Our Texas governor said something during his State of the State address in January that should not have been shocking, but still it is. “Last year, more than 100 children died in our Child Protective System.”
It should not have shocked us because this is not new. In fiscal year 2017, Texas had “172 confirmed child abuse and neglect-related fatalities,” according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. And that was a decrease from 2016, when 222 died.
Here are the death totals from 2010-2015: 227, 231, 212, 156, 151, and 171. That’s 1,542 deaths from 2010 until the end of the Texas fiscal year Aug. 31, 2017. We are now 18 months beyond that point.
As Gov. Abbott said, “The primary goal of government is to keep its citizens safe and secure.”
We are not doing that well enough. In 2017, 238,600 children were assigned for investigation or “alternative response” by Child Protective Services. That is a lot of children. That’s 3.18 percent of the 7.5 million Texas children.
Of those, CPS investigated 807 child fatalities. It confirmed that 172 died as the result of “abuse/neglect.”
Now, let’s be sure to give CPS our applause for the great work they are doing to help and protect children. The problem is that they are vastly understaffed, and children are dying as a result. It’s not their fault; it’s ours.
Our governor told legislators they will cast few votes this session that “involve life or death decisions. Your vote on CPS is one of them. ... You can vote to end that. We can reform the system so that no more children die in it. ...
“We need more workers, with better training, smarter strategies, and real accountability to safeguard our children,” Abbott said. “While improving child safety in CPS, we must also remain vigilant in protecting parental rights. We must remember that the best place for a child, if at all possible, is with their parents.”
Research has shown that children who are able to remain with their family have better outcomes. While some children are not able to stay with their parents, keeping children with extended family members through kinship care has become increasingly important. Last session, the CLC worked to ensure more families were eligible financial payments that allowed them to take in their extended family members.
“To do this right, I’ve budgeted more than the House or Senate,” Abbott told the legislators. “Do not underfund this rickety system only to have it come back and haunt you. Do it right. ... I’m declaring CPS reform my first emergency item. If you do nothing else this session, cast a vote to save the life of a child.”
This issue is not about one political party or another; it is about our responsibility to look after the needs of the vulnerable among us.
“Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (
James 1:27, CSB).
Abused and neglected children are not orphans, they are wards of the state and as Texans and Christians they belong to us too. They need us -- community of caring love -- to step in and protect them from the very ones whom God intended to care for them.
To learn more about how your church can be a part of the solution, click here. If you are interested in getting more involved in foster care advocacy and public policy, contact Kathryn Freeman, director of public policy at 512-473-2288.