AUSTIN, Texas — New data from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) shows how many children died as a result of neglect or abuse in 2021.
According to the new DFPS report, 199 children died in 2021, a 20% decrease from the previous year. The report states that in the vast majority of those 199 deaths – 177 – there was no Child Protective Investigation or ongoing services stage open at that time, meaning there was no regular monitoring of the family that could have protected the child.
The report states that in the past year, Texas experienced one child left in a hot car, down from a decade-high of eight children left in hot cars in 2020. According to DFPS, there were decreases in the majority of causes of child deaths, including drownings, neglectful supervision, physical abuse, unsafe sleep and vehicle-related deaths.
However, there was an increase in the number of youth who died by suicide. In 2021, that number was 13, up from eight in 2020.
"Child maltreatment fatalities are generally thought of as either physical abuse or unavoidable accidents. But in nearly every child maltreatment fatality, someone or some system could have intervened and prevented the child's death," the report states. "By utilizing a proactive, public health approach, DFPS continues to work with communities to improve child safety by increasing the awareness of the community, service providers, and local leaders about the scope and problems associated with child maltreatment."
The report states that there continues to be a high number of physical abuse deaths after an all-time low in 2017. However, in the vast majority of those cases, abuse in the family was never reported to Child Protective Services (CPS) or CPS had not been involved with the family for two years, before the child was born.
DFPS said the number of child deaths investigated by the department increased from 826 in 2020 to 964 in 2021. Confirmed neglect-related deaths account for 64% of child maltreatment deaths. The most common causes of death involving neglect were drowning, unsafe sleep and vehicle-related deaths.
In 2021, Texas had 77 confirmed abuse and neglect-related near-fatalities.
The report also examines the demographics of children who have died as a result of neglect or abuse.
DFPS said based on the confirmed child abuse and neglect-related deaths over the past 10 fiscal years, children three years old and younger were almost 80% of all confirmed child abuse and neglect deaths. However, the past two years have had a marked increase in child deaths involving older children. In 2021, children three years old and younger made up 64% of confirmed child abuse and neglect fatalities.
Male children made up more than half of all confirmed child abuse and neglect-related deaths. In 2021, Hispanic children accounted for the largest percentage of children who died from abuse or neglect. The report also states that the per capita rate for Black children who die from maltreatment continues to be higher than any other ethnicity in Texas. This is also true across the U.S.
Additionally, the report states that 57% of children who died from abuse or neglect in 2021 were too young for school and not enrolled in daycare. Three children were being cared for by illegal daycare operations.
For an in-depth look at the DFPS data, read the full report.
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