Lawmakers Discuss Changes at Embattled Child Protective Services
AUSTIN, Texas -- Advocates for foster children are hopeful that change could soon be coming to Texas' embattled Child Protective Services as lawmakers and CPS officials discussed the agency's issues in a hearing on Wednesday.
"The job has gotten more and more difficult. There's more and more cases. It's unbelieveable the number of cases that they get," Retired CPS Employee Susan Ryle said.
With Child Protective Services under heavy scrutiny by lawmakers, caseworkers have found themselves in the spotlight. Little pay and large amounts of of stress have led to high rates of caseworker turnover at CPS. But change may be coming.
"I myself have been coming down from North Texas for 15 years asking for these raises," Ryle said.
A $12,000-a-year salary bump for CPS caseworkers was one of the items discussed at a House hearing Wednesday. The raise is seen as badly-needed. DFPS Commissioner Hank Whitman gave impassioned testimony about how many caseworkers have to stretch already-thin salaries to feed foster children in their care.
But not all lawmakers are convinced more money makes a complete solution.
"There are other issues that are not related to the salary that we also need to make sure we are looking at," Rep. Leighton Schubert said.
CPS officials said they're working to improve the agency's culture. They're also looking to hire on more than 100 investigators with law enforcement backgrounds after the success of CPS' joint effort with DPS in locating missing children.
"It was law that joined in with our investigators to locate 'em," Whitman said.
"Sir, we have one DPS, we don't need another," Rep. Garnet Coleman said in response.
Even with the disagreements, child advocates are hopeful that fixing CPS will now be a priority in the upcoming legislative session.
"Every legislator that I've seen an interview with, that we've had a conversation with, they have listed CPS changes as a top priority," said Lee Nichols of TexProtects
DFPS is asking for more than $142 million for the new hires and salary raises for the rest of the fiscal year. Lawmakers still need to approve these plans.