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President/CEO Shares Highlights from DFPS Annual Report

The Department of Family and Protective Services recently released their annual data book. It is hundreds of pages of valuable information that provides insight to the status of our child welfare system.  I have highlighted some of the important facts below.

Consistent with past years, the DFPS provides a snapshot of abuse/neglect statistics: 79% of child abuse perpetrators were parents, the most common victim was between the ages of 1-3, and neglectful supervision was the most common form of validated abuse. 

I want to note a new training program that Child Protective Services has implemented to help address high caseloads which has had proven results.  In Region 8, the average caseload for a legal worker dropped from 33.3 cases to 26.8 cases, which is a startling improvement. While an improvement, the nationally recommended caseload is 17 cases per caseworker, so we still have much work to do to resolve this issue. High caseloads limit caseworker’s abilities to gather information and provide the intensive services that abused/neglected children need. CASA volunteers bridge this gap by providing individualized attention to children, ensuring they get the educational, medical, and social service needs that caseworkers might overlook due to high caseloads.

Another positive improvement was the drop in child abuse related fatalities. This past year, there were 4 child abuse related fatalities in contrast to the 10 last year. While it is still 4 too many fatalities, the decrease is positive and hopeful.  

In Bexar County, there were 4,941 confirmed victims of abuse/neglect, a drop from last year’s 5,434 confirmed victims. Of the confirmed victims, 1,562 of these children were removed from their home and placed in state protective custody to ensure their safety. Unfortunately, there were 5,002 children in the Bexar County foster care system this past year. Child Advocates San Antonio provides a volunteer Advocate to abused/neglected children within state protective custody to speak out for them in court to ensure their needs are taken care of.  For many abused children, their CASA volunteer is the one consistent adult presence in their life throughout the time that they are in the foster care system.

Of these children, 1,217 children entered into permanent managing conservatorship, meaning that the state had to take custody of them as they had no family who could open their home to the children in need. Children who aged out of the system spent an average of 54.4 months in foster care before they exited. Can you imagine navigating teenage years without any guidance or stable adult presence to guide you into adulthood? These children are trying to navigate life and the CPS system on their own with little, if any, support or care.  They desperately need and deserve the help of their community.  CASA initiated a pilot program to provide Advocates to these children who “age out” of the system.  These CASA Advocates ensure they have someone to help navigate adulthood and are not just thrust out into the world without any preparation or assistance.

Unfortunately, we still see startling statistics when it comes to minorities in care.  While only 11% of the child population is African-American, African-Americans comprise 17.6% of confirmed victims and 20% of removals.  Sadly, African-American children wait an average of 12.3 months to be adopted in contrast to 8.9 months for Anglo children. Clearly, African-American children are disproportionally represented in our system and need an advocate who can relate to their background, helping to stay connected to their culture and history as well as advocate to ensure their needs are represented in the court system.

As a CASA Advocate, you have a major impact on the life of child abuse victims in state custody. A child who has a volunteer on his/her case finds a happy, safe, permanent home 8 months faster than a child who does not have a CASA volunteer. On a state-wide basis, about 16.8% of children re-entered the foster care system within 12 months after being reunified with their parents, but children with a CASA volunteer are 50% less likely to re-enter foster care, breaking the terrible cycle of violence and provide a better life for not just the children we serve, but future generations.

As we work toward a better future, we look at the positive changes and impacts our volunteers have on our children and our community; changes made possible through the diligent work of CASA Advocates.  Consider partnering with CASA to continue this important work. Learn more by visiting our website at www.casa-satx.org or call our office at 210-225-7070.

Rick Cook,