CPS and the 85th Tx Legislature AND the future of DFPS

[MAY 2017] What is the future of DFPS?

For over a year, DFPS has been in the public spotlight because of a number of developments. TSEU members have been leading the fight for better pay and caseload standards as the most critical steps needed to improve services. Because TSEU members have been constantly pushing for real pay raises and lower caseloads, we’ve finally seen decision makers adopt an emergency pay raise for some staff, and take initial steps to bring caseloads to safe levels. Not surprisingly, the targeted emergency pay raise has already significantly reduced turnover rates for those employees who received it. While there is still a long way to go to win real pay raises for ALL DFPS employees and to actually bring caseloads down to safe levels, other proposed “fixes” would privatize critical services we provide.

Caseload standards bill passes committee vote
On April 25th, the House Human Services Committee voted in favor of HB 482, by Rep. Walle. The bill, long fought for by TSEU members, directs funding to DFPS to work toward ensuring the average caseload for specified workers and Statewide Intake does not exceed the levels listed below. The bill does not “cap” caseloads, but directs agency leaders to bring caseloads for all workers to specific safe levels. If passed by the full House, it would then have to pass a Senate committee and a vote by the full Senate. The Governor would have to sign it before it would become law.
* APS In Home-22
* CCL-INV- 17
* CPS- FAD- 20
* CPS- CVS- 20
* CPS- FBSS- 10
* CPS INV-15
* SWI Hold Time- 5min

Privatization proposals move forward
Some legislators have offered other tried and failed solutions to improve services in our agency. Both major “CPS Reform” bills- Senate Bill 11 and House Bill 6- would outsource case management for all children and families following an investigation. Supports of privatization have pointed to the Community Based Care model in Florida as the system Texas should move towards. This privatized model has been in place for nearly a decade, and performs worse than Texas on many key Federal performance measures. Foster children are less safe in Florida placements, are more likely to switch placements, and are more likely to re-enter foster care according to a 2016 Federal Review. Despite the poor performance of Florida private contractors, and Federal demands to make improvements to the child welfare system there, Texas legislators continue championing this Florida model to “fix” our agency.

The push to privatize much of CPS has overlapped debate and discussion related to the need to lower caseloads. ACH and other private agencies have publicly stated that they could not perform case management duties unless they were funded enough to bring caseloads to safer levels. Supporters of privatization have had mixed responses, ranging from denying the caseload crisis exists to ensuring private agencies they would secure funding to bring down their caseloads. Current budget proposals would increase funding for private contractors, but this could be directed towards “overhead” instead of lowering caseloads or providing services.

Child Protective Services and the 85th Texas Legislature

Due to the recent crisis and federal lawsuit involving Child Protective Services (CPS), legislators made reforming this agency a priority. Decades before the Legislature prioritized CPS, TSEU members were on the frontlines fighting for pay raises, lower caseloads, and quality services for children.

This session, CPS received $508.5M in additional funding. Legislators added 597 new staff positions in addition to the 800 staff that were approved in December 2016. TSEU members fought to expand the pay raise we won in December to all DFPS staff, but one was not included in the final budget.

While lawmakers increased resources to CPS they also pushed to privatize and direct those resources to private contractors. TSEU aggressively fought against Senate Bill 11, which sets CPS on the path to privatization. SB 11 privatizes CPS case management as new areas convert to Foster Care Redesign, which is also renamed “Community Based Care.” While SB 11 calls for 8 new regions to switch to the Community Based Care model, the budget only includes funding for 5 regions. SB 11 also includes a pilot program for privatizing Family Based Safety Services in 2 regions.

Despite our best efforts, SB 11 passed both the House and Senate and will be signed into law by the Governor. A total of 421 positions would be eliminated, due to privatization, by the end of FY 2019. Thousands more CPS case management positions are under threat if the state continues the privatization push past 2019. This fight is not over!