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.
Child Protective Services (CPS) has been working to reduce disproportionality and disparities in the child welfare system since 2004, when it began collecting data to measure and 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. Hispanic children are not overrepresented, but they 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 CPS removing children from their homes and enforcement actions. It has also reviewed policies and procedures in each child protection region, and developed plans to remedy disparities. To help with this effort, Child Protective Services:
- Provides support to local disproportionality advisory committees across the state.
- Collaborates with parents, youth, community partners, stakeholders, and faith-based organizations.
- Focuses 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. See the Permanency Care Assistance program.
- Increased focus on kinship caregivers (extended family and friends).
- Increased emphasis on development of the cultural responsiveness of staff and stakeholders.
CPS continues to enhance efforts to move children from foster care to permanent homes. This includes recruiting foster and adoptive families for specific children and diligently searching for absent or unidentified parents and kinship caregivers. State law and the commitment CPS and its partners ensures these efforts will continue and CPS continues incorporate the lessons it learns into its casework.
Knowing Who You Are Training
CPS has been training staff, developing leadership, and evaluating and adjusting its policies to address disproportionality since 2004. Thousands of managers and supervisors have participated in training. Efforts to increase the cultural responsiveness of front line CPS staff and as external partners has been equally important.
In 2006, CPS partnered with Casey Family Programs and started training CPS staff with a course called "Knowing Who You Are…Helping Kids in Care Develop their Racial and Ethnic Identity". All CPS caseworkers take this curriculum as a part of their basic training. Casey created another version of this training to help CPS managers and supervisors develop skills to address disproportionality in their daily work.
External partners who have had this training include representatives of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), school districts, community-based care personnel, and Texas Health and Human Services.
The Department of Family and Protective Services is aware of the need for greater exposure to cultures through training. Therefore DFPS procured and developed courses on 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. These simulations are designed to increase staff’s understanding of impoverished families. This is important because of findings that race and poverty are interconnected. For more information on poverty simulations, contact Tanya Rollins at Tanya.Rollins@dfps.state.tx.us