Current Initiatives

Grantee: CAC of Texas
Award Amount: $200,000
Project Name: Enhancing Children’s Advocacy Centers and Multidisciplinary Teams to Ensure Services for Abused Children Statewide.
Grantee Website: http://www.cactx.org/

Project Description: This grant funded project seeks to increase the skills and capacity of multidisciplinary teams who work under the coordination of Texas’ 69 Children’s Advocacy Centers. Multidisciplinary teams are made up of frontline professionals who work collaboratively to support effective prosecutions, provide crisis intervention, stabilization and recovery services for the child abuse victims and their non-offending family members. Grant goals will be accomplished by developing and providing specialized, targeted trainings and technical assistance to the multidisciplinary team members from nearly 1,000 partner agencies throughout the state along with Children’s Advocacy Center staff members. Examples of comprehensive training and support activities include the following:

  • Forensic interviewing techniques, which includes integrating current research and best practices to ensure a legally sound, non-leading process; the use of the multi-session forensic interview with special populations of children; and ongoing support to ensure fidelity to the model.
  • Medical evaluations, which includes the importance of the evaluation from a multidisciplinary team perspective; technical aspects of conducting sexual abuse and physical abuse examinations; the benefits to the child and family; and the value of medical provider testimony in court proceedings.
  • Intervention and treatment services for child victims and their non-offending family members/caregivers, which includes applying trauma-informed, evidence-based practices; incorporating the use of standardized assessments for case conceptualization and treatment planning; and the role of clinicians on multidisciplinary teams.
  • Expansion of the Multidisciplinary Team Enhancement Program (MEP) which includes orienting Children’s Advocacy Centers on the technical aspects of the Statewide Intake process; providing strategies for recognizing and managing the impact to the systems involved in investigating and prosecuting child abuse cases; and proactively addressing the confusion and conflict inherent in large scale systemic changes.

Grantee: CAC of Texas
Award Amount: $97,458
Project Name: Evaluating the Multidisciplinary Team Approach to Investigating Child Abuse Cases and the Impact of the MDT Enhancement Program 
Grantee Website: http://www.cactx.org/

Project Description: The Multidisciplinary Team Enhancement Program involves having a dedicated staff position within Children’s Advocacy Centers to better facilitate joint investigations between Child Protective Services and law enforcement and to provide administrative support for multidisciplinary teams. This project addresses the second year of a two-year research initiative that began in the fall of 2015 to evaluate the multidisciplinary team model and also the Multidisciplinary Team Enhancement Program which was recently rolled out statewide. The goal is to identify communication barriers and develop recommendations, tools and strategies to strengthen the multidisciplinary team approach to investigating and prosecuting child abuse cases within Texas’ 69 Children’s Advocacy Centers.

In order to understand the multiple factors that shape best practices for joint investigations, the research team will utilize a comprehensive, multi-tiered methodology to study team communication dynamics. The research team will focus their analysis on three key elements that are critical to enabling effective multidisciplinary teams and positive child and family outcomes.

  • Time-sensitive Coordination – Attention to time at the earliest stages of intervention in order to protect a victim of child abuse is critical. Swift action forms the basis for an effective collaborative response to ensue, while failure to act quickly has been associated with the worst of case outcomes, including the death of a child. This study will investigate paths to support timely coordinated responses within the multidisciplinary team model, given that each partner agency has different timelines and policies, as well as high workloads to manage.
  • Interagency Relationships – Professionals across different agencies have specific policies and develop unique communication norms as a function of the diverse types of work that multidisciplinary team members perform. These differences and their impact on information sharing and collaboration must be addressed to enable strong interagency relationships, which are a necessary aspect of the multidisciplinary team model. This study will explore the unique perspectives of multidisciplinary team members based on the diverse agencies they represent.
  • Team Interaction Process – A critical aspect of successful implementation of the multidisciplinary team model requires an understanding of what drives effective communication within a given team. Differences in local multidisciplinary teams may give rise to unique communication challenges and opportunities. This study will provide a careful analysis of these factors, as well as the impact of the Multidisciplinary Team Enhancement Program.

Grantee: Harris County
Award Amount: $143,291
Project Name: Multidisciplinary Approach to Death Investigations
Grantee Website: https://ifs.harriscountytx.gov/Pages/default.aspx

Project Description: This project will support a multi-disciplinary group of researchers known as the Child Abuse Research Team which is chaired by members of the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences. The Child Abuse Research Team studies issues related to potential child abuse and infant deaths. One of the products the Child Abuse Research Team has developed is the Infant Injury Database. The database is a repository for detailed data regarding the external and internal injuries associated with inflicted trauma and for this reason is of considerable value to clinicians, forensic pathologists and medicolegal death investigators. The Infant Injury Database can be used to inform and train death investigators regarding the external evaluation of deceased children by increasing understanding in not only how forensic pathologists characterize external injuries, but also how these injuries may manifest internally.

The target group for the study is medicolegal (death) investigators who are tasked with evaluating child fatalities generally, and more specifically with evaluation, interpretation and documentation of child fatality scenes. The project will examine death investigation procedures and the family interview process at Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences and develop a training program for death investigators regarding the examination process by the forensic pathologist. The results of the analysis will be used to develop training for death investigators to improve and standardize operational procedures. The training will provide investigators a better understanding of how to document and characterize observed injuries and provide insight into how the collected information is utilized by the forensic pathologist and its importance at autopsy. The project will include the expansion and enhancement of the Infant Injury Database, which can be used to improve the consistency and accuracy of infant death investigations as well as the diagnosis of child abuse. In addition to injury documentation, the Infant Injury Database contains important information regarding the circumstances surrounding death, autopsy findings, and medical history. These data can be used to research and identify injury patterns and social risk factors associated with fatal child maltreatment.


