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The Source: CPS Said To Have Underreported Hundreds Of Child Deaths

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State of Texas
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A new investigative series by the Austin-American Statesman out this week said the state's agency charged with protecting vulnerable kids has been underreporting the number of abuse-related deaths, has failed to analyze its own numbers. The publication, in a scathing indictment of Child Protective Services, said and in many ways it had been operating with blinders on regarding child deaths. 

The six-month investigation--entitled "Missed Signs. Fatal Consequences."--analyzed hundreds of reports from 2009, when the state mandated CPS keep and make this data public, through 2014. Their findings are certain to cause a stir at the Capitol, which began its biennium session on Tuesday.

Some findings from "Missed Signs. Fatal Consequences.": Texas did not report 655 abuse and neglect-related child deaths, despite confirmation that these children were mistreated before their deaths. Almost half the children, 380, were already involved in state investigations and a third of those cases had been investigated 3 or more times. Since 2009 more than 50 CPS workers have obstructed law enforcement through falsified documents, lying to prosecutors,  and ignoring court orders.

Child Protective Services has a long history of disappointing results, some of which we have looked at on The Source.

Last year, the Department of Family and Protective Services--the umbrella department for CPS--was lambasted in a third-party report. The biggest takeaway from the report was the lack of time, 26 percent, in the field that CPS case workers spent with families and children. 

In a Sunset Review Commission report, the department was criticized for its huge employee turnover rate, more than 30 percent. The costs were both concrete, $72 million annually, and intangible in the amount of institutional knowledge that was leaving the agency with alarming regularity. 

Both reports show a huge bureaucracy in need of a culture change. The Austin-American Statesman series puts human faces and shows the real consequences of the beleaguered behemoth's problems.

Guests:

  • Andrea Ball, investigative reporter at the Austin-American Statesman (@andreeball)
  • Eric Dexheimer, investigative reporter at the Austin-American Statesman (@DexInvestigates)
Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive