The challenges facing Child Protective Services in Texas are well known. The agency is underfunded and never seems to have enough personnel to adequately care for the thousands of children in its system.
But, this year, the agency did something different: CPS is looking for ways to prevent crises from happening in the first place.
CPS's Sasha Rasco calls it "the upstream solution."
She explains it's a metaphor.
"Imagine there's a river," she says, "and children constantly fall downstream. After a while people are really getting sophisticated at pulling these children out of the river and having a great process for saving them."
Then, after years of that, someone finally says: "'Wait a minute. I'm going to go upstream and figure out why are there all these children drowning in the river.' And they go upstream and try to prevent them from falling in the first place."
In the metaphor, the river can be a host of circumstances: poverty that leads to desperation that leads to abuse. Or, substance abuse that leads to neglect. Or, an infinite combination of all of those factors.
Rasco says by stepping back and looking at data from two agencies, from CPS and from the Department of State Health Services, the agencies were able to determine that 700 kids died in Texas from causes related to abuse or neglect between 2010 and 2012.
But why did those kids die?
Rasco says stepping back showed certain patterns. "In the San Antonio area," says Rasco, "There [was] a disproportionate number of fatalities that were sleep-related."
So, the upstream solution became, let's educate people in San Antonio about the dangers of inadequate sleep techniques.
In Dallas, the data showed there were more drownings there than anywhere else in the state. So, the training in Dallas needs to focus on water safety.
Rasco says treating abuse as a public health issue in this way may help prevent the next tragedy.