​Hundreds of child abuse and neglect deaths hushed up in Texas

Over the last five years Texas’ Child Protective Services
underreported 655 deaths of children from abuse or neglect by their
parents, said the Austin American-Statesman. Caseworkers used loopholes
to omit cases of indirect maltreatment.

In an investigative projects.statesman.com/news/cps-missed-signs/ published on Sunday, Austin
American-Statesman claims that practically half of the
underreported deaths happened in problem families, which had
frequently been investigated for child abuse.

Over a quarter of families (144 of them) where a child died had
been investigated by the CPS at least 3 times. In one case, the
CPS had contacted a family more than 20 times, but still the
child in this family died.

Having analyzed nearly 300 child homicides and suspected
homicides, the newspaper reported that most of the children’s
deaths were the result of beatings or strangulation. One child
homicide case out of five remains unsolved, while some cases are
“unaccountably dragged out for years,” the investigative
report claims.

Sometimes a family simply falls off CPS radar, and this can have
deadly consequences. According to the American-Statesman
investigative report, 15 children died between 2009 and 2014,
after the state agency lost track of their families.

READ MORE: More adopted Russian kids at risk:
Texas parents suspected of abuse

Patrick Crimmins, spokesman for the Family and Protective
Services, stated the agency has always complied with state and
federal laws and is not trying to hide any information.

The child fatalities missing from official statistics took place
between 2010 and 2014. This was possible because of a law adopted
in 2009, obliging Family and Protective Services’ caseworkers to
publicly report any maltreatment that led to a child death. But
the law has a loophole: it doesn’t require reporting a child’s
death when abuse did not contribute to death directly.

John H. Winters Human Services Center includes the headquarters for Texas Department of Family and Protective Services

This get-out was used by dozens of child welfare workers to evade
culpability and keep the crimes under the radar.

In the course of the six-month investigation, the newspaper
discovered that over 50 CPS employees had falsified official
records, obstructed law enforcement investigations, flouted court
orders or had simply lied to prosecutors.

Four former CPS employees are currently facing criminal charges
for alleged misconduct.

Texas’ Child Protective Services employ over 3,400 foster care
workers and investigators, and maintains that these employees
represent just a small fraction of the personnel.

READ MORE: 3yo Russian boy ‘killed by American
adoptive mother’ in Texas

Details of the scandal were published at the weekend on the eve
of a new legislative session of Texan lawmakers, which starts on
Tuesday. It will be headed by the newly elected Governor Greg
Abbott. The state’s lawmakers have already called for the
Department of Family Services to be heavily scrutinized.

“I want to know who these kids are. Every one of these kids
has a name and has a story and would have had a life ahead of
them,” said Democratic Senator Carlos Uresti, one of the
authors of the 2009 law that obliged caseworkers at the Family
and Protective Services to publicize detailed reports on
maltreatment cases that preceded the death of children.

The Austin American-Statesman’s new investigation raises concerns
over the authenticity of similar statistics published less than a
month ago by the Associated Press. In December, AP reported that
at least 786 children – many of them younger than four – in the
US had died of abuse or neglect at the hands of their parents or
carers, even as child protection agencies were investigating
these cases over the period of six years.

READ MORE: Over 750 American kids ‘beaten,
starved or left alone’ over 6-yr period

The AP report found there is no general statistic for child abuse
deaths in the US.

“The data collection system on child deaths is so flawed that
no one can even say with accuracy how many children overall die
from abuse or neglect every year,” AP revealed.

“The federal government estimates an average of about 1,650
deaths annually in recent years; many believe the actual number
is twice as high,” AP said, stressing that among many states
that struggled to provide child abuse numbers, “Secrecy often