A Higher Salary Can Save a Child
Texas Child Protective Services employs individuals to oversee and supervise the care of children who are in the temporary conservatorship of the department. For various reasons, CPS employees have been leaving the Department in record numbers. The most recent data indicates that the turnover rate for these employees is 20 percent. Hundreds of cases of abuse or neglect are called into the CPS hotline everyday, so the state cannot afford to lose workers while thousands of children are in need. The high rate of turnover puts a heavy burden on the State to continue hiring and training new workers. To replace a CPS caseworker, the state must spend approximately $54,000 to hire and train their replacement (Garrett). Hoping to decrease the number of CPS employees who resign in their first three years, the Texas Senate Finance Committee passed a report during the interim to increase the pay of CPS employees by $12,000 a year (Senate Finance Committee). Therefore, the Senate’s Report to adjust the budget is an attempt by the legislature to retain those trained employees who are serving on the front lines to protect children who have been abused or neglected. How does a high turnover rate affect the children within the Department of Family and Protective Services, and why is a salary increase going to change those results?
The issue that the Texas Senate Finance Committee is trying to solve is a high percentage of turnovers. Since 2011, the turnover percentage has been hovering around the same 20 percent as seen above in figure 1. This means that one fifth of all hires are resigning annually. After 5 years of constantly unacceptable turnover rates, it is obvious that the turnover rate will not improve on its own, and CPS needs the help of the State legislature to increase the retention of trained workers. The reason behind the importance of the turnover rate is the availability of the staff to adhere to the children’s needs. If 20 percent of the staff is leaving the department, then there are thousands of children who are either left in abusive or neglectful homes, or remaining unmonitored in foster care until a new investigator or caseworker can be trained and certified.
The children who come in to the care of CPS are dependent on the state employees to protect them. DFPS requires that when a referral is received, an investigator must meet with the child within a certain amount of time. Priority one (P1) reports are “children who appear to face an immediate risk of abuse or neglect that could result in death or serious harm” and must be seen within 24 hours. Priority 2 circumstances are all other cases that are not given priority one and they must be seen in 72 hours (Texas Department). Figure 2 shows the number of children who are not being seen in the required time. From 2013 to 2016, the number of children who are not being seen timely has increased by 3,000 for P2 and 2,000 for P1. In 2016, 4,011 children were not seen within 24 hours of the priority one call in which the child is believed to be in imminent danger. Therefore, Texas children cannot afford for the state to lack in the number of CPS employees, and the turnover rate remaining at 20 percent is increasing the number of children who are forced to remain in immediate risk.
In the last four years, the number of CPS employees who have worked at the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) for less than three years is higher than the number of employees who have been there more than three years. In other words, more than half of those employees who oversee the day-to-day welfare of the children in state custody have been with the department for less than three years — relative newcomers. In figure 3, employees who have been at DFPS for less than three years are increasing while those who have been there longer are staying constant. From the graph, it can be inferred that most employees only work at DFPS for a couple of years. If CPS employees continued to work at DFPS, the number of workers that have been there for more than three years would be steadily increasing. To dissipate the number quitting within a few years of being hired, a higher salary could urge the individual to continue working at DFPS.
Child Protective Services is made up of three different sections: Investigation, Conservatorship, and Family Based Safety Services. Salaries among the three divisions are not uniform, but all are expected to increase by $12,000 per worker this upcoming year. $35,000 a year is a manageable salary, comparatively it is equivalent to entry levels of other public servants; however, it is the strain of the job that makes the turnover rate so high. The strain of working late, the fate of a child’s life, and the small salary have all been attributed to the high turnover rate. Figure 4 shows the dramatic effect a $12,000 salary would make on one’s annual income, which could reduce the number of CPS staff members stepping down within a few years of being hired.
In the 82nd Legislature, Bill 753 was passed that required DFPS to conduct a survey on the employees of Child Protective Services satisfaction with their salary. Of the 1,532 staff members who participated, 75% were dissatisfied with their current salary, while only 8% were satisfied (Specia). Alone, this data seems predictable of a government occupation; but the data demonstrates that the majority of employees who are dissatisfied are the ones who end up leaving the department. Of those members who left the Department in 2012, only 6% stated that that were very satisfied with their salary, whereas 73.70% of the employees who departed were dissatisfied (Specia). There is strong evidence that the low salary of a caseworker results in high turnover rates, and high turnover rates increase the number of children remaining in abusive and dangerous circumstances. The Senate Report to increase the employee’s salary by $1200 is predicted to decrease turnover and increase the number of children being seen in a timely manner.