The responsibilities of Child Protective Services are to:
- Conduct civil investigations of reports of child abuse and neglect.
- Protect children from abuse and neglect.
- Promote the safety, integrity, and stability of families.
- Provide permanent homes or living arrangements for children who cannot safely remain with their families.
2012 Accomplishments and Initiatives
Child and Family Services Review
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services administers the Child and Family Services Review to measure and improve state child welfare systems. The review monitors how states comply with federal requirements for child protection, foster care, adoption, family preservation and family support, and independent living services. It includes an analysis of statewide data, a statewide assessment, an onsite review, and a program improvement plan. Each review evaluates seven outcomes involving child safety, permanency, and well-being. DFPS has completed two rounds of these reviews.
DFPS completed its last review in March 2008 and received a final federal report in March 2009. DFPS developed a program improvement plan (PIP) that was federally approved and took effect on April 1, 2010. The plan ended on March 31, 2012 after DFPS successfully completed all PIP activities and reached all negotiated data targets for improvement. The plan focused on four themes: (1) strengthening critical decision-making skills, (2) enhancing placement capacity, (3) removing barriers to permanency (finding permanent homes for children), and (4) strengthening practices for family-based safety services.
Foster Care Redesign
DFPS has been working on an initiative to improve outcomes for children and youth living in foster care since January 2010 that reached a milestone in FY 2012. The goal of Foster Care Redesign is to create ongoing, community-based placements that will meet the needs of children and youth in the least restrictive settings. The project has been guided by the Public Private Partnership, which is composed of 26 representatives including foster-youth alumni, the judiciary, providers, trade associations, advocates, and DFPS staff.
The Public Private Partnership heard from many stakeholders, evaluated what other states were doing, and analyzed Texas data, before recommending a new foster care model to the DFPS Commissioner in December 2010. This new model will change how DFPS obtains, contracts, and pays for foster care and other services for children in state care and their families.
DFPS endorsed the recommendations and the 82nd Texas Legislature directed the department to put the new foster care model in place. In August 2011, DFPS issued a request for proposals for the first roll-out of Foster Care Redesign. In June 2012, DFPS tentatively awarded a single source continuum contract (SSCC) to Providence Service Corporation of Texas to serve DFPS Region 2/9. DFPS and Providence were in contract negotiations at the close of FY 2012.
For more information on the Foster Care Redesign model and status of implementation, please visit the Foster Care Redesign webpage.
For more information on the Foster Care Redesign model and status of implementation, please visit the Foster Care Redesign webpage.
Fostering Connections Act
The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 promotes finding permanent homes (permanency) for children and youth. The federal law stresses adoption, care by relatives, and transition services for young adults who have aged out of care.
Texas responded by creating the Permanency Care Assistance (PCA) program. This program give financial help to family members who accept legal responsibility for relative children and youth when going home and adoption are not possible. This gave a new option to youth who would otherwise grow up in foster care. In FY 2012, DFPS transferred legal custody of 534 children to relatives or close family friends who received monthly financial support from PCA.
In FY 2012, DFPS developed a supervised-independent living option for young adults in extended foster care and, to make this possible, issued a request for proposals due August 31, 2012.
Learn more about Fostering Connections is available on the DFPS public website.
In FY 2012, CPS began an initiative called Permanency Roundtables in regions six (Houston) and eight (San Antonio), and plans to expand it statewide in FY 2013. These are internal case consultations that strive to find permanent homes for children outside of foster care. The initial focus has been on children above the age of six who are in the agency’s legal custody and are not living in a home that is intended to become a permanent home. Roundtables bring agency experts together to talk about a child’s permanency goal, explore strategies, and develop an action plan for getting each child out of foster care and into a permanent family.
Another goal is to make systemic changes to help get children into families, such as policy improvements and community involvement. Roundtables also help CPS staff develop clinical skills and learn about permanency and permanency planning. They let staff observe case presentations, learn more about agency policies and practices, and get guidance on permanency planning.
Enhanced Family Centered Safety Decision Making
CPS continued to enhance its family-centered approach in delivering services, usually to families with their children still at home or temporarily staying with relatives. In FY 2012, a grant from the Texas Children’s Justice Act Project allowed CPS to expand training to more staff with a focus on the importance of collecting sufficient information before making decisions about a family. The goal is to help CPS staff make sound safety decisions for children. This multiyear, quality improvement initiative will help staff:
- Better identify when children are safe or unsafe.
- Better understand what family changes must occur to keep children safe and match them with the right services.
- Better understand safety as it relates to permanent homes.
