Crisis at TX CPS: Your Help Needed!
Monday, October 17, 2016
We wanted to share with you a letter written to the Commissioner of the Department of Family and Protective Services, Hank Whitman, by Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and the Speaker of the House Joe Straus. We felt it was important to bring this letter to your attention, since the healthy operation of Child Protective Services affects all Texans, and many of our members work within or alongside the Department.
There is a major crisis at CPS, and this letter correctly identifies that. Hundreds of children are going unseen by caseworkers, and this is unacceptable. This article by Dallas News contains a powerful info graphic that shows just how staggering the problem is, and this article by the Texas Tribune contains some excellent analysis by Miriam Nisenbaum, the Executive Director of NASW/TX.
This letter was an opportunity for the leadership in Texas to make a strong commitment to transforming a damaged system. Instead, they shifted responsibility to Commissioner Whitman, who has been on the job six months, and gave him one week to develop a plan that will address all of the issues children in care face. As an example of a misguided assessment of the problem, the very first bullet point cited by the letter identifies special investigators with a law enforcement background as a necessary step. This does nothing to address the issue of unseen kids, and points the Department in the wrong direction, aiming at a punitive response rather than one focused on crisis intervention.
We agree with Senator Carlos Uresti (D – San Antonio) that Governor Abbott should call for a Special Session devoted solely to child welfare, and give CPS, the legislature, advocates and others the ability to immediately dedicate their efforts to addressing the needs of children and the Department. The letter mentions the need for increased dollars in the budget next session for CPS, but that may be too late to save the lives of children, and the time to act is now. The lack of this step by the Governor was incredibly disappointing, and an example of rhetoric over action.
NASW/TX is advocating for a solution to the issues at CPS by calling on the Department to focus on three major areas in regards to workforce: recruitment of more social workers in order to impact outcomes for kids; increased salaries to retain the workers; and lower caseloads through an expanded staff to transform the culture at the Department. We will continue to fight for an educated workforce that is paid an appropriate salary, and will press both the Department and the legislature to take swift action now.
Please join with us in contacting the Governor and your legislators by telling them you want CPS to bring the minimum education requirements back up to a 4 year degree, and for the legislature to allocate more funds for salaries and more caseworkers through a special session. Together we can show them why social workers should be the backbone of the child welfare system. The best way to place kids first is to bring in a workforce that understands the value of lasting positive outcomes for children.
Thank you in advance,
The NASW/TX Government Relations Team