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.
2013 Accomplishments and Program Enhancements
In FY 2013, CPS focused on expanding assistance for families, providing more access to services through public-private partnerships, promoting better outcomes for children in foster care, and delivering additional support for relative caregivers. CPS also advanced efforts to improve permanency for children, increase positive outcomes in domestic violence cases, and prepare youth for adulthood.
Promoting Better Outcomes for Children in Foster Care
Foster Care Redesign
DFPS has been working on a public-private partnership to improve outcomes for children and youth living in foster care since January 2010. In FY 2013, those efforts reached a major milestone when children and youth entering foster care from DFPS Regions 2 and 9 were the first served by the Foster Care Redesign system. Providence Services Corporation of Texas is responsible for finding foster homes or other living arrangements for all children in paid foster care from this area of the state and for getting them the services they need. CPS retains case management and makes the ultimate decisions on placements. Children and youth already in foster care will transition into the new system over time to avoid disrupting their lives. Regions 2 and 9 cover 60 counties and include the communities of Wichita Falls, Abilene, San Angelo, Brownwood, and Midland/Odessa. Also in FY 2013, DFPS posted a request for proposals (RFP) for the first metropolitan area for Foster Care Redesign in the southwestern part of DFPS Region 3. This metropolitan area includes seven counties: Erath, Hood, Johnson, Palo Pinto, Parker, Somervell and Tarrant.
Foster Care Redesign changes how DFPS obtains, contracts, and pays for foster care and other services for children in state care and their families. The goal of Foster Care Redesign is to create ongoing, community-based placements that meet the needs of children and youth in the least restrictive settings. The public-private partnership of foster youth alumni, the judiciary, providers, advocates, and DFPS staff has guided this project.
More information about Foster Care Redesign is available on the Foster Care Redesign webpage.
Expanding Support for Families
In FY 2013, DFPS ramped up development of a new investigation practice called Alternative Response that changes the way CPS responds to certain allegations of abuse and neglect. This practice allows for a more flexible, family engaging approach while still focusing on the safety of the children. In 2013, the Texas Legislature approved statutory changes and funded technology to give DFPS the ability to develop the Alternative Response system in Texas.
An alternative response involves assessing the needs of families, including the safety of children, and providing services and supports for less serious cases of abuse and neglect involving older children. Unlike a traditional CPS investigation there will be no formal finding of whether abuse or neglect occurred and family engagement will be a less adversarial, more collaborative approach. Studies from states that use Alternative Response show that child safety is not compromised and that families felt more engaged and involved with decisions about their children. Caseworkers report families on the alternative track were more cooperative and willing to accept services. Initial implementation of Alternative Response begins in September 2014. Statewide implementation will be complete in two to three years.
Increasing Access to Services with Public-Private Partnerships
CPS recognizes that partnership with community and faith-based agencies is integral to protecting children and expanding services to children and families even after CPS is no longer involved. In FY 2013, CPS substantially increased efforts to collaborate with faith communities and their leaders statewide. Seventy-seven churches are involved with CPS faith-based efforts and that number is expected to grow.
A new focus has been placed on empowering churches to develop community ministries to provide new or enhanced support services to children and families. Each church involved can offer any service or combination of services that range from prevention (i.e. substance abuse programs, financial assistance, transportation, parenting classes) to permanency (i.e. foster care and adoption, support groups, transitional living programs). CPS provides support and technical assistance to the church, such as supplying data, attending meetings, answering questions, providing subject matter expertise, and other support.
Promoting and Supporting Relative Caregivers
Permanency Care Assistance
The Federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 promotes finding permanent homes for children and youth. The federal law stresses adoption, care by relatives, and transition services for young adults who have aged out of care. In response, Texas created the Permanency Care Assistance (PCA) program, which achieved significant success in FY 2013 in finding permanent families for children who would otherwise grow up in foster care.
PCA offers financial help to family members who accept legal responsibility for relative children and youth when going home and adoption are not possible. In order to qualify for the program, kinship caregivers must, among other requirements, become verified as foster parents, care for the child as foster parents for at least six months, enter a PCA agreement, and obtain legal custody through the courts.
In May 2013, the program crossed the milestone of 1,000 children who have found permanent families through PCA since it began on October 2010. That number grew to 1,318 children by the end of the fiscal year.
Finding Permanency for Children
CPS began Permanency Roundtables in Regions 6 (Houston) and 8 (San Antonio) in FY 2012, providing internal case consultations to find permanent homes for children in DFPS legal custody. In FY 2013, CPS focused on expanding Permanency Roundtables, completing 731 statewide as of July 2013.
