Mar 9, 2023 - News

Texas' child welfare technology is out-of-date

Illustration of two children facing a giant ominous computer.

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The technology used by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to track case file information — including instances of possible abuse and neglect — needs to be updated, according to a report by the Texas Alliance of Child and Family Services (TACFS) and think tank Texas 2036.

The big picture: Texas DFPS uses a platform built in 1996, based on federal guidelines from 1993. Texas is one of just four states that hasn't modernized its child welfare information system, per the report.

  • Converting to newer technology could improve efficiency and collaboration among courts, schools and Medicaid.

Why it matters: More than 100 children in the state's child welfare system died from fiscal years 2020 to 2022, according to a report from DFPS. Most of the deaths listed in the report were attributed to pre-existing medical conditions or abuse suffered before the children entered the system.

What they're saying: "Texas' most vulnerable, our children, deserve better than 30-year-old technology," Texas 2036 executive vice president A.J. Rodriguez said a statement.

  • "There are multiple opportunities this session — between federal funds, excess general revenue and the newly created Technology Improvement and Modernization Fund — to address this issue, more so than any session in recent history."

State of play: DFPS uses a system called IMPACT, short for Information Management Protecting Adults and Children in Texas. The case management system tracks placements and services a child and family receive.

  • In the last decade, the Legislature has appropriated $241 million for IMPACT, per the Texas 2036 report.
  • Texas 2036 and TACFS estimate that modernizing the state system would cost $80 million.

How it would work: The cost of upgrading technology could be offset partially through a federal grant program that would match 50% of state funds if the new system meets certain requirements, and from the newly created Technology Improvement and Modernization Fund.

The other side: The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services did not respond to requests for comment.

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