New DFPS report shows 826 deaths under CPS' watch

A new report by the Department of Family and Protective Services gives a rare, comprehensive glimpse inside child deaths on CPS' watch.

"The quality of data is very important - the study is based on our own child and abuse neglect data which is those cases that CPS has determined to be the cause of abuse and neglect," says DFPS' Sasha Rasco.

Between 2010 and 2013, there were 826 deaths. The highest risk? Hispanic children: 60 in 2013 alone. The biggest cause? Physical abuse with drowning and unsafe sleeping ranking second and third.

Rasco says the agency wants to make this information public so that dealing with "child abuse" becomes more of a community effort.

"We need pediatricians and children's hospitals and community members and churches involved in solving the problem. And we can't rely on them to help us if we don't help in the involvement, in the diagnosis if you will of this epidemic."

A 2009 law sponsored by San Antonio State Senator Carlos Uresti requires CPS to publicly provide a report on those cases. But he says it didn't go far enough.

"Unfortunately the language wasn't specific enough or clear enough to require them to provide more data that we need," he said.

The agency has come under fire in recent months for not publicly reporting the number of cases where abuse and neglect did happen but wasn't the direct cause of death. According to their new report, there were 535 of those cases from 2010-2013.

"An example of that is a child who dies in their sleep and the medical examiner ruled it was pneumonia that killed the child but we found the child was perhaps also neglected in their general care," Rasco explains.

Uresti says he wishes CPS would have made those deaths public a long time ago.

"I don't think they were as forthcoming as they could have been."

Child advocacy groups like TexProtects want that number included in all reports moving forward. TexProtects' Dimple Patel, a former CPS investigator herself, says including that number could provide a clearer picture of how to target those who are at the highest risk.

"Having that number and not just the number but the circumstances around what caused the child's death and what happened in the child's life leading up to those years will help us understand how we can prevent deaths like that from happening again," she says.

Senator Uresti has filed SB 949. He says even though the agency is volunteering the information now, he wants it to make it a law.

"It allows us to look back at those fatalities. Not to micromanage but to get that data and analyze it so this doesn't continue to be a pattern where you have a significant number of cases that involve these children that become fatalities when we were involved with those families."

He says he sees the tide turning when it comes to better protecting Texas' most vulnerable children.

"I feel confident in our conversations with the department and this piece of legislation. Yes, things will be more forthcoming as they have been in the past."

 You can read the full report here.