Editorials

CPS must be a better option than crime

THE EDITORIAL BOARD

About 80,000 sex trafficking victims in Texas are minors or youth, says one report.
About 80,000 sex trafficking victims in Texas are minors or youth, says one report. AP

As legislators work to turn attention and a little money to the child welfare system, more about how the state fails these kids keeps coming out.

Texas Tribune investigated one of the more dire aspects of the state’s crumbling child welfare system — victims of sex trafficking.

One report estimates about 313,000 Texans are victims of human trafficking, about 80,000 of them minor and youth victims of sex trafficking. About 78,000 of those victims had some contact with the child welfare system, says the University of Texas at Austin study.

The Tribune investigation illustrated how the child welfare system fails some children, allowing them to become prey to sex traffickers. It laid out pertinent and reasonable solutions legislators should consider for fixing this atrocious cycle of crime and abuse.

The solutions rightfully focus on victim rehabilitation, decriminalization and prevention, something sorely missing from the state’s current strategy to stop sex trafficking.

Officials focus on arresting pimps, reasoning if there aren’t any sex traffickers, then children won’t fall prey.

This logic might sound reasonable, but it misses a major point. The state Child Protective Services agency is so damaged and unsafe that kids are slipping through the cracks to find better living options.

No child should ever be in the position that a pimp is the most appealing option for housing and food.

The child welfare system is in desperate need of reform. A federal judge said it even violates children’s constitutional rights, but lawmakers so far plan to give only a fraction of the money needed for an overhaul.

We owe these kids so much more. We need to fix the system — regardless of cost.

If we don’t overhaul the system now, we will have to deal with the complex, expensive aftermath of it later when a substantial percentage of Texas workforce has been through some trauma-inducing ordeal caused by an unsafe governmental program.

“Do not underfund this rickety system only to have it come back and haunt you,” Gov. Greg Abbott warned in his State of the State speech earlier this year.

This can’t remain a case of “too little, too late.” We need to put resources into fixing the state’s future and stop allowing children’s lives to be destroyed because legislators want to tighten the purse strings.

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