Texas CPS makes changes after child deaths

Colton Turner (Courtesy: Turner family)
Colton Turner (Courtesy: Turner family)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A new report details changes in a Texas agency after child abuse and neglect deaths across the state, including a central Texas case that galvanized the attention of the community.

In 2014, the death of Colton Turner drew the attention of lawmakers and others. Michael Turner, 31, and his girlfriend Meagan Work were both charged in the death of Meagan’s two-year-old son Colton. Turner agreed to plea guilty in exchange for a 20-year prison sentence Wednesday.

In Travis County, child deaths from abuse and neglect decreased from nine in the 2014 fiscal year to two last year, according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

While it is hard to say what caused the decline, it comes at the same time as changes in the Child Protective Services section of the agency.

Texas Child Protective Services started using new step-by-step guides, checklists and flowcharts to assess safety and risk for children, according to a new annual report from Texas DFPS. Director of Program Services for the Center for Child Protection Amanda Van Hoozer said it’s important to pair those tools with training – which CPS also retooled.

The evolution of services to protect children is constantly changing. In 1990, two-year-old Christopher Wohlers died. His stepfather was later convicted in connection with the child’s death.

“The whole picture wasn’t put together until after he died,” said Van Hoozer.

Van Hoozer says the reaction to Christopher’s death lead to the center’s creation. Van Hoozer the state and other agencies are constantly looking at what they are doing and how they can improve.

“There are always issues of staffing. There are always issues of more cases than people to work them,” said Van Hoozer.

Last year, more than 1,000 kids walked through the doors of the center as part of abuse and neglect investigations.

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