A day in the life of a CPS investigator

CPS Investigator Daniel Hernandez interviewing a family in Austin. (KXAN Photo/Phil Prazan)
CPS Investigator Daniel Hernandez interviewing a family in Austin. (KXAN Photo/Phil Prazan)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As the state of Texas makes protecting children under Child Protective Services care a top priority, more money is being allocated to make sure that happens. For one CPS investigator, the help can’t come soon enough.

On Tuesday, the Texas Senate approved $430 million for CPS as part of its overall budget. This new budget will allow for the raise increase as well as additional caseworkers.

For one CPS investigator, the help can’t come soon enough.

“It is a little nerve-racking that first knock on the door,” CPS Investigator Daniel Hernandez told KXAN as he walks up to an Austin apartment. He’s required by law to find a child. “There’s a protective order in place that prohibits mom from having contact with dad.”

Police called him after the mother was charged with family violence and Texas law requires him to find their daughter by the end of this day. During his interview with the mother, she tells him she thinks the toddler is at dad’s house.

“The baby is not here. The baby is still with dad,” said Hernandez as he talks to his supervisor on the phone.

He goes back in and checks for food and hot water, signs mom up for a drug test, parenting classes, then heads off. He can’t leave this case until he finds the child. Sometimes it takes days.

Dad’s at work and Hernandez is able to track the daughter down… she’s with her paternal grandparents. She’s safe. The state agency will follow up with the family to make the environment safer.

“I checked the child for injuries and she doesn’t have any,” Hernandez tells his supervisor.

Hernandez works on re-assigned cases, following up after someone quits the department.

“I love kids and I just want to make a difference in the kids’ life and be safe at their home,” said Hernandez.

CPS turnover has been notoriously high but he says pay raises and additional staff has made a big difference. “Morale went up. I finally feel like the voices of the caseworkers were heard.”

His caseload remains around 20, but he believes the worst days are behind him.

“That’s the hope is everyone’s caseload will drop.”

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