For eight years, Child Protective Services (CPS) has been working to reduce disproportionality and disparities in the child welfare system. Disproportionality is the overrepresentation of a group of people in a program or system. Disparities are the unequal or different treatment or services provided to one group as compared to another group.
CPS began this effort in 2004 by gathering data to measure and help CPS understand the extent of the issue. CPS discovered that African American and Native American children in Texas are disproportionately overrepresented in the child welfare system, as they are in all 50 states. While Hispanic children are not overrepresented at the state level, they do experience disparities at different points in the child welfare system.
Texas is a leader in efforts to eliminate disparities in its child welfare system. Senate Bill 6 of the 79th Legislature and Senate Bill 758 of the 80th Legislature laid the foundations and directions for addressing these disparities. Texas has analyzed data related to removals and other enforcement actions, reviewed policies and procedures in each child protection region, and developed plans to remedy disparities. To assist this effort, Child Protective Services:
- Created a number of disproportionality specialist positions.
- Provides support to local Disproportionality Advisory Committees in every region of the state.
- Enhanced leadership development and training for management and service delivery staff.
- Developed collaborative relationships with community partners, stakeholders, parents, and youth.
- Increased staff diversity.
- Focused on family strengths and finding permanent homes for children and youth who might otherwise grow up in foster care without a caring adult in their lives (Permanency Care Assistance program).
CPS continues to enhance efforts to move children out of foster care and into permanent homes. This includes targeted recruitment of foster and adoptive families and diligent searches for absent or unidentified parents and kinship caregivers. DFPS' "Why Not Me?" campaign (aimed at adopting older children) helped DFPS dramatically increase adoptions from state care from 2006-2010.
State legislation, combined with the commitment of the agency and its partners in the community, ensures that these efforts will continue.
Knowing Who You Are Training
Since 2004, CPS has been active in leadership development, training staff, and evaluating and adjusting its policies to address disproportionality. While thousands of managers and supervisors have participated in training, an equally crucial part of reducing disproportionality was increasing the cultural competence of front line staff. In 2006, CPS partnered with Casey Family Programs and started training caseworkers with Casey's "Knowing Who You Are…Helping Kids in Care Develop Their Racial and Ethnic Identity". To date, more than 5,000 CPS staff have taken the "Knowing Who You Are" training and it is a requirement during basic training for all new CPS caseworkers.
The feedback was so positive that the training was adapted for other staff and is now required for all of the agency's direct-delivery staff, including those in Adult Protective Services and Child Care Licensing. A new version of "Knowing Who You Are" for supervisors and managers was also implemented that provides skills to address disproportionality in day-to-day practice.
These efforts continue and, in fact, are expanding beyond DFPS to other partners such as Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) and the CPS judiciary.
CPS is aware that there is a need for greater exposure to cultures through training. This awareness has led to CPS collaborating with DFPS Center for Learning and Organizational Excellence (CLOE) to procure and develop courses in working with African American and Latino families as well as a course on working with impoverished families. In FY 2013, CPS began conducting poverty simulations for staff and external stakeholders. The simulations are designed to increase staff’s understanding of impoverished families. These trainings incorporate the finding that suggests a better understanding of the intersection of race and poverty are needed.
However, in order to significantly reduce disproportionality and disparities in outcomes, CPS needs to further embed the lessons it has learned into casework practice. CPS has placed an emphasis on analyzing not only the numbers and the causes of the disproportionality but in analyzing the internal processes associated with disparities.