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Report: Over 100 children have died in Texas' child welfare system since 2020

The numbers are on par with those reported in previous years.

AUSTIN, Texas — More than 100 children have died in Texas' child welfare system since 2020, according to a Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) report provided to lawmakers on April 1, 2022, and later obtained by The Texas Tribune.

The report states that 44 children died in 2020 and 38 in 2021 while they were in the State's care. The numbers are on par with those reported in previous years, according to the Tribune

Twenty-two children in DFPS custody have died in the first three months of this year. That number is about half the number of deaths in each of the previous five years, according to the Tribune.

The DFPS report shows that the agency cared for 45,870 children in 2021. The children who died last year represent about 0.08% of those children. According to a study by The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Philadelphia referenced in the DFPS report, children in foster care are 42% more likely to die than children in the general population.

To further demonstrate the number of child deaths in Texas foster care versus the number of child deaths in Texas overall, KVUE conducted an analysis comparing DFPS's numbers on child deaths in their custody in 2020 versus the CDC's numbers for child deaths, ages zero to 17, in Texas in the general population in 2020.

In 2020, DFPS had 47,913 children in its care. Forty-four children died. That's a percentage of 0.092% or one in 1,087 children. In 2020, the CDC estimated 7,435,132 children in Texas who were 17 years old or older and reported 3,524 deaths within that population. That's a percentage of 0.047% or one in 2,128.

According to the Tribune, the new DFPS report was produced in response to questions from a House Human Services Committee in March, which came after allegations of abuse at a rehab facility for young sex trafficking survivors in Bastrop. The allegations renewed Texas lawmakers' interest in the state's long-embattled child welfare system.

Most of the deaths listed in the new report are attributed to "preexisting medical conditions" or abuse suffered before the children entered the system. The report also states that in 2020, six children died by drowning and six died by suicide. Additionally, one child died this year from a gunshot wound during a pursuit by law enforcement. Three children died from physical violence after running away from Child Protective Services.

The report also states that two children with preexisting conditions have died from COVID-19 complications while in DFPS care. One died in 2020 and the other died this year.

Read the full DFPS report, as well as more of the Tribune's anaylsis.


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