After reports that Child Protective Services caseworkers have let thousands of children at risk for abuse and neglect slip through the system’s cracks, a select team of police will begin to search the state for them.
The more than 2,800 children aren’t missing – they’ve instead been put on waiting lists for state intervention after tips about their safety were called in on the Texas child abuse hotline.
The move comes after a Senate Finance Committee meeting Wednesday. Lawmakers pressured Family and Protective Services Commissioner Henry “Hank” Whitman and Gov. Greg Abbott’s office to act. Senators pressed Whitman to submit a plan for investigating the children’s cases as soon as possible.
“Normally Child Protective Services operates in the shadows – out of view, out of mind,” Garrett says. “It’s finally penetrated the very highest levels of state government and they’re pretty concerned.”
Garrett says 953 children not seen by CPS caseworkers were in North Texas, and 814 of them were in Harris County.
Caseworker turnover is high in the CPS department, accounting for much of the lack of oversight of these at-risk children and their families. One-third of child abuse investigators and 25 percent of caseworkers leave CPS each year. Starting salary for a caseworker is about $34,000, and the needed technology is outdated.
Part of the solution would be to increase all CPS workers’ salaries. But state officials have been reluctant to put up the funds to do so.
“It’s no real secret child advocates have been saying that Hank Whitman was talking pay raises early in the year and suddenly fell silent,” Garrett says. “The obvious inference is that the governor’s office didn’t want to go there, but it was pretty clear after [Wednesday’s] hearing that Republican senators are willing to go there and they’re dragging the governor along.”
But the immediate solution is the team of police. Garrett says the search will be difficult, especially since some of the families don’t want to be found.
Post by Beth Cortez-Neavel.