Helping prevent child maltreatment in Texas

In 2015, there were 66,721 confirmed cases of child maltreatment in Texas and 113 child fatalities due to abuse and neglect. To address this issue, researchers at the Texas Institute for Child & Family Wellbeing are collaborating with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services in HOPES, a statewide child maltreatment prevention initiative. A 2017 report from the institute showed that almost all (97 percent) of Texas families who receive child maltreatment prevention services do not have a subsequent child protective services case.

During HOPES’s first phase, completed in 2015, a total of 24 Texas communities received funding to implement a variety of evidence-based interventions to prevent child abuse and neglect in families with children between the ages of 0-5 years.

Take Laura, for instance, a 19-year old Texas mother who gave birth to her daughter one month after leaving the foster care system. Laura has multiple responsibilities as a wife, mother of an infant and full-time college student, but she made time to enroll in HOPES because she wants to break the cycle of child maltreatment by making sure her daughter never enters the foster care system.

Through HOPES, Laura completed a program called SafeCare, where she learned how to bond with her daughter, child-proof her home, and care for a sick infant. With her home visitor, Laura was able to address her concerns about raising a child, as she had never had a strong parental role model. She developed a plan for managing stressors associated with being a young working mother with a full class schedule. Laura is now thriving with the tools and support needed to parent her daughter.

Through their evaluation of HOPES, social work researchers have found that Laura’s case is not unique. So far, HOPES has provided 2,803 individuals from 1,370 families with direct services such as evidence-based parent education programs, counseling, childcare, and case management (see brief report). Quantitative evidence indicates that protective factors scores increased for these families in all areas, including family functioning, social support, concrete support, and nurture and attachment. Qualitative interviews, meanwhile, show that HOPES has reduced family stress, increased parental empowerment, and led to positive changes in parent and child interactions.

“From Laredo to Longview, I sat with parents who had a deep love for their children and a desire to be the best parent they could be,” says institute director Monica Faulkner, who in addition to leading this project conducted many of the qualitative interviews.  “When I asked parents what they liked about the programs, they would tell me how they now understand how to talk to their child and how to address their child’s behaviors effectively. Parents and grandparents who already raised multiple children reported that they learned things about child development and parenting strategies that they wish they had known many years ago.”

Because HOPES is a new program, evaluation results from the first phase and researchers’ recommendations will inform implementation of phase two and three. Additionally, the state will incorporate recommendations for data collection to develop a more robust database system.

By Andrea Campetella. Published January 24, 2018.