Missed signs, fatal consequences; new facts on child abuse in Texas

In January 2015, the Austin American-Statesman published multiple news stories on how the state investigates child abuse and neglect; the stories identified shortcomings (American-Statesman photo by Jay Janner).
In January 2015, the Austin American-Statesman published multiple news stories on how the state investigates child abuse and neglect; the stories identified shortcomings (American-Statesman photo by Jay Janner).

We offer a hearty PolitiFact Texas welcome to state lawmakers launching into the 140-day 2015 regular legislative session.

Maybe some wonder how well the state investigates child abuse and neglect.

In a six-month review, reporters at our parent paper, the Austin American-Statesman, found:

  • Texas is not publicly reporting hundreds of abuse- and neglect-related child deaths each year. Between 2010 and 2014 the Department of Family and Protective Services did not publicly report 655 child abuse-related fatalities, even though the department confirmed that those children had been mistreated prior to their deaths.
  • Nearly half of the children who died were already on Child Protective Service’s radar. Of those 380 fatalities, 144 families — more than a quarter — had been the subject of a CPS investigation at least 3 times. In 12 instances, CPS had seen the family 10 or more times. CPS had contact with one family more than 20 times before the child died.
  • In 125 instances, a child had been previously separated from the home prior to his death because of safety concerns. In 41 cases, the child who eventually died was the one removed from the home.
  • Even though the agency has a unit dedicated to finding missing families, at least 15 kids died after they dropped off CPS’s radar.
  • Since 2009, more than 50 CPS workers have been caught lying to prosecutors, ignoring court orders, falsifying state records or obstructing law enforcement investigations, according to an American-Statesman review of state and court documents. At least four former CPS employees are currently facing criminal charges for their alleged misconduct.
  • Of the nearly 300 child abuse homicides and suspected homicides analyzed, some cases unaccountably drug out for years. The paper also found that one of every five child abuse beating or strangulation deaths — the way most children are killed — has been left unsolved, leaving relatives, law enforcement and local communities bereft of closure or justice.

We were struck by another factoid, tracing to a state consultant's report submitted in April and revised in June, indicating case workers devote 26 percent of their time to visiting children and families. Some 35 percent of their hours are spent working on a computer or doing paperwork, the report said.

See all these news stories starting here.

What else?