Article by Amber Cammack with Houston’s Voice For The Missing
Youth running away from home is a complex issue. Youth who live on the streets are vulnerable to hunger, crime, drug abuse, sexual violence, and exploitation including Human trafficking. Youth in the foster care system are there because of child abuse and as victims of abuse they are more vulnerable to the predators who seek to exploit them. Unfortunately, children in foster care are more likely to run away than children who live at home with a parent or guardian. They are also more likely to run away repeatedly than those who run away from home.
To attempt to address this problem, we must first understand the scope of the issue. This report includes data on how often children ran away while in the custody of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) (CPS) in Fiscal Year 2016, how many reported being trafficked, and other contextual data. All data was received from The Texas Department Of Family and Protective services.
Sex trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age (22 USC § 7102, Texas Penal Code §20A.02 (3)(7)(8), Texas Family Code §261.001(1)(G)).
Often, the child does not consider herself or himself to be a victim of sex trafficking. This can and does make it more challenging for parents, caregivers, government officials and average citizens to identify when a child has been trafficked or recognize the warning signs. Educating our children and members of our community on this touchy subject is a must. Something as simple as arming our youth with the truth to prepare them for the unthinkable could save countless lives. Community awareness, mandatory human trafficking training for all government employees and anyone working closely with the youth is key to the identification and assessment of child sex trafficking victims. More importantly, it’s key to ending child sex trafficking in America, yet a well trained cps caseworker or law enforcement officer is rare. CPS has received billions of our hard earned tax dollars to train their employees and implement Human Trafficking programs for the children in their custody…. to be specific, CPS records show:
• 6,048 front line CPS staff and Statewide Intake analysts that have been trained on identifying victims of human trafficking.
• New caseworkers receive instruction in CORE curriculum on how to recognize signs of human trafficking. In addition, staff is required to take Introduction to Human Trafficking within the first 9 months of hire as part of continuous learning training.
• In advanced interviewing skills for CPS Investigators, information on child sex trafficking is taught during months 4-9 for new staff.
• Youth between the ages of 14-21 receive human trafficking prevention training at all state and regional conferences and aging-out
seminars. It is also a part of their required Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) Life skills training.
• CPS implemented the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) Assessment in fall 2016 (assessment of all foster children, which explores whether the child was sexually exploited, including trafficking).
• DFPS is a member of the Statewide Taskforce on Human Trafficking, led by the Office of the Attorney General, which includes other agencies and non-governmental organizations that have experience dealing with high risk victims. These agencies include the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas, the Texas Department of Public Safety, and the non-profit Children at Risk.
If CPS is telling the truth why is it so hard to find a cps official who is trained in Human Trafficking AND why is the problem with vanishing foster children growing???
Tracking data and legislative requirements
Historically, Child Protective Services (CPS), a division of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), documented runaway events for children in foster care; however, detailed information about the event was typically recorded in a narrative in a text box in the DFPS case management system (IMPACT). Data could not be pulled from this narrative text box, so tracking required a manual case reading. The only way to estimate the number of runaway events for children in foster care without reading numerous cases was by looking at the number of placements recorded in IMPACT with a living arrangement indicator of "runaway." However, this method did NOT always capture information about youth who ran away for a day or two and then returned ( which is very common with trafficking victims). Thus, the data on children with a "runaway" living arrangement indicator in IMPACT did not accurately show the total correct numbers of youth who were running away.
Senate Bill 206 of the 84th Legislature modified Texas Family Code §264.017 (b) (12) and (13) requiring DFPS to report on:
• The number of children who are missing from the children’s substitute care provider while in the managing conservatorship of the department; and
• The number of children who were victims of trafficking under Chapter 20A, Penal Code, while in the managing conservatorship ofthe department.
House Bill 1217 from the 84th Legislature modified Texas Family Code §264.123 to require the Department of Family Protective Services to report on additional data points related to children who go missing from state care. This includes:
1. Whether a child who went missing was a victim of the offense of Trafficking in Persons (Texas Penal Code Section 20A.02(a)(7));
2. Whether the managing conservatorship of the department is temporary or permanent;
3. The type of substitute care in which the child is placed; and
4. The child’s county of residence, sex, age, race and ethnicity.
On September 29, 2014, the federal Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act, Public Law (P.L. 113-18) became effective. In addition to addressing other aspects of child welfare, this law specifically directs child welfare’s response to children in foster care who may be or are suspected of being a victim of human trafficking. The law also requires that state child welfare agencies track not only how many children are running from care, but also why they ran away and what they experienced while on the run. To fully and accurately comply with state and federal laws, DFPS will need to change its IMPACT computer and data system. These changes, which include an indicator for "runaway," have been analyzed, prioritized, and according to The Texas Department Of Family and Protective services are scheduled to occur during Fiscal Year 2018. Until these changes occur, CPS needed another way to gather this information.
So, in 2016, after requesting/receiving more tax payer money, CPS created a process outside of IMPACT to better count all runaway events regardless of whether the children or youth had a "runaway" living arrangement indicated. When a child runs away, the caseworker is supposed to notify a DFPS special investigator (SI), who supposed to be a former law enforcement officer, to help locate the child. When the SI is notified of a runaway event, he or she completes an online form regarding the event, which does not include confidential information about the child or case. CPS analyzes and combines this information with data from the IMPACT system for children with a living arrangement of "runaway" to get a more accurate count of runaway events. When a child or youth returns to foster care, the youth is interviewed and another online form is completed to record information about why the child ran away and whether the child had been trafficked. Information from this form is analyzed and combined with data from IMPACT to get an "aggregate count(the words used by CPS )" of how many children return to foster care and, of those with a completed online form, how many have been trafficked. For those who do not know, the definition of "aggregated" is "Formed or calculated by the combination of many separate units or items; total.