- Build a culture that supports families.
CPS continues to strive to reduce the disproportionate representation of African American and Native American children in the child welfare system through policy, case practice, and as a component of Child Protective Services 18 all CPS initiatives. Disproportionality is considered in all CPS initiative, policies, and practices and many view Texas as a national model in addressing this issue. Since 2004, more than:
- 3,000 youth, community members, staff, providers, and others have participated in Undoing Racism© training;
- 5,000 current CPS staff have participated in the “Knowing Who You Are” racial and ethnic identity development training; and
- 20 town-hall meetings have been conducted across the state, encouraging community feedback and partnerships for improving CPS operations and relationships with the community.
In FY 2012, DFPS continued efforts to reduce disproportionality through collaboration with the Health and Human Services Commission’s Center for Elimination of Disproportionality and Disparities.
effectively engage fathers in the child welfare system. In FY 2012, CPS developed a Fatherhood Toolkit to provide fathers with children in CPS care a roadmap to navigating the CPS system.
CPS started the Fatherhood Initiative in 2009 and dedicated position to help increase permanent living solutions for children in foster care and encourage fathers or the paternal family members to be engaged in their children’s well-being. The initiative includes training and workshops on getting fathers engaged. CPS collaborates with other organizations such as the American Humane Association, Office of the Attorney General, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), Texas Center for the Judiciary, Supreme Court Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth, and Families, National Fatherhood Initiative, National Center for Fathering and the Fathers and Families Coalition.
Investigation and Placement Services
State law requires anyone who believes a child is being abused or neglected to report the situation so that CPS can investigate. Interviewing children, parents, and others who know about the family is an important part of a CPS investigation. These interviews help determine if child abuse or neglect occurred, if the children are safe, and to assess the risk of further harm to children. It is critical to child safety and to families that CPS completes investigations in a timely manner.
If needed, CPS caseworkers may refer families for services in the community, such as individual or family therapy, parenting classes, medical assistance, mental-health services, substance-abuse assessment and treatment facilities, or programs offering financial assistance for utilities, rent, or child care.
When a CPS caseworker is concerned about the continued safety of a child, he or she refers the family for family-based safety services. These services are provided in the home and help make sure children are healthy and safe. If services cannot ensure the child’s safety, CPS may petition the court to remove the child from the parents’ custody and place the child in a relatives care or foster care. For additional information on family-based safety services and foster care, see the sections below.
Family-Based Safety Services
When a child’s safety can be reasonably assured while staying at home, CPS provides in-home services to help stabilize the family and reduce the risk of future abuse or neglect. Family-based safety services (FBSS) Texas Department of Family & Protective Services 19 can help avoid the need to remove children from their homes. They can also make it possible for the children to return home by strengthening the family’s ability to protect their child and reduce threats to their child’s safety. Services include family counseling, crisis intervention, parenting classes, substance abuse treatment, domestic violence intervention, and day care. Most children getting these services continue to live at home while CPS works with their families. In some cases, children may live elsewhere temporarily, usually with relatives or close family friends until it is safe for them to return home.
Family Group Decision Making
Family Group Decision making describes a variety of practices used to work with and engage children, youth, and families in decision making as well as safety and service planning.
- Family Team Meetings are a rapid response to address critical child safety and placement concerns. CPS uses them to ensure child safety in the earliest stages of a case. Family Team Meetings engage the family, community members, and other caregivers to help make critical decisions about child protection, safety, placement, and permanent living arrangements.
- Family Group Conferences join families with relatives, friends, and others to develop a plan to ensure children are safe, cared for, and protected from future harm. This includes private family time to give the family a high degree of decisionmaking authority and responsibility.
- Circles of Support are youth-focused, youth-driven meetings to develop a plan for older youth to transition from substitute care to adulthood and to connect them to caring adults who will support them. For more information on Circles of Support, see "Services for Foster Youth Transitioning out of Care" below.
For more information, see: DFPS Data Book, pages 72-73
When children cannot live safely with their own families, CPS may petition the court to remove them from their homes. They may be placed temporarily with relatives, a foster family, an emergency shelter, or a foster care facility. These caregivers provide children with a safe, nurturing environment. Foster families get a daily reimbursement for the costs of caring for children. CPS and foster parents arrange all educational, medical, dental, and therapeutic services needed by the child. Some children have emotional or other needs that are hard to address in a foster home. Where this is the case, they may live in specialized group homes, residential treatment centers, or other facilities. If parental rights are intact, CPS provides services to the parents until the family is reunited or the courts approve another permanent living arrangement for the children. The court has ongoing oversight while a child is in foster care.
