Children Without Parents or State
Dependent children need either their parents to provide a safe environment or a government that has the ability to provide for them; when parents fail to do so. For years, the Texas Legislature has ignored the needs of the children serviced by Child Protective Services (CPS). When it comes to determining legislative priorities, the State of Texas typically finds it challenging to provide an adequate amount of funding for services provided by the state to abused and neglected children, claiming strict budgeting constraints and the need to cut taxes. Often times the Legislature does not account inflation or the astounding growing population. The legislature’s continued lack of funding for CPS has undermined the overall value of services provided by CPS, having a negative impact on the quality of life for Texas children living in the CPS system (Fig. 4). This results in short term financial gains with long term negative effects.
Tens of thousands of new children are supervised in some capacity by CPS every year. CPS’s mission is to protect and defend abused and neglected children by providing them an adequate and equal chance to live in a safe environment, and to encourage the development of disadvantaged children to become responsible, law-abiding citizens. Despite reoccurring problems caused by the continued underfunding of CPS, including the hundreds of unseen “extreme” cases every day, the Texas legislature consistently refuses to prioritize CPS funding in the state’s budget. Choosing to appropriate money elsewhere, rather than concentrate on the specific needs of the children in the custody of CPS, dramatically affects these children’s future and the future of Texas. Until these children either develop a powerful political voice, or gain the intervention of the federal government through court action, they are dependent on the state. The Texas legislature has demonstrated its continued lack of interest in caring for them by legislating the underfunding of CPS.
The consistent amount of children in Child Protective Services that are overseen by CPS annually is frightening and sad. From 2008 to 2015, the population of children serviced by CPS grew roughly by 1.5 million, incorporating approximately 200,000 new children a year into the CPS system (Fig. 1). One would expect that with a growing population, politicians would see the need to expand the budget by a sufficient amount or at the very least, maintain the total amount of spending per child in the care of CPS at a constant level year over year. In the state of Texas, this is not the case. The Texas legislature has acted and voted to do the exact opposite, by actually failing to maintain the cost of services per child. CPS funding increases each biennium, yet the funding does not consider inflation or the needs of the growing population of the children that CPS is attempting to protect. The legislature is expecting CPS to do more with less. Every biennium, the budget increases approximately $100 million, with the exception of the 2012 budget, which increased by $200 million (Fig. 2).
By comparing the total number of children overseen by CPS to the budget, these data suggest that if the budget were to be raised to an adequate funding level, the total number of children overseen by CPS would actually decline as seen in Figure 4. A good example is drawn from 2012–2013 when the CPS budget was increased by twice the norm, and in that biennium the number of children overseen by CPS also dropped by almost 50,000 (Fig. 3). Conversely, in 2010 the CPS budget increased by only $100,000 and the number of children overseen by CPS increased by 30,000 children. As a result of comparing these two sets of data (Fig. 2, 3), the data reflects a downward slopping trend (Fig. 4) when adequate funds are available to properly care for the children under supervision by CPS. Texas Law Professor F. Scott McCown, an activist for children’s rights, believes an immediate increase in CPS funding would begin to solve the problems associated with the protection and oversight provided by CPS and thereby ultimately decreasing the total number of children being overseen by the system.
Necessary tools and services are needed for CPS to be successful, and this requires proper funding. The data reflects what the future of Texas could look like if the proper funding adjustments were made. The last few fiscal years failed to keep up with the normal budget growth standards for other state agencies. This trend caused a flaw in the funding formulas, forcing the state, under threat of federal intervention, to significantly increase the CPS budget in proportion to the growing population of children administered. This identified funding flaw also demands catch-up funding from prior years, addressing and providing CPS with more of the resources necessary to properly protect the children living within the system. Although this is a funding step in the right direction, the problem will take years to be adequately addressed. How many years can a child wait to receive quality and timely services? Are these children being neglected and abused by both their parents and the State of Texas?
In order to see real change in the level or services provided by CPS, a larger budget is needed. Politicians who ignore these abused and neglected children are ignoring the future of Texas and mismanaging their own power to protect these needy children. It is vital to the future of our state that the services provided by CPS are sufficient enough to shape these children into productive, healthy members of society, ultimately benefitting all the citizens of Texas. Nothing is more important to the future of the state than building a foundation of responsible young adults as a stepping-stone to the states’ successful future. The state of Texas needs to become the “parent” again and understand that providing for all Texas children is in their best interest, long term.
Figure 1: Children in Child Protective Services by Year
Figure 2: CPS Funding by Year
Figure 3: Total Number of Children in CPS by Year
Figure 4: CPS Funding v. Number of Children
“Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS).” Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2017.
Prepared By Legislative Budget Board Staff. (n.d.): n. pag. 2008. Web.
Prepared By Legislative Budget Board Staff. (n.d.): n. pag. 2010. Web.
Prepared By Legislative Budget Board Staff. (n.d.): n. pag. 2012. Web.
Prepared By Legislative Budget Board Staff. (n.d.): n. pag. 2014. Web.
Texas Free Legal Forms, Law, Pro Bono Help Finder, and Resources. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2017.
“Staggering Number of Texas Children in Imminent Danger Neglected by CPS, Investigation Shows | Politics.” Dallas News. N.p., 03 May 2016. Web. 02 May 2017.
“Scott McCown: Texas Must Increase Funding to Fix Child Protective Services.” Scott McCown: Texas Must Increase Funding to Fix Child Protective Services — Texas Law News. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 May 2017.