Child Protective Services (CPS) is committed to eliminating disproportionality and disparities in the Texas child welfare system and has been a national leader on this issue since 2004. CPS believes raising the bar for all children in child welfare also helps those disproportionately represented in the system. Our efforts focus on specific practice that is designed to reduce and eventually eliminate disproportionality and disparities, while keeping children safe.
With multiple efforts underway to keep families intact, it is difficult to determine how any single program is contributing to this goal. However, CPS believes that together these efforts will bring us a step closer to the goal. CPS continues to analyze race and ethnicity data in all stages of services and programs and seeks strategies to eliminate disparities.
Kinship care is a key component of addressing and reducing unequal outcomes among children in foster care. “Kinship care” is when relatives or others with a significant relationships care for children who can no longer live with their parents. These caregivers can be family friends, aunts, uncles, or grandparents or other relatives. Kinship placements help keep children safe while keeping them connected to family, community, and culture. CPS has increased the number of children in kinship care relative to paid foster care by offering limited financial assistance and daycare support to kinship caregivers.
One important way CPS supports kinship caregivers is through Family Group Decision Making (FGDM) conferences, which have been used by CPS since 2004. FGDM includes a variety of practices to work with and engage children, youth, and families in safety and service planning and decision making. DFPS uses several of FGDM models such as Family Team Meetings, Family Group Conferences, and Circles of Support. These conferences encourage families to be involved and exercise more control in decisions about their children. FGDM conferences are offered to families at four primary points of case: during investigations, when a child comes into state custody, during Family-Based Safety Services, and when a youth transitions from state custody to adulthood. This has been especially helpful to African American families because FGDM conferences help CPS address disparities on the front and back ends of the child welfare system.
CPS and Texas Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) are working together to adapt and put the Family Finding model in place in Texas. This is a structured approach that involves extensively searching for and engaging caring and supportive adults to support children who are in foster care. The project adapts the Family Finding tools and meetings to support a team-based approach between local CASA programs and CPS staff to identify and engage family and fictive kin. One of CFE’s primary objectives is to increase the number of adults serving as a support system for parents and children involved in CPS cases by searching for and engaging family and those with close relationships to the family. This model is not available everywhere in Texas, but CPS and Texas CASA continue to work together to expand CFE statewide.
Permanency Care Assistance (PCA) is a wonderful opportunity for children and youth to achieve permanency. PCA gives family members long-term financial assistance for children who cannot be adopted or returned to their parents. This is part of a strategic approach to achieve a permanent living arrangement by using:
- Timely kinship notification after removal.
- Diligent searches for relatives.
- Recruitment of kinship caregivers to provide permanent homes.
This strategy focuses on meeting the needs of children in permanent managing conservatorship (custody) 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 has contributed financial assistance to help kinship families with nonrecurring initial expenses needed to become verified as a foster home. In reviewing data in 2011, Casey found that African American children were not benefiting from PCA as much as other children. This helped focus efforts and by 2012 a higher percentages of African American children were getting PCA benefits.
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. 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 child welfare system reform.
In 2011, the committee began partnering with regional disproportionality advisory committees and faith-based communities to organize community adoption forums, sponsored by Casey Family Programs. The goal was to increase adoption of children of color. Forums were held in Abilene, Lubbock, Houston, and Dallas. After each forum, ACPAMC follows up with key stakeholders, including CPS employees, to determine the best way for each community to continue addressing 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 models of service that are effective in engaging fathers. This includes fathers who do not live with 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 is a new way of providing foster care and case management services. It is a community-based approach to meeting the individual and unique needs of children, youth, and families. A single contractor in a geographic area is responsible for finding foster homes or other living arrangements for children in state care and providing them and their families a full continuum of services. 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.
Alternative Response (AR) is an alternative to a traditional child abuse and neglect investigation. It is a flexible response that allows an AR caseworker to engage with families to determine their needs while also addressing safety concerns in the home. The primary focus of the AR caseworker remains on child safety through identifying the family’s support systems, safety plans, out-of-home placements and all other means necessary to ensure child safety. Eligibility for AR is based on factors such as the type and severity of the alleged maltreatment, age of the children involved, and a family’s willingness to participate in the AR process. AR is not for cases involving sexual abuse or requiring an immediate response to protect a child’s safety. Unlike other investigatory approaches, AR does not designate a perpetrator of abuse or neglect. This lets the AR caseworker focus more on the family support system as it relates to the immediate and future safety of the children.