Caseloads crisis gaining media attention; will legislators act?

Over the past two months, media reports and editorials have detailed how high caseloads continue to plague DFPS. Much of the attention has been focused on delinquent cases in CPS, and the agency’s failed attempts to reduce the number of delinquent cases. An ongoing police investigation of DFPS, that is focused on the death of a child in Abilene, has also generated more scrutiny as well.

What is clear from the various reports is that legislative action is needed to address unsafe caseloads. As union members have been testifying for years, high caseloads lead to high turnover rates, and low pay makes the problem even worse. These issues are directly related to the level of funding dedicated to our agency by state representatives and state senators. Short term fixes- such as sending workers from different parts of the state to work on cases in another region- have not worked. Lower caseloads and higher pay will require more state funding to have enough staff to do the work and to pay employees a more reasonable wage.

It remains to be seen whether the increased media attention to the problems in DFPS will result in more elected officials committing to support lower caseloads and better pay. Unfortunately this is not the first time that media attention has been focused on the high caseloads in DFPS. Based on previous legislative sessions, it will take more than news coverage to move elected officials. TSEU members are leading the movement to win lower caseloads and a real raise. Talk to the TSEU activist in your office, or call your nearest TSEU office to get involved.

State agency doesn’t have enough workers to protect abused kids
Editorial Board Austin American Statesman – Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012
High caseloads and high turnover continue to vex the state Child Protective Service agency’s efforts to investigate abuse and neglect allegations of Texas children. And solutions to keep caseworkers on the job protecting children aren’t working effectively …
The problem of backlogs, however, is statewide. The Chronicle reported that “in almost half the counties in Texas, one-third of the cases CPS investigators are handling are ‘delinquent.’”
… “The link between turnover, caseloads and backlogged cases is direct and it can become a cycle,” Crimmins said. “That is what we are seeing.”
In August, for instance, CPS hired 65 investigators, but Crimmins said 73 workers left CPS that month. The top reasons given are: working conditions (about 24% cited that); retirement (16.2%); and jobs that paid better (13.2%).

A child’s life lost amid too many cases at CPS
Terri Langford, Houston Chronicle – Friday, August 24, 2012
… Six months later, Julia died as her file waited to be transferred by a caseworker at the CPS office with some of the highest caseload volumes in Houston: at 1919 W. North Loop.
There, most of the 27 caseworkers are juggling far more than 25 different child abuse cases each month.
In 2008, the Legislature set a daily caseload target of 22.9 cases per worker. In Harris County, the average daily caseload is about 27 cases. But a look at individual offices here shows that many workers have far more cases.
In fact, 17 caseworkers had more than 40 cases in June, the most current statistics available. One caseworker was saddled with 80 different children to monitor that month.
Crimmins said the agency is “concerned” about the serious caseloads…

Some CPS workers handle 40 or more cases a month
Houston Chronicle By Terri Langford – August 16, 2012
Despite $323 million spent to save and protect more children, some Houston caseworkers are juggling as many as 40 to 80 child abuse investigations a month even though state lawmakers were promised seven years ago the caseload crisis at Texas Child Protective Services would be fixed.

Texas official over CPS quits after Abilene investigation of workers
His departure comes amid Abilene probe of girl’s death
Houston Chronicle – November 8, 2012
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services commissioner Howard Baldwin resigned Thursday just weeks after Abilene detectives seized files from local Child Protective Services workers as part of a criminal investigation into possible evidence tampering and cover-ups in the death of a 22-month-old toddler.