As the Texan legislature convened for this session, our state’s nursing crisis was developing in real time. With reports of child deaths and the safety of others in government custody, many lawmakers and lawyers pointed to this dire reality as an urgent call to invest in preventing child abuse and neglect.
And while there has been much success in this session in ensuring Texas children are protected from the trauma of abuse and neglect, we have not seen the much-needed investment in prevention that could transform the whole system by preventing abuse in the first place .
We celebrate the hard work of partners and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle pushing key laws that saw:
- · Maintain funding for home and community child abuse prevention programs
- · A requirement for the Department of Family Protection Services to update and publish critical child protection data monthly
- · Assisting foster children to improve transition planning into adulthood and remove barriers that prevent adolescents from remaining in extended care
- · Adopted two major health bills that provide six months of Medicaid coverage for new mothers and reduce the likelihood of children being unnecessarily excluded from coverage by the Medicaid CHIP program
- · An increase in funding for the Nurse-Family Partnership and Community Youth Development Development programs
Although investment in prevention services has not increased significantly, funding has been maintained and we have been grateful to be working with partners and allies in the legislature to pass bills to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of child protection services. And in a big step forward, Texas is now in a position to receive federal funding for programs to prevent critical child abuse through the American Rescue Plan Act.
We have much more to do to prevent children from ever stepping into the CPS system and being harmed in government care. We can address the urgent needs of children in government care while investing in prevention that keeps them out of the system. Child abuse can be prevented. But we have to make the investment as a state.
Texans, we have a shared responsibility to protect children and support families. We must continue to advocate investing in prevention strategies that keep families together and keep children out of the CPS system. If we prevent families from ever being placed in foster care, we will avoid massive follow-up costs to our health, education and criminal justice systems. The Center for Disease Control estimates that child abuse costs our state $ 830,000 per survivor and $ 16.6 million for each death caused by child abuse and neglect. In 2019 alone, Texas lost $ 60 billion due to the cost of confirmed child abuse cases.
However, the human cost of abuse is far more alarming. Research shows that negative consequences of child abuse and other negative childhood experiences trigger trauma and affect a child’s biological and emotional development, especially in their earliest years of development. Abuse prevention also ensures that children can achieve academic success and positive life outcomes.
Voluntary prevention programs work. Efforts such as home visits have a proven ROI of $ 1.26 to $ 8.08 per $ spent and have positive effects on child and maternal health, child abuse and neglect, school readiness, and family autonomy by bringing families to support connect in their communities before a crisis than after.
Legislation This session focused on making the CPS system more efficient and effective. However, if we want the system to be suitable for those in greatest need, we need to prioritize investment in prevention programs that get families where they are and empower families before a crisis. Texans, your voice and your advocacy are important to ensure that we achieve this goal.
Phillips is CEO of TexProtects, a non-profit, non-partisan organization focused on preventing child abuse and neglect.
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