SHSU receives grants to study police investigations of child abuse cases
HUNTSVILLE, TX (September 26, 2017) –To help strengthen the safety net for abused children in Texas, a researcher at Sam Houston State University will investigate the number of child abuse cases reported directly to police and not through the child abuse hotline that are referred to children's advocacy centers.
Children's Advocacy Centers (CACs) were created 25 years ago as a collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach to child abuse cases ensuring safety, justice and healing for child victims. These centers provide a single location for professional services for children and families in these cases, including forensic interviews, family advocacy, mental health, as well as medical and multi-disciplinary team coordination. There are 71 such centers in Texas.
The study by Lisa Mufti? of the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Sam Houston State University is being funded through grants from the Children's Justice Act and Children's Advocacy Centers of Texas. Using a sample of 60 law enforcement agencies working with 20 Children's Advocacy Centers in the state, Mufti? will look at how many child abuse cases are filed directly with police and that meet the criteria for screening by CACs.
"The purpose of this study is to capture the prevalence of child abuse reports made directly to law enforcement that are not Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) involved," said Mufti?. "Results from this study will help local CACs as they work to determine if every child in need is receiving CAC services, ultimately strengthening the safety net for abused children by facilitating a multi-disciplinary response and engaging children and families with critical services at an earlier point in the investigation."
CACs throughout Texas serve 43,000 children a year in Texas. They create an environment where police, prosecutors, case workers, forensic interviewers, medical experts, and therapists can work together toward justice and healing for victims. Historically, child abuse cases were referred to CACs directly by local law enforcement or child protection investigators. More recently, CACs have coordinated with DFPS to receive DFPS Statewide Intake Reports of child abuse at the same time these reports are sent to local law enforcement agencies. In 2015, the Texas Legislature appropriated funding to expand this initiative statewide, which has resulted in more children receiving justice and healing at Texas CACs over the past two years.
Meanwhile at the federal level, the Children's Justice Act (CJA) provides grants to improve the investigation, prosecution and judicial handling of child abuse cases, particularly child sexual abuse and child exploitation cases, to reduce the trauma to the victim. In fiscal year 2018, Children's Justice Act grants focus on reforming state systems and improving processes by which states respond to cases of child abuse and neglect.
The results of the study will be presented to Children's Advocacy Centers of Texas, the Children's Justice Act Task Force and law enforcement practitioners. The final report will also be presented at the Crimes Against Children Conference in Dallas in August 2018.