Current Initiatives

Grantee: Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas, Inc. (CACTX)
Award Amount: $200,000
Project Name: Supporting the Vision for CACs and MDTs in Texas
Grantee Website: www.cactx.org

The 70 CACs in Texas have recently adopted a Vision Statement and approach: To ensure that all children within CAC case criteria have access to the full array of services provided at the highest standard of care. Making this Vision more than aspirational are three correlating metrics and the commitment to a data-informed approach.

  • Breadth of Service: All cases with CAC case acceptance criteria will be referred to and receive services from the Texas network of CACs.
  • Depth of Service: All children referred to CACs will receive 100% of the professionally recommended services identified during a needs assessment.
  • Quality: All core CAC services provided to children and families will: be evidence-based; meet or exceed Texas Standards; meet or exceed specific quality metrics identified for each CAC service.

In order to support CACs as they work to meet the goals outlined above, a new level of service from CACTX will be warranted. CACs will require proactive, data-informed consultation of programs which will lead to the identification of barriers, and the development and rollout of targeted solutions such as: targeted training efforts to strengthen quality of services, enhanced screening techniques which seek to ensure a referral for joint investigation, deepening collaborations with the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) which will yield increased information/data sharing to support joint investigation, and provision of additional resources and tools for local CACs and MDTs.


Grantee: Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas, Inc. (CACTX)
Award Amount: $85,725
Project Title: Statewide Multidisciplinary Team
Grantee Website: www.cactx.org

Local CACS partner with every region of DFPS, over 1000 law enforcement jurisdictions, 230 prosecutor’s offices, and 80 external medical partners. While local MDTs work to investigate and prosecute cases of child abuse, there is a need for a statewide approach to address systemic issues that impact the overall functioning of local MDTs. CACTX is proposing to take the lead in coordinating a statewide multidisciplinary team (SMDT) that meets regularly to communicate, collaborate, problem-solve, and strategically plan, thereby breaking down existing silos as they relate to the front-end, joint investigation, and prosecution of child abuse and neglect with a statewide perspective.  CACTX will convene, at a minimum, representatives from CACTX, DFPS, Texas Municipal Police Association, Sheriff’s Association of Texas, Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas District and County Attorneys Association, and Children’s Hospital Association of Texas. The goal of this project is to fortify the CAC MDT approach and strengthen joint investigations by convening statewide agencies and organizations to discuss issues that impact child abuse investigations and prosecutions and develop recommendations to address issues.


Grantee: Harris County Institute for Forensic Sciences
Award Amount: $103,809
Project Name: Child Abuse Investigations: A Multidisciplinary Approach
Grantee Website: https://ifs.harriscountytx.gov/Pages/default.aspx

The primary component of the project involves a multidisciplinary two-day conference addressing child abuse assessment, investigation, adjudication, and research. The presenters will include representatives from all aspects of child abuse cases from beginning (assessment) to resolution (adjudication). A special session will be dedicated to novel research and its impact on the evaluation of pediatric trauma. The attendees will learn how to navigate the current system monitoring the welfare of children as well as learn how their role is integrated into this system. Focus will be placed on the recognition of subtle signs of abuse so that caregivers are aware of indicators. A mock case will be developed prior to the conference. Each presenter will then discus the mock case in terms of their specialty, thus giving attendees a detailed view of the process that an allegation of child abuse travels. The final session of the conference will discuss the research-based approach to evaluating potential child abuse by presenting previously funded CJA research initiatives and introducing new initiatives. Additionally, HCIFS will continue previously funded CJA work on infant bone health and develop and validate analytical tools that improve the thoroughness of the medical evaluation and assist in the recognition of non-accidental skeletal injury. The preliminary results of this work will be discussed at the conference.


Grantee: SAFE Alliance
Award Amount: $52,557
Project Name: Responding to Child Victims with Disabilities: A Digital Pocket Guide
Grantee Website: http://www.safeaustin.org/

Children and youth with disabilities experience increased risk for abuse/neglect and other traumatic experiences. Further, they are at risk for additional trauma when child protection, law enforcement, and other crisis response personnel do not have critical information about disabilities or knowledge of trauma-informed responses they can draw upon when working with children with disabilities.  The goal of this project is to increase awareness and knowledge of CPS and law enforcement staff and other stakeholders in responding to and investigating traumatic situations and abuse against children with disabilities. Project objectives and activities are designed to improve response, assessment, and investigation of cases involving children with disabilities while limiting further trauma to the child victim.  With this project, SAFE will develop digital pocket cards for use with a smart phone application that will provide information on how best to approach children with disabilities in a crisis situation. This resource will include practical tips for first responders and investigators responding to abuse against children who have the highest risk of abuse and neglect: children with autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disabilities, speech and/or communication disabilities, mental health/behavioral-related disabilities, and children who are Deaf/hard of hearing/Deaf-Blind. 


Grantee:  Sam Houston State University
Award Amount: $199,881
Project Name: Law Enforcement Breadth Metric: Capturing Referrals that Meet CAC Case Acceptance Criteria
Grantee Website: http://www.shsu.edu/academics/criminal-justice/

Sam Houston State University (SHSU), in partnership with CACTX, will establish a law enforcement breadth metric. This metric, comprised from child abuse incidents reported directly to law enforcement that do not have DFPS involvement, will assist local Children’s Advocacy Centers in their efforts to strengthen the safety net for abused children by facilitating joint investigations and engaging children and families with critical services at an earlier point in the investigation timeline.  The SHSU project seeks to identify these cases in order to assess if these cases are being investigated through a CAC MDT response. The responsibility to investigate child abuse does not solely fall to child protective services (CPS). While cases that involve criminal allegations of a caregiver require a joint investigative response between CPS and law enforcement, child abuse cases that involve criminal allegations by someone who is not a child’s caregiver are investigated solely by law enforcement. It is also important to note that CPS only investigates child abuse cases when the caregiver has current access to a child. If the caregiver no longer has access (e.g. mom’s former boyfriend), CPS will typically not investigate those cases.  Once this last piece of data is known, CACs will be able to identify if they are truly reaching all cases that require an MDT response.


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

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: Texas Municipal Police Association
Award Amount: $80,000
Project Name: Pediatric Strangulation MDT Training
Grantee Website: www.acatraining.org

The purpose of the Pediatric Strangulation MDT Training pilot project is to more thoroughly train investigators and other multidisciplinary team (MDT) members about pediatric strangulation to better recognize the signs and symptoms of strangulation, provide informed evaluations and medical care for victims, connect victims with crucial services and resources, collect information about strangulation incidents, and overall better serve children across Texas affected by this type of crime. This project will identify 4 Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) and District Attorney’s (DA) Offices interested in participating in the project. Participating MDTs will attend a Pediatric Strangulation MDT training on child strangulation investigations, medical assessments/evaluations, and prosecutions; attend a local MDT child strangulation task force meetings; participate in developing child strangulation investigative best practices; utilize child strangulation supplement during investigations and interviews; and collect information about child strangulation victimization rates and trends.  The overall goal of the Pediatric Strangulation MDT Training pilot project is to better understand the incidence of child strangulation across Texas by providing specific training on pediatric strangulation, facilitating child strangulation task force meetings, and implementing the pediatric strangulation supplement and procedure within participating MDTs. 


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.