According to Child Protective Services (CPS) there are a couple of ways to count the number of children who have returned to care: 1) with a completed runaway survey; or 2) by a designation in IMPACT that the living arrangement is something other than "runaway." To get the most accurate count possible, CPS combined and cross-referenced data from the online forms with data from IMPACT for children and youth with a living arrangement of "runaway" during the fiscal year.
QUESTION: Why does CHILD protective services have such a hard time keeping an accurate count of children in CPS CUSTODY? One child unaccounted for is one child too many. On top of everything else, after spending millions of hard earned tax dollars they come up with a system that was no better than the first and still are not abiding by federal law. How is this acceptable and why is our government allowing this to continue.
Statewide Intake trafficking reports
*Question: Did you know CPS does not respond to allegations or reports of abuse if a child is in possession of someone who is not their legal guardian?
Texas Statewide Intake (SWI) accepts reports of abuse or neglect regarding children and elderly/disabled adults in the State of Texas. CPS jurisdiction in investigating all abuse cases extends to a parent or a person traditionally responsibility for the child’s care. If the alleged perpetrator is not a parent or person traditionally responsible for the child’s care, it is not in CPS’ jurisdiction to investigate. Pursuant to the Texas Family Code, Statewide Intake refers to CPS an intake with an allegation of sex trafficking when any component of (1) or (2) apply:
(1) The actions of a parent or other person traditionally responsible for a child meet the core elements of sex trafficking when he or she: • knowingly provides the child to others, obtains the child for oneself, or allows the child to engage in or become the victim of any of the offenses listed in Penal Code Subsection 20A.02(a)(7);
• maintains control over the child and makes the child believe that he or she has no other choice but to continue engaging in the offenses listed in Penal Code Subsection 20A.02(a)(7), resulting in a pervasive loss of freedom for the child; or
• receives a monetary or nonmonetary benefit as a result of the child participating in any of the offenses listed in Penal Code Subsection 20A.02(a)(7). Benefits can include but are not limited to sexual services, currency, drugs, etc.
(2) A parent or other person traditionally responsible for a child fails to make a reasonable effort to prevent a child from being sex trafficked as described above.
By law, Statewide Intake refers intakes on all forms of abuse to local law enforcement (Texas Family Code § 261.105(b)). If the alleged perpetrator is not a parent or person traditionally responsible for the child’s care, it is not in CPS jurisdiction to investigate. DFPS has put into place a specialized protocol for intakes alleging sex trafficking when DFPS does not have jurisdiction to investigate. If a call comes into SWI alleging that a child is being trafficked and CPS does not have jurisdiction to investigate, SWI not only sends the referral to the local law enforcement agency, but also sends a report to the Department of Public Safety’s Joint Crime Information Center. The Center can use this information to provide strategic and analytical assistance to law enforcement statewide. Human traffickers can be quite mobile. DPS helps local law enforcement agencies across the state recognize patterns and modi operandi on cases and suspects who travel to multiple locations.
Question: Did you know CPS does not respond to allegations or reports of abuse if a child is in possession of someone who is not their legal guardian?
Therefore, CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES does NOT and will NOT investigate allegations of abuse of any kind if the child is not in the possession of a parent or legal guardian. If your child is lured into running away from home and is being trafficked by an adult predator, CPS will not investigate, nor respond in any way… I have personally dealt with many cases that fit that exact scenario. The title "Child Protective services" is very misleading and CPS should be made to change their name. The title "The Parent Police" is more fitting because as data shows Child Protective Services (CPS) does not "protect" nor do they provide quality services to all "children".
Child Protective Services Collaboration with other Agencies and Non-Profits:
• DFPS (CPS) is a member of the Statewide Taskforce on Human Trafficking, led by the Office of the Attorney General, which includes other agencies and non-governmental organizations that have experience dealing with high risk victims. These agencies include the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas, the Texas Department of Public Safety, and the non-profit Children at Risk.
• DFPS is also a member of local, state, and federally-run task forces on the prevention of sex trafficking, and has a seat on the Board of Directors for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) – Texas regional office.
• DFPS continues to co-present with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children "Spotlight on Exploitation" trainings.
QUESTION: CPS shelters are a one stop shop for human traffickers and child predators. Their inability to follow federal law and keep a accurate count of children in their custody make them one of the biggest contributors to human trafficking in America. CPS shelters are a one stop shop for human traffickers. Is it not a conflict of interest for law enforcement and organizations designed to advocate and protect of children to be working with the problem?
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
On September 13, 2014, Texas became the second state in the nation to enter into a formal MOU with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children wherein DFPS agreed to report missing foster children to NCMEC immediately. Sixteen days later, Congress passed HR 4980, ordering all child welfare agencies in the United States to report their missing children to NCMEC, and giving states until September 2015 to meet this requirement.
In December of 2016 I was working a case involving a 12 year old girl who went missing while in CPS custody. This Child went vanished from a CPS Shelter located on the 6300 block of Chimney Rock in southwest Houston. CPS never reported this child to National Center of Missing and exploited children and attempted to block the mother and I from adding her too. That month she was the third young girl I knew to disappear from that particular shelter so I started digging. I almost fell out if my chair when I found out that month (Dec 2016) 79 children had went missing from the chimney Rock shelter. Not one of these children where uploaded to the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children website by CPS. In addition, during that month I desperately tried getting a hold of the cps caseworkers and special investigators assigned to the three missing children cases I was working on, and NEVER received a case or text back from either.
PLEASE NOTE: In Fiscal Year 2016, several CPS special investigators received the 2016 U.S. Attorney General’s Missing Children’s Child Protection Award. This award recognized them for going above and beyond the call of duty in their efforts to recover missing foster children and prevent sex trafficking.🤔🤔
Article is to be continued….