, especially in rural areas. Expansion of resources is also being pursued through the Access to Recovery Grants, to assist people without a license such as "Victory Outreach" who provide assistance to people addicted to drugs. The Drug Demand Reduction Advisory Committee is also working to increase treatment services. A substance abuse Web site has been created for staff on the CPS Intranet that provides information regarding available statewide drug treatment resources. The budget was increased to expand the availability of drug testing for parents.
7 Staff have difficulty understanding the risk factors regarding children with special needs. Caseworkers should receive training on how to identify children with special needs and how to follow through with steps needed to make sure their needs are met. A CPS statewide workgroup has been formed to review cases involving children with special medical needs and disabilities. Staff currently have access to a webinar training to help identify medical neglect issues. In each region there is specialized staff available to provide consultation to caseworkers on cases involving children with special needs. Each region has a Regional Nurse, a Developmental Disability Specialist and a Well Being Specialist who can assist staff when they have questions about special medical and disability needs for children. Caseworkers also have access to the Forensic Assessment Center Network to help answer questions about multiple issues, including children's special medical and disability needs.
10 Communication between caseworker and supervisors was not clearly documented. CPS staff should have ongoing training regarding documentation.  

 

Conclusion

The Citizen Review Teams are an important component of the Texas child welfare system as CPS continues to improve outcomes and services for children, youth and families. Members voluntarily take time to review the cases with care, to continue to hold CPS to high investigation standards. By considering innovative ways the community can work together with CPS for child protection, members have shown that improvement of the system is needed and possible. The issues identified and recommendations made by the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act Citizen Review Teams are critical to identifying opportunities for statewide improvements in CPS policy, practice and training.