February 18, 2015
By Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
In Texas, efforts to improve child protection may be bearing first fruit. In the past, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services has been plagued by underfunding, caseloads over twice the industry standard and a whopping 26% annual turnover rate for caseworkers. That’s resulted in cases of children known to be at risk falling through agency cracks while less urgent ones receive caseworkers’ attention. Agency rules, regulations and policies are so cumbersome, and paperwork so time-consuming that a report last year revealed caseworkers spend only about 26% of their time on the job with families in need. Here’s what My Fox Austin reports:
The agency officially started their "Transformation" back in August. Part of that was to get feedback from staff. There has traditionally been a lot of turnover rate. Caseworkers had said they were overloaded and bogged down with paperwork. Some of them have as many as fifty cases. And an independent report blamed that for the reason higher priority cases had fallen through the cracks…
Last month a legislative committee proposed ninety-seven changes to the agency most of which deal with how the department is governed, "The bill has been filed and basically there was a process with Sunset Commission of looking at those statues and we propose they ask us to go through Sunset and ask us for as many deletions in the Family Code," [DFPS head John Specia] says.
There has also been other legislation filed to help better protect kids. One bill proposes to cap case loads for workers at around 15 — another would enforce the child safety alert checklist.
Additional reforms would include increasing press access to the workings of the agency, the better to inform the public.
Read more here (My Fox Austin, 2/13/15).