DFPS and the courts must consider temporary placements with relatives when removing children from their homes for their safety. DFPS asks parents to provide contact information for relatives and close family friends who may be able to care for their children. DFPS notifies relatives to explain their options and tell them about the support they can receive from the state to help care for children. Kinship caregivers may also provide permanent homes by adopting or accepting legal responsibility for children. For generations, extended families have helped raise children when Child Protective Services 20 parents are having a difficult time. Kinship care gives children more stability and a connection to family when they cannot live with their birth parents.
When a child cannot safely return home, the court may end the parents’ rights, making the child available for adoption. The number of children adopted from CPS care increased significantly from FY 2005 to FY 2012. One major factor was the number of kinship adoptions, which includes adoptions by relatives and others with significant, longstanding relationships with the children or families. Kinship adoptions in Texas have more than doubled since 2005 and now account for about 40 percent of DFPS adoptions. 5,040 DFPS children were adopted in FY 2012. DFPS approves adoptive homes and also contracts with licensed, private child-placing agencies to increase the number of parents available to adopt children in foster care. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has recognized DFPS for increasing adoptions each year since 1999.
Texas Adoption Resource Exchange
The Texas Adoption Resource Exchange (TARE) website (www.AdoptChildren.org) is an important recruitment tool for prospective foster and adoptive parents who may be interested in opening their homes. Integrated with the “Why Not Me?” campaign, the website’s most prominent feature is its photo-listing of Texas children awaiting adoption. The TARE website also includes children’s profiles and videos that offer a snapshot of their personalities.
The TARE website gives families more information and helps streamline the process of matching families with children. Families can register and create a free profile where they can upload a family photo and save their adoption preferences. Family profiles also include information on whether a family’s home has been screened and approved. After completing their registration and family profile, families can send online inquiries about specific children and see the status of their inquiries each time they log into their family account. Families who are not registered can do basic searches and learn how to become a foster or adoptive home.
TARE also offers a toll-free, nationwide Adoption and Foster Care Inquiry Line (1-800-233-3405). The information from these calls is forwarded to local CPS staff to follow up with prospective families. More information on Foster Care and Adoption is available on the TARE website at www.adoptchildren.org.
Adoption Support Services
Adopted children who have suffered abuse or neglect often need help coping with these experiences and the loss of their birth families. CPS contracts with private agencies to provide post-adoption services to adopted children and their families. Some of these services include case management, counseling, crisis intervention, parent training, and support groups.
Circles of Support
Circles of Support is a process to support and help youth, age 16 and older, to develop a plan for when they become young adults and leave state care. It is based on the Family Group Decision Making philosophy, so that youth drive the process (see pages 19). Circles of Support include broad participation by the Texas Department of Family & Protective Services 21 youth’s support network, which often involves foster or kinship caregivers, teachers, siblings, pastors, and other relatives. These meetings are required for youth 16 and older, although they may begin as early as 14 years of age. 2,845 Circles of Support were conducted in FY 2012.
Health Care Benefits
Texas provides health care to youth who age out of foster care up to the month of their 21st birthday. These youth get health-care benefits through STAR Health, which is a form of Medicaid. Youth can continue to receive health care benefits up to age 23 in some circumstances but must be enrolled in an institution of higher education. STAR Health includes a medical home for each child, coordination and management of services, 24-hour nursing and behavioral-health help lines, and monitoring of psychotropic medication.
Youth Transitioning to DADS Guardianship
When a youth aging out of DFPS care needs longterm care or support as an adult because of an incapacitating disability, the department refers that youth to the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) for guardianship services. This process begins when a youth turns age 17. If a court appoints DADS as guardian, DADS assumes the main responsibility for the youth when the youth turns 18 or when the court makes its ruling. DFPS may continue to provide foster care for young adults even if they receive DADS guardianship services.
Preparation for Adult Living
The Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) program helps youth in foster care make the transition to adulthood more successfully. PAL services include independent-living assessments, financial help for a limited time, and training in such areas as financial management, job skills, educational planning, and interpersonal skills. A statewide Youth Leadership Council meets quarterly to review policies and practices. The council submits recommendations to DFPS to improve services for children and youth.
CPS provides seminars to youth ages 15½ to 18 in two separate tracks before they leave foster care. The seminars include topics that youth identify to reinforce their knowledge and skills about DFPS programs and services, benefits, and resources. The seminars build on information from PAL Life-Skills Training Classes and are presented in a fun and experiential way.
