Texas is a national leader in addressing disproportionality through leadership development, community partnerships, cultural training, and developing more sensitive and safety-centered practices. Child Protective Services seeks to equitably serve families and youth in all stages of service and to reduce the number of children in foster care and the unequal outcomes they experience.
CPS believes raising the bar for all children in child welfare raises the bar for those disproportionately represented in the system. Our efforts focus on specific practice designed to reduce and eventually eliminate disproportionality and disparities—while keeping children safe. CPS is committed to eliminating disproportionality and disparities in the Texas child welfare system. With multiple efforts underway to keep families intact, it is difficult to determine how any single program is contributing to this goal. However, it is believed that the combined efforts will bring us a step closer to the goal. CPS continues to analyze race/ethnicity data in all stages of services and programs and is committed to seeking strategies to eliminate disparities.
Kinship Care and Family Group Decision Making
A key component of addressing and reducing disparate outcomes among children in foster care is support for kinship caregivers. “Kinship care” is the term used to describe those situations in which children, who are no longer able to live with their own parents, are cared for by relatives or other people that have a significant relationship with the child or the child’s family - such as aunts, uncles, or grandparents.. Kinship placements meet children’s needs for safety while preserving their connections to family, community, and culture. By offering limited financial assistance and providing ongoing casework and day care support for eligible kinship caregivers, CPS has increased the number of children in state custody that reside with family instead of in foster care.
One important way CPS supports kin is through Family Group Decision Making (FGDM) conferences, which have been used by CPS since 2004. FGDM describes a variety of practices to work with and engage children, youth, and families involved in the CPS system in safety and service planning and decision making. There are a variety of Family Group Decision Making models used by DFPS including Family Team Meetings, Family Group Conferences, and Circles of Support. These conferences encourage greater family involvement and control in decisions about their children. FGDM conferences are offered to families at four primary points of CPS involvement, including investigations, at the time of removal, Family Based Safety Services, and when a youth is transitioning from substitute care to adulthood. This has been especially helpful to African American families. FGDM conferences help CPS address disparities on the front and back ends of the child welfare system.
CPS is currently participating in the No Place Like Home Grant with Casey Family Programs and the Kempe Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Abuse and Neglect of The University of Colorado, Denver. This is a three-year federal grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, to implement and evaluate FGDM in child welfare. The results of the grant will provide valuable information about the effectiveness of FGDM for maintaining child safety and preventing foster care placements. The Kempe Center and Casey Family Programs will perform a rigorous evaluation. This evaluation will focus on:
- The effectiveness of FGDM on children and families receiving in-home services.
- How FGDM can meet the needs of children and families receiving in-home services.
- The effectiveness of FGDM in supporting culturally diverse populations.
Enhanced Family-Centered Safety Decision Making
CPS has embarked on a multi-year initiative to continuously improve safety decision-making using a family-centered approach at every stage of a CPS case. This initiative will strengthen the ability to engage families and assess safety and risk more effectively, so that CPS staff make the right case decisions to ensure the safety of the child. CPS will focus on the development of critical thinking skills to ensure case decisions center on child safety and not race or poverty.
Diligent Recruitment Grant
DFPS and CASA are working collaboratively on a federal grant in Regions 3 (DFW), 4 (Tyler) and 5 (Beaumont). The diligent recruitment efforts will ensure the recruitment of potential foster and adoptive families that reflect the ethnic and racial diversity of children in foster care. These recruitment efforts are specifically designed to mitigate the effects of the disproportionate representation of children of color in foster care. To continue this effort, CPS faith-based recruiters will participate in local events, utilizing local media outlets in English and Spanish and specialized outreach materials, and partnering with AdoptUsKids and AdoptChildren.