Roundtables bring together agency experts to discuss a child's permanency goal, explore strategies, and develop an action plan for getting each child into a permanent family. Another goal is to make systemic changes, such as policy improvements and community involvement, to help get children into families. Ten percent of children exited DFPS custody into a permanent home within a year of a permanency roundtable. Forty-eight percent of those who did not exit had some other type of improved permanency outcome by: (1) moving into a placement intended to be permanent; (2) achieving a higher permanency status; or (3) making new connections with family or supportive adults.
Improving Outcomes on Domestic Violence Cases
Domestic Violence Multi-Disciplinary Task Force
In 2011, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill (SB) 434 to create a domestic violence multi-disciplinary task force to improve collaboration between CPS and providers who assist victims of domestic violence. The task force's charge was to: (1) assess best practices for cases involving domestic violence and child abuse/neglect; (2) review policies and practices for the domestic violence and CPS systems; and (3) recommend ways to enhance the CPS and domestic violence service provider systems.
As a result, CPS and stakeholders reviewed policy and practice and created the FBSS Domestic Violence Unit in Bexar County in FY 2013. The unit handles FBSS cases that have both child abuse and neglect and domestic violence. The goal is to keep children safe by holding the batterer accountable for domestic violence and helping the adult victim stay safe. CPS and stakeholders also developed specialized cross-training for CPS staff and domestic violence providers to support the work of the unit.
In the future, CPS will evaluate the outcomes of the Domestic Violence Unit in terms of enhanced safety for children, adult domestic violence victims, and CPS caseworkers. CPS will also look to enhance its domestic violence work in all stages of service statewide.
Preparing Youth for Adulthood
Supervised Independent Living
DFPS created a Supervised Independent Living (SIL) program, a voluntary Extended Foster Care placement for young adults to live in a less restrictive, non-traditional living arrangement while receiving casework and support to become independent and self-sufficient. SIL placements began on May 1, 2013, and 17 young adults were participating in the program as of August 31, 2013. More information is available in the "Youth Transitioning out of Care" section of this report.
CPS Services to Keep Children Safe
Investigations of Child Abuse and Neglect Reports
State law requires anyone who believes a child is being abused or neglected to report the situation so 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 abuse or neglect occurred, if children are safe, and assess the risk of further harm. If needed, CPS caseworkers may refer families for services 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 CPS caseworkers are concerned about the continued safety of a child, they refer the family for family-based safety services, which are provided in the home and help make sure children are healthy and safe. If these services cannot ensure the child's safety, CPS may ask the court to remove the child from the parents' custody and place the child in a relative’s care or foster care.
For more information on CPS investigations and investigation process, see: DFPS Data Book, page 27, example flow chart and pages 37-46,and 138-173.
Family-Based Safety Services
When a child's safety can be reasonably assured with the parents retaining legal custody, CPS provides in-home services to help stabilize the family and reduce the risk of future abuse or neglect. Family-Based Safety Services (FBSS) 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 the child's safety.
FBSS Services include family counseling, crisis intervention, parenting classes, substance abuse treatment, domestic violence intervention, and day care. Most children getting these services 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 various practices 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. These meetings help families, community members, and other caregivers make critical decisions about child protection, safety, placement, and permanent living arrangements.
- Family Group Conferences bring families together with relatives, friends, and others to develop a plan to ensure children are safe, cared for, and protected from future harm. This includes private time to give the family a high degree of decision-making 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 "Youth Transitioning out of Care" below.
For more information, see: DFPS Data Book, pages 69-70.
Finding Care for Children
Before removing a child from the home, CPS explores every reasonable alternative for keeping the child safe from abuse and neglect. Removing the child occurs only when there is no other reasonable way to protect the child from abuse or neglect in the immediate or short-term future. When children cannot live safely with their own families, CPS may ask the court to remove them from their homes and place them temporarily with relatives, a foster family, an emergency shelter, or a foster care facility.
When removing a child from a home for safety reasons, CPS and the courts must consider temporary placements with relatives and other people who have a significant relationship with the child or child's family. CPS asks parents to provide contact information for relatives and close family friends who may be able to care for their children. CPS notifies relatives and explains their options and the state support available to help them care for the child. Kinship caregivers may also provide permanent homes by adopting or accepting legal responsibility for children. Kinship care gives children more stability and a connection to family when they cannot live with their birth parents.
If kinship care is not an option, children may be placed in foster care. 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 the child needs. Some children who have emotional or other needs that are difficult to address in a foster home 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.
Permanency means a child leaves DFPS care to live in an appropriate, permanent setting. Planning for permanency begins when CPS removes a child from the home and does not end until a child leaves DFPS legal custody, preferably for a permanent family setting.
Family reunification is the primary permanency goal for every child in state care (foster care, kinship care, etc.), except when a court decides that is not an option. CPS provides reunification services to families immediately before and after a child returns home from state care.
