TexProtects Response to CECANF Report
Yesterday (March 17, 2016), the federal Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities (CECANF) released its final report after two years of study. The commission was created by the Congressional Protect Our Kids Act of 2012 (inspiring the subsequent formation of the Texas’ Protect Our Kids Commission created by the 2013 Texas Legislature).
The Commission’s report contains many laudable recommendations towards reducing fatalities – retrospective analysis of child abuse fatalities and the usage of predictive analytics, consolidating the panoply of funding sources and streamlining federal matches to states. We were also pleased with many of the other recommendations including a multi-systems approach to be proactive rather than reactive after child fatalities occur. The Commissioners and the staff should be commended for all their work in navigating this arduous process with myriad experts having diverse opinions, backgrounds and philosophies.
Surprisingly, the report fails to make recommendations about preventing physical abuse and neglect – the two leading factors driving child abuse fatalities. Just like in the example used in the opening of the report, the act that causes the child’s death is rarely the first incident of child maltreatment.
Also, the Commission singles out the Nurse-Family Partnership as the only program it found to show evidence of fatality reduction, but it’s not followed by a recommendation to scale up funding of this program that is proven to be effective. The mechanism to do so already exists under the federal MIECHV (Maternal, Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting) funding. We were disappointed that the Commission didn’t recommend expanding other evidence-based family support home visiting and parent education programs that work with families to reduce risk factors that lead to physical abuse and neglect such as: the Positive Parenting Program (Triple P), Healthy Families, Parents as Teachers, SafeCare, Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youth, AVANCE among others.
The report fell short on strongly recommending a phased-in shift of current funding from paying for bad outcomes to paying for outcomes we want to see. Federal Title IV-E and Title IV-B and all the reimbursements for foster and adopt care ultimately drive the use of foster care and institutional care, which receive state revenue matches. Economics drives outcomes. Those funds should be gradually shifted to paying for proven, cost-effective prevention initiatives. When states, including Texas, must cut budgets, the first cut is to unleveraged budget items (straight General Revenue line items) while agencies maintain funding for budget line items receiving a federal match. The Commission should have recommended that Federal Title IV-E and IV-B funds match state revenue to fund evidence-based prevention to states. This approach will lead to more children protected, lives saved, and fewer children entering the CPS system or needing foster/adopt care.
We were especially astonished to see the funding amount recommended. The Commission was unanimous in agreeing that the current child protection system is “woefully underfunded.” Their recommendation to fix all the myriad of issues, which doesn’t include the continuum of home visiting and parent education noted above, to eliminate 3,000 child maltreatment deaths across the entire county was a mere $1 billion. That’s about how much Texas must invest in DFPS’s CPS and Prevention programs this coming biennium to get close to adequately fixing the foster care system, utilize technology for predictive analytics, scaling up proven prevention programs, saving children’s lives and reducing other forms of child abuse. It’s a shame the Commission wasn’t more assertive and bold in its recommendations. One billion is a seriously gross underestimate of the scope and depth of this nation’s tragic epidemic of child abuse fatalities and what’s going to be needed to fix it.
Feel free to respond or reply with your questions to this message or on our Facebook page. Thank you for your concern and advocacy for our precious children.