Permanency Care Assistance
Permanency Care Assistance (PCA), one of the provisions of the federal Fostering Connections Act, is a wonderful opportunity for children and youth to achieve permanency. PCA provides family members with long-term financial assistance for children who cannot be adopted or returned to their parents. PCA involves a strategic approach to achieve a permanent living arrangement by using:
- timely kinship notification after removal,
- diligent searches for relatives, and
- recruitment of kinship caregivers to provide permanent homes.
This strategy focuses on meeting the needs of children in permanent managing conservatorship of DFPS. Many children will be able live with family who otherwise would have remained in the CPS system, which improves outcomes for children of color. Casey Family Programs (CFP) has assisted with financial assistance to help kinship families with nonrecurring initial expenses needed to become verified as a foster home. In reviewing data, CFP helped identify that African American children were not exiting to permanent managing conservatorship with PCA benefits proportionally to others in the summer of 2011. Efforts were made and data from August of 2012 indicates African American children were exiting to permanent managing conservatorship with PCA benefits in higher percentages than previously.
A permanency roundtable (PRT) is an internal case consultation process designed to facilitate a discussion about a child’s permanency plan and to develop a child’s specific permanency action plan. The roundtable is a structured meeting facilitated by a permanency practitioner an attended by child welfare experts who play a specific role in the meeting. The target populations for PRTs are children with permanent managing conservatorship without termination of parental rights, children over the age of 6, children not in a placement intended to be permanent, sibling groups, children with extended amount of time in care, and children of color. Children of color are more likely to be in the PRT population due to their overrepresentation in the child welfare system. PRTs have the potential to decrease the number of children in foster care while increasing the number of children in care for over 18 months who exit to positive permanency.
CPS currently has eleven Regional Permanency Practitioners and one State Office Permanency Practitioner. PRT’s have been implemented in Regions 6, 8, and 10.
The Advisory Committee on Promoting Adoption of Minority Children
The Advisory Committee on Promoting Adoption of Minority Children (ACPAMC) was established to advise DFPS on policies and practices that affect the recruitment and licensing of families for minority children awaiting adoption. Specifically, the committee is charged with studying, developing, and evaluating programs and projects relating to community awareness and education, family support, counseling, parenting skills and education, and reform of the child welfare system. In 2011, the committee began partnering with Regional Disproportionality Advisory Committees and faith-based communities to organize disproportionality-focused community adoption forums, sponsored by Casey Family Programs. The goal of this partnership and of these forums is to increase adoptions for children of color. To date, forums have been held in Abilene, Houston, and Dallas. After each forum, ACPAMC returns to the community to debrief with key stakeholders including regional CPS employees to determine the best manner for each community to continue addressing the need for increased adoptions of children of color.
The goal of the Texas Fatherhood Initiative is to build greater capacity within CPS to serve fathers by shedding light on effective models of service that engage fathers - even if those fathers do not currently live in the homes of their children, or are not actively involved in their children's lives. Fathers and their extended families are a vital resource that CPS should fully engage when addressing the well-being, safety, and permanence of children in our care.
Community Based Care
Children enter foster care when they cannot safely remain in their homes and there are no safe family alternatives. Community Based Care focuses on keeping children in their home communities after they enter foster care, and it is a key component of a multi-faceted approach to reducing disproportionality. Children who remain in their home communities will maintain stronger connections with their families and their support systems, increasing the chances of reunifying with their families and in shorter periods of time. "Wrap-around” services (an array of services tailored to the child's needs) and community partnerships will be key elements to the Community Based Care.
Alternative Response is a practice that allows for more than one method of initial response to reports of child abuse and neglect. This approach recognizes variation in the nature of reports and the value of responding differently to different types of cases.
Alternative Response focuses on the safety and well-being of the child. The current model used by CPS allows a screener to review the historical case information associated with a report, contact the reporter and collateral, and determine if the case meets criteria for investigation. If the report does not meet the criteria for investigation then the screener can refer the families to community services (if necessary) and close the report.
Alternative Response is a promising practice as it recognizes that in some cases, other community services may be more appropriate than CPS.