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 2013. 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. In FY 2013, 5,364 DFPS children were adopted. 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 Texas Adoption Resource Exchange (TARE) website (www.AdoptChildren.org) is an important tool for recruiting people who may be interested in fostering or adopting. The website's most prominent feature is a photo-listing of Texas children awaiting adoption as well as profiles and videos that give a snapshot of their personalities. TARE also offers a toll-free, nationwide Adoption and Foster Care Inquiry Line (800) 233-3405. The information from these calls is forwarded to local CPS staff to follow up.
CPS also assists adopted children to overcome the abuse or neglect they suffered. These children 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, such as case management, counseling, crisis intervention, parent training, and support groups.
Youth Transitioning Out of Care
CPS is unable to find someone to take permanent custody of a child in some cases. These youth generally stay in DFPS legal custody (conservatorship) until they become a legal adult at age 18. Nonetheless, CPS works to connect these youth with caring adults who have a permanent commitment to the youth and can provide support. Moreover, these youth may stay in foster care until the age of 21 while pursuing an education or employment. CPS provides a variety of services to help these youth learn to live successfully on their own.
Health Care Benefits
Texas provides healthcare to children in foster care and youth who age out of care up to the month of their 21st birthday. These youth get health care through STAR Health, 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 helplines, and monitoring of psychotropic medication. For more information on STAR Health, see the "Working with Partners" section of this report.
When a youth aging out of DFPS care needs long-term care or support as an adult because they are unable to care for themselves because of a medical, mental, or physical condition, DFPS refers the youth to the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) for guardianship services. This process begins when a youth turns 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.
Preparing Youth for Adulthood
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, and recommends ways 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.
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 Preparation for Adult Living 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. There are centers around the state. More information is available at www.TexasYouthConnection.org.
The Texas Youth Connection website is a resource for youth in 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. The Texas Youth Connection Facebook page is another way that CPS shares important information with youth, young adults, and providers.
The Texas Youth Hotline serves youth younger than 21 years of age, including those who have aged out of the foster care system. The statewide hotline, (800) 989-6884, provides crisis counseling, information, and referrals for youth, including assistance in finding local services in their communities.
Extending Foster Care
Most foster youth leave state care after their 18th birthday but they 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.
Young adults ages 18 to 20 who have aged out of DFPS care may return to 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.
Supervised independent living (SIL) is where young adults live in a less restrictive, non-traditional living arrangement while continuing to receive casework and support service to help them become independent and self-sufficient. SIL is available for a young adult who is:
- Turning 18 while in DFPS care and approved for extended foster care.
- Already approved and participating in extended foster care.
- Returning for extended foster care from trial independence or afterwards.
Young adults have more responsibilities with minimal supervision in supervised independent living. They manage their own finances, buy groceries and personal items, and work with a landlord. They receive assistance with the transition to independent living, identifying education and employment goals, accessing community resources, life skills training, and establishing relationships.
Education and Training Opportunities
The Education and Training Voucher (ETV) program gives 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. ETV 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.
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. The law was later amended to extend this benefit to all youth adopted from DFPS or those whose permanent managing conservator (legal responsibility) is not their parent.
In FY 2013, CPS continued efforts to reduce disproportionality in collaboration with the Health and Human Services Commission’s Center for Elimination of Disproportionality and Disparities. CPS is working to reduce the disproportionate representation of African-American and Native-American children in the child welfare system. Disproportionality is considered in all CPS initiatives, policies and practices. Since 2004, thousands of youth, community members, staff, providers, and others have participated in training on the issue.
Although the removal rate for African Americans remains higher than other races and ethnicities, CPS is closing the gap. In 2006, the removal rate for African-American children investigated for abuse and neglect was 7.6 percent compared with an Anglo and Hispanic rate of 6.1 percent. By 2012, the African-American removal rate declined to 6.6 percent, while the Anglo and Hispanic rate remained about the same. CPS has reduced the gap in reunifications. In 2006, the reunification rate for African-American children was 8 percent lower than for Anglos and 11 percent lower than for Hispanics. In 2012, the reunification rate for African-American children was 5 percent lower than Anglos and 9 percent lower than Hispanics.
CPS started the Fatherhood Initiative in 2009 to increase permanent living solutions for children in foster care and encourage fathers or paternal family members to get involved in their children's well-being. In FY 2013, the CPS Fatherhood Initiative broadened its impact by working with the Healthy Texas Baby Initiatives to reduce the rate of infant mortality. The Fatherhood Initiative also participated in the Preconception Peer Educator (PPE) Program Planning Committee as well as the Fatherhood Committee, which developed a survey for physicians to gauge their needs related to father involvement shortly before and after birth. In addition, the initiative took part in the creation of a video highlighting the need and value of fathers from pre-conception to birth which demonstrates the importance of improving outcomes for families and children.
