AUSTIN (KXAN) — Wednesday morning lawmakers will look at changes to the state agency in charge of protecting children and older adults from abuse and neglect.
The Sunset Commission is in charge of reviewing state agencies every 12 years, this year they are looking at the Department of Family and Protective Services among others.
Last year the DFPS investigated more than 200,000 reports of abuse or neglect.
Forty thousand were confirmed which averaged out to a workload of about 28 cases per caseworker.
The number one issue the Sunset Commission found with the agency is the number of caseworkers who quit every single year.
Last year 1,300 out of the 5,000 case workers left according to a report by the Sunset Commission.
The reason this is a big problem is it directly relates to children remaining in foster care.
For example, one study by the Child Welfare Training Institute found a child has a 63 percent chance of finding a permanent home within one year if they only have one caseworker.
If that caseworker quits and another one steps in, that child’s chances drop to 23 percent.
Commissioners complied a 187-page report that outlines nine issues and recommendations.
When it comes to the caseworker overload it suggests a mentoring program to retain CPS workers, consolidating management, and using the turnover rate as a way to evaluate the existing management.
TexProtects, a nonprofit that helps implement child abuse prevention programs, is also making recommendations.
They feel a salary increase would help.
Currently caseworkers make $32,000 a year.
For those not involved in the foster care system, the bigger picture of this issue can impact the public.
“It is something that impacts so many things down the road from school readiness to how kids learn in school to how they graduate and go on to become productive members of our society,” said TexProtects Public Policy Director Diana Martinez.
The commission also found CPS is not enforcing penalties on child care facilities that aren’t following the rules, the agency is not capturing comprehensive information to address how well it is protecting kids, and they suggest reassessing the role of CPS management.
“One of the most common letters that we get is going to come from the health and human services committees,” said Representative Larry Gonzales,(R) House District 52 and Sunset Commission Member. “And so these things come up quite a bit in our office, it’s something we are familiar with and already know where some inefficiencies lie and we are familiar with this area and what we should be doing.”
Wednesday’s hearing with the Sunset Commission gets under way at 10 a.m. at the State Capitol and this is just step one in a long process.
From here legislation is drafted and that will be presented during session.
Amendments will likely be added along the way and any type of action won’t be taken until next year.