Statewide Youth Leadership Council
A statewide Youth Leadership Council meets quarterly to review policies and practices. The council submits recommendations to DFPS to improve services for children and youth. Two youth, ages 14-21 from regional youth leadership councils, represent their regions at the council meetings.
Extended Foster Care
Most foster youth leave state care after their 18th birthday. But youth can stay in extended-foster care through age 21 or 22, depending on their circumstances, while they pursue a high school diploma or GED. They can also remain in extended foster care:
- To attend college or a vocational or technical training program.
- To participate in a program or activity to help them get a job.
- To work at least 80 hours a month.
- If they can't perform the activities above due to a documented medical condition.
Prior to FY 2011, the program was funded by the state. Thanks to legislation passed by the 81st Texas Legislature, the program was expanded and qualified for federal funding on October 1, 2010.
Return for Extended Foster Care
Young adults ages 18 to 20 who have aged out of DFPS care may return for extended foster care:
- To attend high school or complete a GED course (up to age 22).
- To attend college or a vocational or technical training program.
- To participate in a program or activity to help them get a job
- To work at least 80 hours a month.
- If they can’t perform the activities above due to a documented-medical condition.
Education and Training Vouchers
The Education and Training Voucher (ETV) program provides financial assistance to eligible youth before and after they leave CPS care to help them with college expenses such as rent, computers, day care, and transportation. Youth who receive Permanency Care Assistance after age 16 are also eligible for this program. The program supplements the state’s Preparation for Adult Living program, as well as a tuition and fee waiver at state-supported universities, colleges, junior colleges, and vocational schools. The ETV program served 905 youth in academic year 2011-2012.
State College Tuition and Fee Waiver
Since 1993, former foster youth and certain adopted youth have been exempt from paying tuition and most fees at state-funded colleges, community colleges, universities, and vocational schools in Texas. Later, the law was amended to extend this benefit to all youth adopted from DFPS or those whose permanent managing conservator (legal responsibility) is not their parent. The program has grown significantly since 73 students received waivers in the program’s first year. According to the latest data from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, 3,608 former foster and 637 adopted youth used the waiver in academic year 2010-2011.
Transition centers are clearinghouses for many DFPS partner agencies to serve youth (ages 15½ to 25) who are preparing to age out or have already aged out of foster care. These centers are separately funded, privately operated, and supported by partnerships between DFPS, their providers, and the Texas Workforce Commission. The centers provide PAL services, employment readiness, job search classes and assistance, and mentoring. Partner agencies provide other services including substance abuse counseling, housing assistance, and leadership development trainings and activities. The number of transition centers across the state increased from 14 to 16 in FY 2012. Centers are located in Abilene, Austin, Beaumont, Central Texas (Belton, Killeen, and Temple), Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston, Kerrville, Longview, Lubbock, McAllen, San Angelo, San Antonio, and Tyler. More information is available at www.TexasYouthConnection.org.
National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD)
TThe National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD) is a data collection system created by the federal Administration for Children and Families to track independent living services and to learn how successfully states prepare youth to move from state care into adulthood. Texas surveys youth when they reach age 17 and then surveys a random selection of those youth again at age 19 and 21. DFPS surveys a new group of 17 year olds every third year.
In FY 2012, Texas collected data on services and basic demographic information. In FY 2013, Texas will not only collect data on services and basic demographics, but will also survey a random group of 19 year old youth who were surveyed as 17-year olds in FY 2011. DFPS redesigned www.TexasYouthConnection.org and added a secure online survey in FY 2010 to collect this data. In FY 2011, Texas collected data for Texas Department of Family & Protective Services 23 NYTD Period A from October 1, 2010 to March 31, 2011 and NYTD Period B from April 1, 2011 to September 30, 2011. DFPS will continue to collect data in future years.
Texas Youth Connection
The Texas Youth Connection website is a resource for youth in the Texas foster care, alumni of foster care, or other youth seeking general tips and information. This website was designed with input from youth and offers information and resources for education, finances, personal records, diversity, health, employment opportunities, food, housing, books, stories, hotlines, contacts and other information. More information is available at www.TexasYouthConnection.org.
DFPS launched the Texas Youth Connection Facebook page on August 21, 2012 as another way for DFPS to share important information to the youth, young adults, providers, and staff. Some of the postings include information about voting, bullying, scholarship information, accessing health care, transition centers, and employment.
Texas Youth Hotline
The Texas Youth Hotline serves youth under 21 years of age, including those who have aged out of the foster care system. Youth may contact the statewide hotline at 1-800-989-6884 for crisis counseling, information, and referrals. The hotline can help young adults locate services available in their communities.