Child and Family Services Review
The Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) Accountability Division conducts structured case reviews using a federal review instrument. In FY 2013, the accountability team reviewed 360 Conservatorship and 360 family Based Safety Services cases. Debriefings were done to share findings and discuss strengths and areas needing improvement. This feedback helps in developing best practices, which improve outcomes for children. It is a learning opportunity that staff say they find helpful.
DFPS recognizes that addressing the long-term trauma caused by child abuse and neglect is as an important component of effective services. Children, families, caregivers, and the staff who serve them experience the effects of trauma. CPS has chartered a multi-disciplinary workgroup to further develop the Texas Child Welfare System into one that recognizes and responds to the impact of trauma on those in the system. The goal is to have a system that accounts for the child's (and family's) story and the developmental level, and one that use an evidence-based approach to policies, training, leadership, and service practice. The ultimate goal is to improve the outcomes for the children, youth, and families that DFPS serves.
Working with Partners
Foster Parents and Child-Placing Agencies
Thousands of children are in the legal custody (conservatorship) of DFPS because 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 for education, training, and retention of foster and adoptive parents so they can better meet the needs of children.
DFPS collaborates with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to oversee and coordinate healthcare for children in foster care. STAR Health, a Medicaid managed care plan, provides service coordination for each child and service management for children with more serious health and behavioral health needs. It also oversees and reviews psychotropic medications, and provides an electronic health passport, nurse and behavioral health hotlines, and liaisons who are co-housed with CPS staff.
Superior Health Plan operates the provider network. CPS well-being specialists are experts on the STAR Health program and serve as the primary link between Superior Health Plan Network and CPS staff.
Committee for Advancing Residential Practices
The Committee for Advancing Residential Practices is a stakeholder group dedicated to improving practices in residential and foster care. Residential child care contractors, associations, and DFPS representatives meet quarterly to strengthen our partnership, improve communication, and work to improve the safety, permanency and well-being for children.
Child Welfare Boards
Many counties provide additional resources to help Child Protective Services meet the needs of children in state care. There are child welfare boards, appointed by local commissioner's courts, in more than 200 Texas counties that. These boards provide significant support to enhance care and services for foster children and their families and help with child abuse prevention efforts in their communities.
CPS works with the Texas Council of Child Welfare Boards (TCCWB) to develop resources, programs, and strategies to improve services for vulnerable children and families. Members advocate at the local, state and national level for children who otherwise might have no voice. TCCWB volunteers create, promote, and support events such as Child Protection Day at the Capitol and “Go Blue Day to raise awareness about child abuse prevention.
Giving Texas Children Promise
Children across Texas receive 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 help meet the critical needs of abused and neglected children. These resource rooms supply 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 receiving CPS services at home.
- The Adopt-a-Caseworker Program connects CPS caseworkers with individuals, churches, businesses, and organizations to help meet needs of children involved with CPS. Groups have also furnished items such as birthday presents, prom dresses, household goods, and groceries.
- The Purchasing Partnerships Program obtains drastically reduced prices on many essential items stocked in Rainbow Rooms across Texas. In FY 2013, this program delivered 318 new car seats, 3,493 boxes of lice treatment and bedding spray, 1,000 blankets, and 250 port-a-cribs at no cost to local sites.
There were 192 rainbow rooms and 1,200 adopted caseworkers across Texas in FY 2013. Community partners also worked together to leverage more than $5 million, providing support for approximately 60,000 DFPS children and families.
The Texas Supreme Court's Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth, and Families published "The Texas Blueprint: Transforming Education Outcomes for Children and Youth in Foster Care", which included more than 100 recommendations. It was the result of an 18-month collaboration with state agencies, school districts, courts, and external and community stakeholders. Many of the recommendations were supported by stakeholders and resulted in laws designed to improve educational outcomes.
The goals listed in the report are to strengthen education stability and improve education outcomes for some 15,000 school-aged children and youth in DFPS legal custody by:
- Reducing the number of times children move to a new school.
- Reducing disciplinary action against children and youth in DFPS custody.
- Help more children and youth in DFPS legal custody advance to the next grade.
DFPS must also establish and maintain education portfolios for every school-age child and youth in DFPS legal custody. The portfolio contains school-related documentation for school enrollment and educational and ancillary services to ensure student success.
Parent Collaboration Group
The statewide Parent Collaboration Group (PCG) is a partnership between DFPS and parents who have been in the CPS system and succeeded. The group includes regional parent-representatives who meet quarterly to help CPS improve its policies and practices.
The goals are to identify:
- Gaps in services for families and children.
- Services that are working and should continue.
- Ways parents can improve a caseworker’s skills in relating to parents.
The group has developed parent-support groups in all CPS regions since its formation in 2002. These support groups help parents learn about the CPS process and navigate the Child Welfare System.