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U.S. judge orders fixes to ‘still broken’ Texas foster care system

Texas lawmakers to hear how $12,000 caseworker pay raises helped CPS


The state Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday will hear from state child welfare officials about how a $12,000 salary boost for caseworkers as well as a multimillion-dollar hiring effort has helped the troubled state agency.

Late last year, the Texas Legislature approved $150 million that gave caseworkers, including child abuse investigators, in Child Protective Services a $12,000 yearly pay increase and allowed the agency to hire 829 employees.

The emergency money came as CPS had reported that thousands of children in potentially dangerous homes weren’t being seen on time and children, who had been reported to CPS, continued to die.

According to data provided by the agency to the American-Statesman last month, more caseworkers are staying on the job and caseloads have dropped after the infusion of money.

After the raises went into effect in January, the percentage of staff leaving Texas Child Protective Services dropped by 5 percentage points to 20.7 percent in the first three months, according to data from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, which oversees the state’s child welfare agency. Currently, the turnover rate is 18.4 percent, the lowest in at least a decade.

Investigators’ average daily caseloads dropped to 14.5 in the fiscal year that ended in September, an 18 percent decline from the previous year. Family-based caseloads remained at 15, and conservatorship caseloads declined to 28 from 30.

The best practice is for each caseworker to have between 12 and 17 cases.

During the week of Oct. 29, 151 children had not been seen in a timely manner. In September of last year, thousands of children per week were not being seen.

The pay boost was followed by a raft of reforms passed by the Legislature in May that overhauled the state foster care system, including extending the pay increases for the next two years.

Lawmakers approved an additional $500 million for the agency over the next two years in part to continue funding the additional caseworkers and raises approved last year.

Among several bills targeting CPS and foster care, one measure increases payments for people who foster children who are relatives.

Under House Bill 4, a family that makes up to $73,800 will receive about $386 per month to care for a foster child who is a relative.



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