Seeking to reduce the number of child abuse fatalities in Texas, a group of medical, law and child welfare experts recommended Wednesday that the state create a new advisory board, as well as review teams to examine child abuse cases in each county.
The Protect Our Kids commission laid out several other recommendations during a state Capitol news conference for state lawmakers to consider. The 14-member commission was created during the 2013 legislative session to identify which programs help reduce child abuse fatalities and to recommend how to better protect Texas children.
The commission calls for more money to go into child abuse prevention and education and for the Department of Family and Protective Services to create a state advisory board made up of judges, pediatricians and other child advocates to continue the work of the commission and oversee prevention efforts.
“[It] is really going to be put in the hands of our leadership ... to carry the ball through the next legislative session,” said District Judge Robin Sage, who chairs the commission, adding that she hopes the Legislature implements the commission's recommendations quickly.
The recommendations include adding regional coordinators for local Child Fatality Review Teams — groups of volunteer judges, pediatricians and advocates — to take closer looks at fatal cases involving child abuse and work on improving prevention efforts.
The panel also discussed implementing streamlined systems for medical reports, better data collection of incidents for research and better outreach to families.
The commission largely emphasized funding prevention programs and research to find the areas where current programs and services do not reach.
“There is a bleeding effect,”commission member Madeline McClure said, “when you are teaching one new mom about how to raise their kids and breaking the generational cycle of violence, she’s actually increasing her own mother’s knowledge or her sister’s or her neighbors who live in apartments" or other multifamily units.
Earlier this year, Gov. Greg Abbott called for reforms for Texas’ Department of Family and Protective Services and the state’s struggling foster care system to help improve child safety in Texas.