As the Texas Legislature has examined state efforts to protect children and vulnerable adults from abuse, neglect, and exploitation, proposals have emerged to expand prevention and early intervention programs to help address problems before they escalate to the point where a child may enter the foster care system.
Of the approximately $4.1 billion in all funds appropriated to the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) for fiscal 2018-19, about $209.9 million went to prevention and early intervention programs, which provided for about 65 employees each fiscal year. General revenue and general revenue dedicated funds for these programs totaled about $129 million.
The House Committee on Human Services and the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services both have held hearings this year on interim charges to review prevention and early intervention programs, including their effectiveness in reducing maltreatment of children.
The 85th Legislature in 2017 enacted numerous laws affecting DFPS. One of the measures, HB 1549 by Burkett, which took effect September 1, 2017, directs DFPS to expand its prevention and early intervention services through five strategies: Services to At-risk Youth (STAR), Community Youth Development (CYD), child abuse prevention grants, maternal and child home visiting programs, and other at-risk prevention services. These programs operate in local communities to prevent child abuse and neglect, juvenile delinquency, runaway youth, and truancy. STAR is available statewide and provides crisis intervention, emergency short-term respite care, youth and parent skills groups, and individual and family counseling. CYD develops juvenile-delinquency prevention programs in areas with high juvenile crime rates.
DFPS has requested about $128.9 million in general revenue and general revenue dedicated funds and $209.4 million in all funds for prevention and early intervention programs for fiscal 2020-21. The agency request also includes $31.2 million in exceptional item funding to expand certain programs, including STAR, CYD, Healthy Outcomes through Prevention and Early Support (HOPES), and Texas Nurse-Family Partnership (TNFP). HOPES provides child abuse and neglect prevention services in families with children up to age 5, including a home-visiting program and early childhood education. The TNFP is a voluntary home visitation program that pairs nurses with low-income, first-time mothers to enhance prenatal care and provide counseling and child development education. The department also is requesting 10 new positions in each year to help administer the programs.
DFPS expanded its prevention services in fiscal 2016-17 to serve 24,909 more families and youth in 61 additional counties and to increase community initiatives to support children prior to potential abuse and neglect. The chief financial officer of DFPS testified at a Legislative Budget Board joint budget hearing that the funding requested for fiscal 2020-21 for prevention and early intervention projects would serve a total of about 128,000 families and youth, with the goal of preventing them from entering the child protection and juvenile justice systems.
By Alison Hern