News Roundup: Texas Child Protective Services Sees Increase in Abuse Cases in 2017

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelFebruary 15, 2018 1:40 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) has released its 2017 data on child abuse and neglect in the state. To put it simply, there is both good news and bad news. Dimple Patel, the associate director of public policy at TexProtects, a child advocacy organization, says there were more reports of abuse and neglect last year.

“So we actually saw a 2 percent increase in the reports we received at Child Protective Services – there were about 290,000 reports that were made – so quite a bit of calling into the hotline,” says Patel.

Of those reports, over 63,000 children were confirmed to be abused and neglected, which is up 8.5 percent from 2016. Another figure that went up last year was the number of investigations Child Protective Services (CPS) completed.

“We saw 174,000 completed investigations, so that’s an almost 5 percent increase from 2016.”

There were also 19,847 kids removed from their homes and placed in foster care, up 4.2 percent from the previous year. If your head is spinning from all these numbers, Patel explains what she’s taking away from this data.

“This really speaks to a larger issue in our state, which is that more families need services and support than they ever have before,” she says.

And CPS is better prepared to meet those needs after state lawmakers invested in the agencies workforce last year, which brings us to some good news: In 2017, caseworker turnover and caseloads were down at CPS.

“So we saw the greatest gains in the investment that the legislature made in investigations. They had a 15 percent drop in their caseloads from 2016 to 2017. Their caseloads are around 14.5 now. We saw less of a drop in family preservation. It was only a 1 percent drop in their caseload. And then with conservatorship we saw a 6 percent drop, so they went from have about 29 cases to 27.8 now,” says Patel.

Another key finding – while child fatalities in Texas increased by 30 percent in 2016, they dropped by an estimated 23 percent in 2017. The exact number will be released March 1.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued “cease and desist” letters to three school districts in the state on Wednesday. He says Brazosport, Holliday, and Lewisville Independent School Districts are engaging in “unlawful electioneering.” Paxton is accusing these school districts of using taxpayer resources to advocate for or against political candidates and measures.

As the Texas Tribune reports, this is the most recent development in a fight over the role of public education organizations in promoting civic engagement and voting. Just last month, Paxton issued a non-binding opinion that said public schools could not transport students or staff to polling places unless it was for an educational purpose.

Paxton sent letters to Brazosport ISD, Holliday ISD, and Lewisville ISD, highlighting messaging on their social media accounts that he says is unlawful. Lewisville ISD told the Texas Tribune it disagrees with this characterization of their districts tweets. Paxton asked for what he deemed “political messaging” to be removed by public space and for all districts to respond to his office in writing by February 16.

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office – the largest sheriff’s office in Texas – led the nation in sex buyer arrests during a month-long sting.

More than 30 U.S. law enforcement agencies participated in the 15th National Johns Suppression Initiative that ended in early February.

Yesterday, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office announced that, combined, these agencies made 638 arrests. Of those, 103 were in Harris County.

You can watch the entire press conference here.