Testimony to the House Human Services Committee
The Department of Family and Protective Services’ (DFPS) most important job is keeping children in Texas safe. We appreciate the work that the Legislature and DFPS have done in recent years to improve child welfare in Texas. However, recent news clearly shows that Texas has more work to do to protect children from harm. Several studies and the findings in the recent court case show that one of the key steps the Legislature must take is reducing CPS staff caseloads so that dedicated, hard-working employees can effectively keep children safe.
But keeping children safe is just step one. Texas must also ensure children in foster care have the support they need to overcome past trauma, grow up healthy, succeed in the classroom, and develop into self-sufficient adults. Texas should provide comprehensive services to children in foster care, so they can reach their potential.
Children who have experienced trauma are at much higher risk of poor health and social outcomes. Research shows that acute or prolonged exposure to abuse, neglect, or other adverse experiences during childhood affects brain development. In response to these experiences, the brain produces stress hormones that ultimately alter the way the brain processes fear, anxiety, memory, and mood. This “toxic stress” has both short and long term consequences related to health and behavior. For examples, toxic stress has been linked to school failure, incarceration, unemployment, poverty, homelessness, single parenthood, and even early death. Further, parents who experienced toxic stress during their own childhood are less likely to provide the kind of stable and supportive relationships needed to protect their children from the damage of toxic stress. Clinical treatment, mental health interventions, and trauma-informed services improve outcomes for children in foster care. Our state should incorporate these practices, so Texas children are both safe and thriving.