In the state of Texas in 2017, there were 174,740 completed investigations of abuse and neglect and over 63,000 children confirmed victims of child maltreatment, of which almost 50% were under the age of 5. These victims of childhood trauma, or adverse childhood experiences, are also at greater risk of both short- and long-term negative impacts on their brain development, behavior, and health.
To improve the welfare of Texas children, the 85th Legislature passed HB 1549, establishing the Prevention Task Force charged with making recommendations to the Commissioner of the Texas Department for Family and Protective Services (DFPS) for changes to law, policy, and practice focused on:
- the prevention of child abuse and neglect
- the implementation of the directives of HB 1549
- the implementation of the five year strategic plan for the Prevention and Early Intervention (PEI) Division of DFPS.
CFRP Director, demographer and family policy scholar at The University of Texas at Austin, and Associate Dean for Academic Strategies at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, Dr. Cynthia Osborne, was appointed to the Prevention Task Force due to her expertise in child welfare, child development, family strengthening, and program evaluation. Osborne served on the Community Toolkit Subcommittee, which was focused on developing a strategy for PEI to support communities in their collaborative efforts to align around child maltreatment prevention and the promotion of positive outcomes for children.
The Prevention Task Force concluded their work and has now released their final report for the DFPS Commissioner. The report provides a framework and recommendations for moving forward to prevent child abuse and neglect and strengthen Texas families. The Executive Summary is below and the full report can be found at DFPS PEI > Prevention Task Force Report (PDF).
Osborne holds a Ph.D. in Demography and Public Affairs from Princeton University, a Master in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and a Master of Arts in Education from Claremont Graduate University. She is also an appointed member of the National Academies of Sciences Committee to Reduce Child Poverty by Half in Ten Years and the director of the Center for Health and Social Policy at the LBJ School of Public Affairs.
Prevention Task Force Final Report
August 31, 2018
At the conclusion of the 85th Legislative session, Governor Gregg Abbott signed HB 1549 into law. This house bill amended Chapter 40 of the Human Resources Code and codified the establishment of the Prevention Task Force. The Task Force was charged with making recommendations to the DFPS Commissioner for changes to law, policy and practice containing recommendations around:
- The prevention of child abuse and neglect,
- The implementation of the directives of HB 1549, and
- The implementation of the five-year strategic plan for the PEI Division of DFPS developed under Section 265.005, Family Code.
In order to fulfill the statutory requirement of submitting recommendations to the DFPS commissioner, the task force prepared a report that details its activities and provides its findings and recommendations. The report’s recommendations were organized into five strategies for the Commissioner’s consideration to advance DFPS’s prevention efforts in Fiscal Year 2019. The recommended strategies include:
- Developing a prevention framework to guide community readiness and action;
- Exploring the financial potential of the children’s trust fund and other governing structures and financing opportunities for communities to maximize all available resources;
- Developing a community toolkit to empower action at the local level;
- Elevating early brain development and early childhood as the premium opportunity for prevention efforts; and
- Expand prevention programming to align with the data-driven, risk-based growth strategy for prevention.
In order to focus each recommended strategy, the task force members framed the purpose and scope of the subcommittees and elected to join the subcommittee that best aligned with their interests and areas of expertise. The four subcommittees are:
- Developing a Prevention Framework Subcommittee,
- Regional Children’s Trust Fund and Finance Subcommittee,
- Community Toolkit Subcommittee, and
- Elevating Early Brain Development Subcommittee.
The overall recommendation made by the Task Force appeals to the Commissioner for his support for expanded PEI programming based on strategic and data-driven growth and request increased funding for PEI to do so in the 2020-2021 biennium.
Recommendations made by the Developing a Prevention Framework Subcommittee include exploring the development of a functional and accessible technical resource diverse communities can utilize to promote safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments; and expanding the “Texas Continuum of Prevention Services Framework” in PEI’s Strategic Plan by adding a new row(s) outlining the continuum of prevention approaches/strategies utilized in Texas.
Recommendations made by the Regional Children’s Trust Fund and Finance Subcommittee include crafting statutory amendments to create a Statewide Prevention Network in Texas that would focus on creating networks in communities across Texas; develop and finalize agency protocols for establishing, funding and supporting of these networks; and identify up to four communities in Texas that are poised to pilot this model.
Recommendations made by the Community Toolkit Subcommittee include exploring the use of a toolkit aimed at supporting communities in their collaborative efforts to align around child maltreatment prevention and the promotion of positive outcomes for children; identify the top 10 measurable, mid-level indicators for long-term change and develop a drivers of change resource for those indicators; and state agency collaboration and coordination in connecting existing coalitions within a community to reduce duplication of efforts and leverage resources.
Recommendations made by the Elevating Early brain Development Subcommittee include the development of a strategic initiative to assist PEI in addressing early brain development through identifying best practices, promising practices and/or current evidence-based practices in addressing early brain development; defining the measurement of success; outlining the role of local community, medical community, philanthropy, state and federal partners; creating a communication strategy; and using the call to action from the Pediatric Brain Health Summit to provide further guidance in the development of this strategic initiative.
The role of the Prevention and Early Intervention (PEI) division of the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) is to create the infrastructure to apply research, data and our collective expertise to a system of family-strengthening programs and initiatives designed to prevent child abuse and juvenile delinquency and promote positive outcomes for children, youth, families and communities. The Prevention Task Force believes its recommendations will assist the DFPS Commissioner in advancing his prevention efforts in Fiscal Year 2019, strengthening families and making Texas better for the generations to come.