Historically, funding for child welfare services in Texas has been allocated for serving youth who have already experienced child abuse. While the need for prevention services is widely acknowledged, little state resources have been dedicated to prevention efforts.  In 2013 the 83rd Texas Legislative session increased funding for prevention programs for child abuse and neglect. Support was allocated to the Prevention and Early Intervention (PEI) division of Child Protective Services within the Department of Family and Protective Services. Specifically, PEI is charged with:1) managing community-based programs that prevent child abuse and juvenile delinquency; 2) helping communities identify their prevention needs to enhance local services; and 3) helping communities create and improve programs that improve outcomes for children, youth and families. To achieve these goals, PEI has awarded eight community-based grants for its Healthy Outcomes through Prevention and Early Support (HOPES) initiative.

The Steve Hicks School of Social Work’s Texas Institute for Child & Family Wellbeing has been contracted by DFPS to conduct a program evaluation of the HOPES grant mechanism. Monica Faulkner and Beth Gerlach will conduct a multi-site, multi-intervention evaluation with eight communities across Texas to assess the impact of child abuse prevention activities in those areas.  Additionally, the research team will complete a quantitative analysis of PEI data to assess the overall effectiveness of prevention programming across all their programs.

Program evaluations relating to child abuse prevention programs tend to focus on numbers of families served rather than the impact of child abuse prevention programs.  Findings from this research will contribute to a small body of research analyzing actual outcomes of these child abuse prevention programs.