Working with Partners
Foster Parents and Child Placing Agencies
Thousands of children are in the legal custody (conservatorship) of DFPS due to being victims of abuse and neglect. Foster parents and private child-placing agencies help DFPS support these children through collaborative partnerships. DFPS supports foster and adoptive parents by providing federal funds to the statewide Texas Council on Adoptable Children and the Texas Foster Family Association. DFPS also provides federal funds to local foster parent associations. These funds help in the education, training, and retention of foster and adoptive parents so they can better meet the needs of children.
DFPS collaborates daily with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to oversee and coordinate healthcare services for children in foster care. This is done through the Medicaid managed care plan called STAR Health. STAR Health provides service coordination for each child and service management for children with more serious health and behavioral health needs. It also provides oversight and review of psychotropic medications, an electronic-health passport, nurse and behavioral health hotlines, and liaisons co-housed with CPS staff.
Child Welfare Boards
While the State of Texas administers Child Protective Services, many counties provide some funding for foster children’s needs. There are child welfare boards in more than 200 of the 254 counties in Texas that provide significant support to enhance care and services for foster children and their families.
CPS works with the Texas Council of Child Welfare Boards (TCCWB), a statewide network of more than 2,000 volunteers appointed by county commissioners’ courts, to develop resources, programs, and strategies to enhance services for vulnerable children and families. Leaders of regional councils meet with CPS twice a year for educational programs and to share information and strategies that promote the safety and wellbeing of children. During FY 2012, TCCWB worked on a new website in order to centralize resources that local boards can use to advocate for children and families in their communities.
Giving Texas Children Promise
Children across Texas get help from three, innovative, community-partners programs developed by Giving Texas Children Promise (GTCP). These programs are Rainbow Rooms, the Adopt-a-Caseworker Program, and the Purchasing Partnership Program.
Rainbow rooms are emergency resource centers to help meet the critical needs of abused and neglected children. Rainbow rooms provide car seats, clothing, shoes, underwear, baby formula, school supplies, and safety and hygiene items to children entering foster or relative care as well as children in FBSS cases who are living in poverty with their parents.
- The Adopt-a-Caseworker Program connects CPS caseworkers with individuals, churches, businesses, and organizations who help meet the needs of the children involved with CPS
- The Purchasing Partnerships Program obtains drastically reduced prices on many essential items stocked in rainbow rooms across Texas.
There were 192 rainbow rooms and 1,220 adopted caseworkers across Texas in FY 2012. Community partners also worked together to leverage more than $5 million, providing support for approximately 60,000 DFPS children and families.
Texas Supreme Court
Once children are removed from their homes, courts play a critical role in determining their future and make the final decisions on what happens to them. No child enters or leaves foster care without a court order. A judge decides where the child will live and for how long. Every day, Texas courts decide whether a child goes home or to live with a relative, visits a sibling, or becomes eligible for adoption.
In November 2007, the Texas Supreme Court created the Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth, and Families (Children’s Commission) to improve child protection courts and seek better outcomes for children and families involved in the Child Welfare System. Commission membership includes judges, elected officials, attorneys, and staff from DFPS and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, and other organizations.
In October 2010, the Children’s Commission’s Education Committee identified guiding principles for improving the education outcomes for children and youth in foster care. These principles served as the blueprint for the commission’s subcommittees and workgroups as they developed recommendations that were combined into the final report titled, “The Texas Blueprint: Transforming Education Outcomes for Children & Youth In Foster Care.” This report was finalized on March 31, 2012 and presented to the Texas Supreme Court in May 2012. Topics include:
- Education stability for children and youth in foster care.
- Barriers and challenges that prevent children and youth from being successful in school.
- Ensuring youth in foster care take advantage of opportunities for education and training.
Parent Collaboration Group
The statewide Parent Collaboration Group (PCG) is a partnership between DFPS and parents who have been in the CPS system and succeed. The group is made up of regional-parent representatives who meet quarterly to help CPS improve its policies and practices. The goals of the PCG are to:
- Identify gaps in services for families and children.
- Identify services that are working and should continue.
- Identify ways parents can improve a caseworker’s skills in relating to parents.
Since its creation in FY 2002, the group has developed parent-support groups in each CPS region. These support groups help parents learn about the CPS process and navigate the Child Welfare System. In FY 2012, parent liaisons participated in the following conferences: Implicit Bias Conference, Fatherhood Conference, Psychoactive Medications Round Table, Keynote Address at the Center for Family Strengths Symposium, Parent Attorney Leadership Conference, and the Texas Permanency Summit.