 

Grantee: Texas Municipal Police Association
Award Amount: $200,000
Project Name: Law Enforcement & CPS Joint Training
Grantee Website: http://www.acatraining.org/

Project Description: The Law Enforcement & CPS Joint Training project will provide free training to both law enforcement agencies and Department of Family and Protective Services investigative staff. Although statewide mandates for joint investigations and joint training were implemented over a decade ago, collaboration and communication between law enforcement and Department of Family & Protective Services investigative staff is not occurring consistently or regularly throughout the state. The joint trainings occurring through this project will provide a space for both disciplines to meet and discuss current crime trends, as well as enhance future collaboration and communication. Law enforcement and Department of Family and Protective Services staff who receive this training will be able to use the investigative skills and knowledge learned to complete future successful joint investigations. The program will provide training materials and investigative tools to students who attend the joint training events for use in future child abuse and neglect investigations and prosecutions.


 

Grantee: The SAFE Alliance
Award Amount: $46,161
Project Name: All Children – Safe at Home
Grantee Website: http://www.safealliance.org/

Project Description: Children and youth with disabilities or who have significant healthcare needs are at increased risk for abuse and neglect, tend to wait longer than peers before reporting abuse, and are not considered to be credible witnesses when they do report abuse. Texas residential services staff and other providers (i.e., residential service workers, foster families, children shelter staff, medical/rehabilitation workers, etc.) do not routinely receive training on disability-related risks for abuse, or factors that may help identify when children with disabilities or significant healthcare needs are in at-risk environments.

With this project, SAFE Alliance Disability Services staff will research training needs, review best practice training resources, and develop training and resource protocols for residential service and other care provider staff serving children with disabilities or significant health care needs. The goals of these activities are to: 1) improve stakeholder awareness of the unique risks for abuse and the safety needs of children with disabilities or significant healthcare needs; and 2) recognize and respond to signs and indicators of abuse and neglect of children with disabilities and significant healthcare needs. Training resources will include strategies to address abuse while reducing additional trauma in their lives.

Project staff will work collaboratively to develop training materials for posting on the Promoting Justice website to be launched fall 2016. The materials would include: 1) a brief facilitator’s guide on how to use the training materials; 2) a Power Point presentation with detailed notes for training facilitators; and 3) 3-5 informational fact sheets for use in trainings. By posting on the website, the training can be disseminated to stakeholders throughout Texas.


 

Grantee: Department of Family and Protective Services
Award Amount: $72,000
Project Name: Child Safety: Improving Physical Abuse and Sexual Abuse Investigations and Interventions
Grantee Website: http://www.dfps.state.tx.us/

Project Description: Investigating complex cases of child maltreatment requires real-time collaboration between Child Protective Services staff, law enforcement, Child Advocacy Centers and medical professionals. While CPS staff receive initial training in physical abuse and sexual abuse investigations, ongoing training is provided through on-the-job experiences and limited classroom hours. An investigator may rarely be assigned extreme physical abuse or sexual abuse investigations. Alternatively, an investigator may have several years of experience and has not had in-depth ongoing training in these specific areas. This project will provide regional-based training for CPS investigation staff to support quality investigations and interventions when physical abuse and sexual abuse is alleged. With over two thousand investigators, plus their supervisors and management teams, these regional trainings will have significant influence on how CPS investigates and addresses child safety overall. By hosting regional trainings, community partners such as law enforcement, Child Advocacy Centers, child abuse pediatricians, members from local multidisciplinary teams (MDT), domestic violence providers, and other stakeholders can participate and build local relationships to improve outcomes for children.


 

Grantee: Department of State Health Services
Award Amount: $160,660
Project Name: Child Fatality Review Team Local Coordinator Pilot Project
Grantee Website: http://www.dshs.texas.gov/

Project Description: Child Fatality Review Teams are multidisciplinary, multiagency working groups that review child deaths on a local level from a public health perspective. By reviewing circumstances surrounding child deaths, teams identify prevention strategies that will decrease the incidence of preventable child deaths. The teams are comprised of volunteers and often struggle with the administrative tasks required to convene meetings, properly enter data into the statewide system, and complete reviews for all unexplained child deaths in their jurisdiction. To address these needs, the Department of State Health Services will oversee a pilot project to hire two Child Fatality Review Team Coordinators, one in a rural region and one in an urban region of Texas to provide guidance and training to local Child Fatality Review Team to increase the quality of the data reported and the quantity of the cases reviewed. In addition, Department of State Health Services will evaluate the effectiveness of the presence of a paid, dedicated Child Fatality Review Team Coordinator by comparing the quality and quantity of the case reviews before and after the addition of the Child Fatality Review Team Coordinator.


 

Grantee: Texas Legal Services Center
Award Amount: $82,141
Project Name: Child Safety: Parent Resource Helpline
Grantee Website: http://www.tlsc.org/

Project Description: Parents who find themselves in the Child Protective Services (CPS) system are frequently confused by CPS terminology and the importance of different administrative and judicial proceedings. They typically do not understand the parameters of the CPS system, and have little knowledge of the statutory deadlines and pressures they are under. Parent Resource Helpline aims to help parents and family members understand their rights and responsibilities throughout the CPS investigation process. Families will be counseled about what to expect at each stage and what services or representation may or may not be available. The Parent Resource Helpline attorneys will interpret the CPS terms for callers in a simple, meaningful way relevant to their unique situation.