High H.O.P.E.S. for Preventing Child Maltreatment | United Way of Metropolitan Dallas

High H.O.P.E.S. for Preventing Child Maltreatment

In the stress-filled world we live in, particularly now amidst the coronavirus pandemic, worries and frustration can easily bubble into lost tempers—and small children, stuck at home with overburdened parents, can bear the brunt of those harsh words and actions.

But it’s never OK to hurt a child, mentally or physically. “Parenting young children is an incredibly demanding job, even under the best of circumstances.  When families experience adversity, the risk of abuse increases.  United Way of Metropolitan Dallas’ H.O.P.E.S.—Healthy Outcomes Through Prevention and Early Support—program aims to provide support and education services for families.

“Child abuse and neglect should never be tolerated, and they’re not inevitable, no matter a family’s circumstances, said Susan Hoff, Chief Strategy and Impact Officer at United Way. “We are committed to helping parents navigate through challenges, to ensure that all children have the opportunity to grow up in a safe, loving and nurturing environment.”

H.O.P.E.S. exceptionally lines up with all three of United Way Dallas’ focus areaseducation, as it trains parents to be their children’s first teachers; incomeas it relates to supporting parents through resources/referrals and working with agencies to provide basic-needs support to help eliminate stressors and other factors that may prevent parents from working; and health, in its primary goal of keeping children safe from harm.

The program launched in 2016, with help from an annual $1.7 million grant to United Way from the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, one of the largest grants to United Way Dallas to date. In partnership with TexProtects (the Texas Association for the Protection of Children) and other nonprofits, Dallas County H.O.P.E.S. gives critical support and assistance to families to reduce incidences of abuse and neglect.

“The services that are rendered through the H.O.P.E.S. program are essential to the families in Dallas County,” said LaTasha Splane, H.O.P.E.S. Senior Manager at United Way of Metroplitan Dallas. “They provide families with the necessary parenting skills, resources, and support that they need to build and sustain thriving, healthy, and safe environments.”

H.O.P.E.S. is supported by AVANCE-Dallas, ChildCareGroup, Family Care Connection, Family Compass, Lumin Education, Parkland Injury Prevention Center and Parkland Health & Hospital System Nurse Family Partnership.

Progress and outcome evaluation are led by the Institute for Urban Policy Research at the University of Texas at Dallas. Service providers have met and continue to meet their projected goals for families served. The program overall continues to meet the children remaining safe outcome as well as outcomes related to overall family support. Child abuse incidents remain high in Dallas County and the program will continue to address this important issue within the community.


Family-parent educator Jessica Suarez of Family Care Connection said her center’s “connections” group program has benefited greatly from H.O.P.E.S. funding. “The most important thing [we provide] is the education [about child safety, handling anger and stress, and other topics]. It’s providing education to the moms; they’re eager to want to be better when it comes to parenting.

“The fact that they have mentors such as us, parent-educators—it’s a great support system for them. It’s empowering for them. We’re very excited about our H.O.P.E.S. program, and ‘hopes’ is exactly what it is. It’s a hope for these homes.”

The state grant to start H.O.P.E.S. was made with the specific intent to develop and implement countywide efforts to increase community awareness of child abuse. These efforts include conducting outreach, coordinating and aligning child abusers with abuse-service providers, and ensuring health-care providers are trained to detect early signs of maltreatment. United Way tapped into a vast network of North Texas stakeholders, including school systems, health-care providers, and nonprofit and faith-based organizations—to develop common goals and coordinate interventions.


Abuse and neglect, horrifically, permeate our communities. In fiscal year 2019, in Dallas County:

  • 7,362 children—some 20 children per day—were confirmed victims of child abuse and neglect.
  • 1,505 children—approximately four children per day—were removed from their homes.
  • An estimated 23 children died as a result of child abuse.

These children obviously experience profound suffering. But child abuse impacts every single Texan. Estimates from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that over Texas victims’ lifetimes, a single year’s worth of abuse and neglect will eventually cost the state more than $14 billion.

The H.O.P.E.S. program has been a rousing success: Since its inception, more than 2,000 families received home visiting and parent-education services, more than 45,500 parents participated in the shaken-baby prevention program, and more than 10,300 families received resource and referral services.


Blanca, a young mother, carried a card from AVANCE-North Texas in her wallet for months before she finally reached for help. She was feeling stressed and overwhelmed.

Her 2-1/2-year-old, Pablo, she said, “is always running and walking, or playing with his toys. He’s not real quiet. I don’t know if I was in depression. But I think that I needed help because I didn’t know how to handle it.”

Iris Contreras, H.O.P.E.S. Case Manager at AVANCE, said, “It’s a scary thing when we think of abuse, or us even having the capability to hurt our children. It’s unconscious. You truly don’t expect to do the things that you do at that point, because oftentimes it’s out of anger, it’s out of frustration. It’s not because you want to hurt your child.

“We try to help them [clients] as much as we can with their basic needs,” she said, “and a little bit above their basic needs. Just so that the parents are in a good place and they can provide a stable, safe home for that younger child.”

Blanca said she has a new attitude and renewed self-confidence as a parent. “I know how to control bad situations, how to calm down whenever there’s a problem of there’s something I don’t like. I say, ‘OK, calm down, count to 10 and be patient.’

“It has changed everything. My husband is happy. I have time to be a wife, a mom, and also time for me. I really recommend it.”


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United Way of Metropolitan Dallas is a community-based social change organization that puts opportunity in the hands of all North Texans. Working with our determined supporters, we lead the charge to improve education, income and health—the building blocks of opportunity. We invite all change-seekers in our community to Live United to achieve lasting results right here at home.

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This article was published on: Aug 18, 2020