AUSTIN (KXAN) — Nearly 200 children died of abuse and neglect in Texas during the last reporting period, according to a new state report.
From September 2020 to August 2021, the Department of Family and Protective Services investigated a total of 964 child deaths. The agency confirmed that 199 of those children died as a result of abuse or neglect.
In 177 cases, the “vast majority” according to the report, there was no ongoing state investigation or services provided to the home. Therefore, “there was no regular family supervision that could have protected the child,” the DFPS wrote.
In 114 cases, or 57%, the child was not enrolled in a licensed child care center or in school.
“Finding good care for a child’s needs is critical, especially when the child’s primary parent/caregiver is away from home. The school and daycare also provide another adult outside the family with the opportunity to be with the child regularly and to be on the lookout for signs of abuse or neglect,” the report states.
Meanwhile, rising childcare costs have limited families’ options, experts say. Research from the Austin-Travis County Success By 6 Coalition shows that the average cost of child care can range from $15,000 to $20,000 per year in some parts of the city.
“Child care costs as much for infants as a year at the University of Texas at Austin,” said Cathy McHorse of United Way For Greater Austin. “So you’re 18 to save for college, and you don’t have that time to save for childcare for your baby and toddler.”
- Learn more about the Success By 6 plan here
McHorse oversees the Success By 6 Coalition, which aims to secure resources for providers, parents and children – with the aim of enabling children “to enter kindergarten happy, healthy and ready to succeed in the school and beyond. McHorse said part of their effort is to bring all relevant programs and services together in a coordinated and efficient manner.
“We don’t necessarily have a centralized resource center for parents to navigate and understand what they might be eligible for,” she said.
Jason Gindele, executive director of Mainspring Schools, said they are working to make tuition subsidies available to families so cost is not a barrier. However, he noted that the pandemic has increased needs in the city — as demand has increased with families moving to Austin, while supply has plummeted with vendors closing their doors.
“There is a huge child care crisis going on across Austin that is really putting families in a tough spot. They want to go back to work; they want to go back to school, and they can’t because they can’t find care for their child,” he said.
Mainspring schools have about 100 children, but their waiting list has grown to almost 500.
Asked about the DFPS report, Gindele said: “You can’t help but be shocked. But is it surprising? Not entirely… Texas has done a pretty poor job of investing in early childhood.
He explained that Mainspring relies on a higher teacher-student ratio to act as a second set of eyes.
“We are an organization of people – taking care of people. This means not only the children, but also their caregivers, and also our team. So it’s always front and center,” he said.
Chloe Picot-Jacobs, director of therapy services at the Austin Child Guidance Center, told KXAN that high-quality child care can make a difference in an entire family system, not just in a child’s life.
“Children who have these high-quality environments are more likely to thrive academically, have lasting and healthy relationships, and be more likely to stay enrolled in school, graduate and get a college degree, and even be more employable because those social-emotional skills — and mental health — that are really built in throughout their life have long-term benefits,” he said. she explains.
She went on to say, “[High-quality care] is something we want to make accessible to all families in Austin, and the fact is, that’s just not the case right now.
McHorse said the coalition has increased kindergarten readiness in Austin-Travis County by 10 percentage points over the past decade, but — perhaps “more significantly” — they’ve seen more progress. access to services. For example, she said there has been an increase in the number of “quality seats” in child care centres, connecting more family child care programs to resources and building more partnerships that allow families to use full-time child care, but also pre-K, through community child care centers.