CPS: Necessary Evil or Necessity?Written by Stacy Bruce
In recent months, Austinites have been inundated with stories about Child Protective Services (CPS), including:
- Tragedies occurring to children while in CPS care;
- Turnover of CPS employees;
- A Federal Judges appointment of a special master to oversee the Texas Foster Care system;
- A massive leadership change at the Department of Family and Protective Service (DFPS).
Austin Children’s Shelter (ACS), a partner in The SAFE Alliance, is committed to ending violence and abuse. Every day we are working to establish healthy, safe and nurturing homes for Texas’s most vulnerable children. As caretakers of children, we remain dedicated to serving all children in need by working collaboratively with CPS to eliminate these considerable issues. We must also keep in mind all of the children saved because CPS intervenes in bad situations.
Partnering with CPS allows ACS and SAFE to make life better for children and families. Every day, we prevent abuse and neglect through our Strong Start program, funded by DFPS. Every day, we provide emergency intervention services through residential and foster care programs. Every day, our services improve a child’s safety, welfare, and life trajectory.
As CPS moves toward improvement through reformation, we must do a better job of celebrating and sharing successes. We must do this because the successes are far more prevalent than is widely known, and failing to say so leaves the public with a distorted picture of the outcomes for the children in the CPS system.
However, shortcomings cannot be ignored and CPS undeniably needs reform. We know through New York’s CPS transformation that reform targeting the protection of our children will only be successful through concerted, coordinated effort by all parties concerned. Zeinab Chahine, former Deputy Commissioner of Division for Child Protection for New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services reflected on the reform efforts in New York City,
“It took strong visionary leadership, political will, infusion of necessary resources and help from national experts, advisory groups, and the active participation and collaboration of all parties interested in the welfare of children in New York City.”
Between September 2002 and September 2013, the number of children in foster care in New York City dropped from 26,337 to 11,917 – a decline of more than 50 percent. This drop occurred despite a steady number of child maltreatment reports. Over a decade later, New York’s reform efforts remain successful.
If we want to achieve the best possible outcomes for Austin’s most vulnerable residents, we must collectively decide to become part of the solution.
ACS remains committed to being at the table as a part of the conversation advocating for effective change—advocating for the children who need that change. We will unite with like-minded partner agencies and advocacy groups to create a unified voice moving into Texas’s 85th Legislative Session. We are committed to creating a continuum of services that lift up our child protection system and provide healing services to children and families. We will be leaders in breaking down the silos that exist amongst providers. As demonstrated by the creation of The SAFE Alliance, we will get outside of our comfort zone and evolve within a reformed system. We will continue to partner with CPS to be part of the solution.
We will celebrate our successes.
We will have the courage to step up, innovate, and change.
And we want you to join us. The change needed to keep our Austin children safe requires coordinated effort from all interested parties: CPS, its partner agencies, Austin area stakeholders, community members, and everyday people who care. With your ongoing support, ACS & SAFE will remain the calm before, during, and after the CPS storm for the youth in our care.
Bottom line, child abuse is an unacceptable and yet prevalent evil, which is why our community needs government agencies that protect children at risk from physical and emotional harm. With our help, CPS can be that agency. As a community, we must understand and accept that CPS, when functioning properly, is a necessity—not a necessary evil.