On March 1, 2020, the Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS) released their Child Maltreatment Fatalities and Near Fatalities Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2019. The report found that there were 772 child abuse and neglect fatality investigations statewide. Of those, 235 were confirmed child abuse and neglect-related fatalities (an 11-percent increase from FY 2018).
The primary reason for the increase was related to a growth in neglectful supervision cases, which made up about 60 percent of the fatalities, including a 33-percent increase in deaths from drownings. The other most common causes of fatalities involving neglect were unsafe sleep and physical/medical neglect. Physical abuse in fatalities most commonly involved blunt force trauma or intentional trauma inflicted by a father or boyfriend (combined they made up 62 percent of all physical abuse deaths).
The report also broke down the number of child abuse and neglect deaths by county. Harris County had the highest number of child abuse/neglect related fatalities with over 47 occurring within families with prior history with Child Protective Services (CPS) and 21 child fatalities occurring when the child or the child’s family had an open CPS case. Four of the Harris County deaths occurred while the child was formally in foster care.
The report also showed that Texas had 100 confirmed abuse and neglect-related near fatalities (where a child was abused to the point that they required medical intervention to avoid death), which was an increase of 22 percent compared to FY 2018.
The report cited an array of prevention programs already in place, along with internal initiatives and program improvement projects, as ways DFPS and the state of Texas plan to better address child abuse and neglect fatalities.
In the report, DFPS states: “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.”
In other words, it truly takes a community to care for children. We, not only as CASA network members, but as friends and neighbors, can play an important part in supporting families, helping prevent child abuse and neglect, and ensuring children can grow up safe and supported. Learn more in our deep dive into child abuse and neglect prevention.