Legislators, media reports focus attention on FPS

Many issues related to our agency and the services we provide have come to the forefront during the first few weeks of 2015. The current legislative session, which ends June 1st, will be another opportunity for state leaders to either take action to lower caseloads and reduce turnover rates, or to continue searching for shortcuts to improve services. TSEU members will continue to stand up for real solutions that address the fundamental issues in DFPS- better pay, safe caseloads, and an end to costly privatization experiments.

House Committee- Slow Down Redesign

The House Human Services Committee released their interim report just prior to the beginning of the legislative session. Among other issues, the Committee recommended, “the Foster Care Redesign rollout should be temporarily delayed pending further evaluation of available data, additional Public Private Partnership input, and possible legislative direction.” TSEU members testified at the Committee hearing in April 2014, and discussed the need for better oversight and regulation of private agencies because of the inadequate training they provide to foster parents and inappropriate homes they approve.
While expressing support for the overall idea of redesign, the Committee Report detailed specific issues that need to be addressed between DFPS and the private contractors operating as SSCCs (Single Source Continuum Contractors). One of the key issues to address is funding. Similar to earlier privatization attempts in DFPS and other state agencies, SSCCs have asked for more state funding for their own administrative costs and to meet the requirements of their own contract.  The full report is available HERE.

No Bid Contracts- It’s Who You Know

The scandal surrounding no-bid contracts has brought to light the lack of transparency that exists at the highest levels of our agency and HHSC. A multi-million dollar contract to detect Medicaid fraud awarded to 21CT has been scrapped because of the role played by top officials with personal and financial ties to the company. Within FPS, a contract with the same company to track families investigated for child abuse was cancelled after media inquiries. Similar to the Medicaid fraud contract in HHSC, 21CT had no experience in providing this service prior to being awarded the $452,000 contract. The professional connections between AT&T and two other FPS officials responsible for awarding and overseeing a $105 million IT contract has also brought to light the lax control over contractors.

Investigative Reports- Same Problems Continue In DFPS

A lengthy investigative series by the Austin American Statesman has renewed calls for reform at DFPS. Most troubling about the issues raised by the articles is that the problems are not new. High turnover rates, dangerously high caseloads, low pay, unclear policies, and an emphasis on numbers of cases closed are well documented problems in FPS. However, legislative actions have failed to make a difference despite repeated claims by elected leaders that great steps have been taken. The increase in  the number of employees in FPS is cited repeatedly by legislators and state officials claiming that so much has been done to fix the agency. However, despite these increases and numerous internal reform efforts, little has changed on the frontlines. The new positions have not been enough to meet the needs of Texas’ growing population, and constant turnover means valuable experience is not being gained. Caseloads have not lowered significantly to allow staff to spend the time needed to perform quality casework instead of just checking boxes.
The articles also detail how the agency itself has been claiming progress in terms of declining child deaths by using incomplete and inconsistent information. State leaders have expressed their anger over this issue, and have pledged to work to increase transparency and accountability. The full series of articles is available HERE.

what’s next?

Get involved in your Union, and make your voice heard with decision makers. During the next few months, decisions about the future of our agency and the services we provide will be made. Union members will be standing up for a real pay raise, lower caseloads, and quality state services. There are no shortcuts- new technology and new software will never replace quality work provided by experienced employees. Get involved today!