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TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF FAMILY AND PROTECTIVE SERVICES REPORTS IMPROVEMENTS

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With over seven million children in Texas, the safety net
that exists to protect children and help them reach their
greatest potential begins at home and includes family,
neighbors, schools and communities. The Department
of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), in partnership
with law enforcement, the medical community, service
providers and communities, is committed to providing
a complete continuum of prevention and intervention
programs that address child maltreatment. Specifically,
through analyzing and addressing trends in child abuse
and neglect fatalities, DFPS continually improves policy
and practices surrounding investigations, interventions,
and services provided to children, youth, and families to
address child safety.
This work also contributes to partnerships between
DFPS and the community to proactively address child
safety and well-being through prevention efforts before
families are in crisis. Most significantly, the number of
child fatalities decreased by 22.5 percent in FY 2017 compared
to the previous year. Another finding – that in about
half of the cases the family had no prior involvement with
DFPS – highlights the importance of community in child
protection. For children to remain safe, and to thrive, it
takes community buy-in and collaboration, so that support
networks can be built and families helped before
tragedy strikes.
Child maltreatment fatalities are generally thought of
as either physical abuse or unavoidable accidents. But in
nearly every child maltreatment fatality, someone or some
system could have intervened and prevented the child’s
death. By utilizing a proactive, public health approach,
DFPS continues to work with communities to improve
child safety by increasing the awareness of the community,
service providers, and local leaders about the scope
and problems associated with child maltreatment. These
efforts include consistent messaging about water safety,
safe sleep practices, and caregiver selection. Additionally,
through Prevention and Early Intervention, DFPS uses
prevention strategies to address the needs of families that
are high risk for child maltreatment through a continuum
of services such as home visiting, parent education, youth
development and education, and support services.
The DFPS Office of Child Safety produces this annual
report in accordance with Texas Family Code §261.204 to
support internal and external work to address risk factors
associated with child maltreatment, as well as to support
ongoing work to increase resiliency within the community
and reach positive outcomes for Texas children. Tasked
with systematically investigating and addressing child
maltreatment fatalities, DFPS is extremely aware of the
risk factors that lead to child fatalities–young, vulnerable
children often left with caregivers or in dangerous situations.
The co-occurrence of substance abuse, domestic violence,
and mental health concerns with child maltreatment
is prevalent and requires intensive coordination
and collaboration between DFPS, other state agencies,
and community providers so that families can be helped.
Together with efforts by other state agencies to address
child fatalities and child maltreatment, this report can inform
the development of prevention and early intervention
programs and FY2017 Child Fatality and Near Fatality Annual
Report 2 intervention strategies if abuse and neglect
is suspected.
This new data can also be used to support child safety
in regulated child care settings. Based on administrative
data and individual case reviews for confirmed child abuse
and neglect related fatalities during FY2017, the following
trends and areas for review have been identified:
General Findings • Texas had 172 confirmed child abuse
and neglect-related fatalities in FY2017, a decrease of
22.5 percent compared to FY2016 (Figure 3).
o The decrease in drownings statewide, unsafe sleep
(both statewide, but specifically in Region 8), and vehiclerelated
fatalities were significant.
o Physical abuse fatalities decreased by almost 32 percent.
FY2017 had the lowest number of physical abuse
fatalities since FY2010.
• The number of child fatalities investigated by DFPS increased
from 796 in FY2016 to 807 in FY2017, the highest
number of investigations in the past five years (Figure 2).
• Confirmed neglect-related fatalities historically account
for almost 40 percent of child maltreatment fatalities,
but in FY2017 were 34 percent (Figure 4).
o The most common causes of fatalities involving neglect
were drowning, unsafe sleep, and vehicle-related
(Figure 7, 8).
♣ Examples of vehicle-related deaths include: a child
left in a hot car; a child unsupervised and struck by a vehicle;
and a child riding in a car and the parent or caregiver
driving was intoxicated or under the influence.
To read the entire report go to: https://www.dfps.state.
tx.us/About_DFPS/Reports_and_Presentations/PEI/
documents/2018/2018-03-01-Child_Fatality_Annual_Report-
FY2017.pdf
Do you want to help foster youth, families, or adults who
are elderly or have disabilities in a meaningful way?
Now, DFPS volunteers can work directly with children,
families, the elderly or adults with disabilities in the following
ways:
• Assist parents and vulnerable adults with transportation
• Sit with children who are in the hospital
• Deliver medications to home-bound adults
• Provide companionship to people who are elderly
or have disabilities
If you are interested in actively helping others in your
community, and gaining valuable experience and service
hours, join our volunteer team today.
Please visit volunteerdfps.org to learn more or contact
us at volunteer@dfps.state.tx.us or 512/438-4891 to start
volunteering.

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