Advocacy groups, lawmakers say preventing child abuse will save Texas money

West, Parker

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texas spent more than $55 billion in 2017 to help children faced with maltreatment. 

That’s according to advocacy group TexProtects, who released a report Wednesday highlighting the costs of adverse childhood experiences, also known as ACEs. ACEs include child abuse, child neglect and household dysfunction.  

“The research is clear, we know that trauma early in life can change the architecture of a child’s developing brain,” said TexProtects CEO Sophie Phillips. “Therefore, we must implement strategies to prevent it from occurring.” 

The report, titled ACEs Uncovered: Powerful preventative strategies to promote resilience and brain health for a better Texas tomorrow, highlighted the different areas that are impacted financially due to negative impacts from child abuse and neglect. They include social services, healthcare, both adult and juvenile justice systems, education, workforce costs and an individual’s lifetime earnings. 

Lawmakers are already taking steps to address prevention methods. Rep. Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound, filed legislation that would strengthen coordination between state agencies and community-based providers to study adverse childhood experiences. His bill, HB 822, would create a five-year strategic plan. The plan may include strategies to train and educate professionals on how to assess, treat and prevent adverse childhood experiences, provide trauma-informed practices and develop parental support programs for teen parents, as well as young mothers. 

“When children or adults have engaged in high risk or socially unacceptable behavior, our reaction as a society typically has been, what’s wrong with you?” he said. “Today, instead we ask, what has happened to you? It’s a much better understanding now of the dynamics science has brought us to.” 

Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, also filed legislation that would allow Texas to access new federal funds under the Family First Prevention Services Act. It would direct the state to create a strategic plan for how to use the funds efficiently. 

“We need to ready the path forward by defining which families and which programs will be included while expanding capacity for mental health services, substance abuse prevention and treatment programs and in-home programs,” he said. 
 

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