Child Protective Services: The Road To Recovery

Daniela Fuentes

GOV 374N

Child Protective Services: The Road To Recovery

Throughout the course of ten years or five legislative sessions, the Texas Legislature has cut taxes and funding on specific programs thinking they are overfunded and allocating money into other programs not as in need. By doing so, programs like Child Protective Services (CPS) are hurt in every aspect — from kids in danger waiting months to meet with a caseworker, to caseworkers quitting their job due to low pay, which results in an agency crisis caused by the state itself. It isn’t until a lawsuit or national attention is reached that the state semi-responds to the situation. In the case of CPS, we see a trend in which the state is being reactive, not proactive. While analyzing the trends and patterns of the state’s way of funding, I will offer a solution to the big question: What measures will it take to reform Child Protective Services and their underfunding crisis caused by the state once the national attention is over?

The data used to analyze this trend from Department of Family and Protective Services, Legislative Budget Board, and public court records allows us to view the difference in monetary amounts being initially requested, appropriated, and expended by CPS. From 2008 to 2013, the state of Texas underfunded Child Protective Services by giving them less than what they had requested to work the program (Figure 1). It was reported that on any given day, more than “3,400 children under Child Protective Services hadn’t seen or met with a caseworker face to face” (Garrett and McSwane).

Figure 1. Requested, Appropriated, and Expended Funds for Child Protective Services (Total in Millions)

When Child Protective Services first noticed that their funds were being denied, they put in a request in the 2008–2009 biennium year of $2,199,999 (Fig. 1), and were given less of what they requested of $2,171,000. The following biennium in 2010–2011, they requested $2,388,888 and were given $2,248,000. This shows how the state began to release a little bit more, but still didn’t meet their needs. The following biennium, they requested $2,560,000 and once again were given $200,000 less than they requested.

During the 83rd Legislative Session in 2013, funding trends for Child Protective Services shifted when court case M.D. vs Abbott was filed in the U.S. District Court. This began as a routine case, but was then classified as a class action suit in 2013 which eventually reached national attention. At this point, we see that the state realized this attention could hurt them and decided to go back to giving them more money. Between the years of 2014 and 2017, the budget allocation for CPS increased, and continued to draw national attention to focus on the lawmakers that made this decision to affect this much needed state agency. However, it was clearly shown that this budget increase wasn’t enough to revamp the agency.

An upward trend is seen in funding higher than the requested amount by the agency, but the agency employee turnover rate was still higher than the state’s overall turnover rate. There was a decrease in the turn overate rate in 2016 for both Texas and CPS. No data collected can adequately justify for the increase in retention rate of employees.

In October of 2016, CPS reported that thousands of “at-risk children” under Child Protective Services had not been visited once in the last 6 months (Walters, Daniels). This presented major issues and are the same exact reasons why CPS was sued in the first place back in 2011. In 2016, Governor Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and House Speaker Joe Straus released a joint letter to Department Commissioner Hank Whitman urging him to fix the issue of kids not being visited and send more caseworkers out to visit.

In addition, funding was not the only issue that CPS faced. The state agency also lacked personnel, according to Commissioner Whitman who had requested an additional 550 staffers to be trained and hired (Evans). By the end of 2016, lawmakers finally gave the approval to fund $150 million to CPS as an emergency before the legislative session even began. This is unusual because the state budget has already been completed and once an emergency request comes up, it brings importance.

In Figure 2, we see that employees were leaving from one day to the next and turnover rates were the highest in CPS at 25% per year. They simply weren’t getting paid for the extra hours they worked due to few employees left.

Fig. 2: Employee Turnover Comparison (LBB)

Both the state of Texas and Child Protective Services have proven to be a reactive State by only acting when situations are extremely serious. They do not promote prevention, yet when the major problem is at stake, they come into play. The steps that need to be taken to reform CPS are crucial to a comeback. Because the main issues bringing CPS down have been the lack of funding and an unusual high rate of employees resigning, a new Human Resources plan must be placed to make the employees feel welcomed in an organized environment with a secure job, with action to be done while receiving good pay. In addition, another solution includes more communication and involvement between CPS and the state lawmakers. They must convince lawmakers of the nightmare they are living and bring them out to see for their own eyes the effects. In addition, I believe the state should continue to increase in funding and staffing even after the spotlight and national attention is over and trust in the good job this agency has for the future.

Nonetheless, Child Protective Services is still in recovery and with my suggested solutions, I believe the state lawmakers will be urged to make a larger change not only for the sake of the employees, but rather for the kids and the intention of such a strong program. With a re-designed employee handbook platform, lawmakers aware by the people and the agency, extra funding to the state agency, and more hands-on communication between the state and the agency — will this issue of tracing back almost 10 years be solved. Child Protective Services continues to be affected by the crisis the state caused, but will continue to fight back to be strong again.

Bibliography

Evans, Marissa. “”Beat on Me,” Foster Care Chief Tells Lawmakers. And They Do.” The Texas Tribune. N.p., 26 Oct. 2016. Web. 08 Apr. 2017.

“M.D. v. Abbott.” Children’s Rights. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 May 2017.

Holtom, Brooks C., Terence R. Mitchell, Thomas W. Lee, and Marion B. Eberly. “5 Turnover and Retention Research: A Glance at the Past, a Closer Review of the Present, and a Venture into the Future.” The Academy of Management Annals 2.1 (2008): 231–74. Web.

Walters, Edgar. “Lawmakers Hear Litany of Foster Care Woes.” The Texas Tribune. N.p., 20 Apr. 2016. Web. 02 May 2017.

Walters, Edgar, and Annie Daniel. “Texas Investigators Failed to Check on Thousands of At-Risk Children.” The Texas Tribune. N.p., 04 Oct. 2016. Web. 02 May 2017.

Walters, Edgar, and Emily Ramshaw. “Federal Judge: Texas Foster Care System Violates Children’s Rights.” The Texas Tribune. N.p., 17 Dec. 2015. Web. 01 May 2017.

“Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS).” DFPS — Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Council. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 May 2017.