Texas CPS kills plan to give hefty raises to top managers

State leaders have killed a plan to give $268,000 in raises to 10 top managers at Child Protective Services, saying none of them will get a pay boost until the flailing agency improves.

And that, legislators say, is a very good idea.

“The top people getting raises, that’s not the way to go,” said state Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston. “They always get raises.”

On Thursday, the American-Statesman reported that the agency was considering big salary increases for its 10 regional directors, who manage CPS employees and oversee operations around the state. All of the directors would earn at least $100,000.

The raises for directors were being contemplated even as the agency struggles to keep rank-and-file workers with low salaries. In the Austin region, for example, just 54 child welfare investigators are working in 110 investigator job slots.

But the agency quickly reversed course after the Statesman story. Officials with the Department of Family and Protective Services — which oversees CPS — say that Executive Commissioner Hank Whitman hadn’t seen the plan before the newspaper asked about it. As soon as he did, he killed the proposal.

“No salary increases for regional directors will even be considered until clear improvement is seen at CPS,” department spokesman Patrick Crimmins said.

According to a confidential document obtained by the newspaper, state officials were recommending that each regional director make a minimum of $100,000 and a maximum of $142,000. The memo justified the potential pay raise by saying the directors’ current salaries don’t reflect the complicated work of managing employees responsible for child welfare programs across the state.

In the case of the Travis County regional director, Shelia Brown, that could have meant a 29 percent pay raise that would have increased her salary to $110,000 per year.

The regional directors weren’t the only ones up for a hefty pay raise. CPS also suggested paying a deputy director who works with those managers $112,500 per year, about $34,000 more than the previous deputy director made.

Starting pay for entry-level caseworkers is about $33,000. CPS is regularly criticized for not paying enough to its front-line workers.

State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, said there needs to be a more systematic way of doling out pay increases rather than simply giving them to a group of people as a whole. The large increases also could have given more ammunition to people who believe CPS doesn’t need any more money, he said.

“It sends the wrong message,” Watson said.

In 2015, 171 children in Texas died of abuse and neglect, up from 151 in 2014. The number of child abuse cases has increased. The CPS’ Dallas region has struggled with severe turnover and a large backlog of cases that caused investigators to miss deadlines for visiting children or to not see them at all.

The number of CPS “delinquent cases,” those open for more than 60 days, has increased both locally and statewide. In the Travis County region, delinquent cases have skyrocketed 76 percent because of the shortage of investigators.

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