Child Abuse & Neglect Prevention Across Texas: CFRI’s HOPES Program Evaluation Project

Last month was Child Abuse Prevention Month. This nationally recognized month has been a tradition since 1983. The US Department of Health & Human Services reported that in 2014 more than 700,000 children were victims of abuse or neglect, and young children were at most likely to be victimized. It is important to recognize child abuse and neglect prevention, because these issues impact all of our communities. To learn more about the steps Texas is taking to address these issues we interviewed Tania Jordanova, one of CFRI’s Research Coordinators who is coordinating the evaluation of the HOPES project.

What is the HOPES project?

Project Healthy Outcomes through Prevention and Early Support (HOPES) is a program funded by the Prevention and Early Intervention Division (PEI) of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). Its main aim is to strengthen families and to prevent child abuse and neglect. Services are targeted to families with children between the ages of 0-5, and are provided through community-based organizations contracted under Project HOPES. The program includes a variety of evidence-based services, such as a home-visiting program component. The program also requires collaborations between child welfare, early childhood education, and various other community providers.

Project HOPES is currently being rolled-out in three phases. Services began in 2014 under the first phase of HOPES. Eight counties in Texas are contracted under each phase, to total 24 counties. Counties were targeted for participation in HOPES based on their risk ranking.

What is currently being done for the HOPES evaluation, and where are we in the process?

We are currently in the process of conducting interviews and focus groups in each of the eight HOPES I counties. We visited El Paso County on April 21 and 22, and we were in Longview in Gregg County last week. We will continue to visit sites through the end of May. This is part of the process evaluation we are conducting to find out how program implementation has gone in the first year and a half. At these site visits we interview coalition members, program administrators, program staff and participants. We even sat in on a few of the programs sessions.

CFRI evaluators sat in on a Parent Connections Session which is part of Parents as Teachers curriculum, one of the programs funded through HOPES in El Paso County.

In addition to interviews, we have two online surveys released. One is targeted at HOPES staff members, to again learn more about the challenges and successes they have experienced in working with families through HOPES. The other survey is focused on getting feedback from community coalition members in the different counties. This survey aims to understand the community collaboration process between agencies in the different communities, as well as to learn about the needs and barriers faced by communities related to child maltreatment prevention.

What about the next round of Project HOPES, are there any updates on that?

HOPES II contracts were awarded earlier this year. We conducted initial site visits with HOPES II sites in March. At these meetings we learned about what the different sites have planned, as well as gave an introduction to our evaluation plan.

Starting in June, both HOPES I and II sites will begin implementing a client survey that we have developed. This client survey was developed in response to concerns voiced by agencies about the Protective Factors Survey (PFS), and will give us a better understanding of the strengths and challenges faced by families who participate in the HOPES program. As part of rolling out this survey, we are creating a training video for staff. Throughout the evaluation process, we work closely with each site to ensure that our evaluation activities and findings will be useful to them.

What is your favorite part about working on the HOPES project?

I love to meet and talk with a variety of stakeholders in each community, including caregivers, direct service staff, and community coalition members. Each provides unique insights into the challenges and successes of implementing a prevention program that aims to have a community-wide impact.