Earlier this month state officials granted Child Protective Services (CPS) an emergency request to give the agency an additional $150 million to raise pay for current employees and hire 800 more.
Hank Whitman, head of the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) – which oversees CPS – requested the funds in October. Whitman asked for permission to raise pay by $12,000 for all CPS caseworkers and some other employees in the agency.
After weeks of bargaining, legislators agreed on a plan Dec. 1.
The funding is an attempt to alleviate high caseworker turnover, which child welfare advocates have long been saying is a problem.
CPS workers who have been promoted recently have to wait at least six months to get another raise and those who have just been hired also have to wait until they’ve worked at the job six months continuously until they get a raise.
“So you have this perverse outcome where veteran workers who’ve gone above and beyond to get trained and get a higher promotion are left out of the big pay raise, at least for a while,” Garrett says.
In some cases, veteran CPS employees may get paid less than the rookies they are mentoring.
“It hurts the effort to boost morale, which is needed to stop the turnover,” Garrett says. “In that sense, it was a self-inflicted wound to the foot. A lot of child advocates, though, are really more concerned about who are the new hires going to be and are they going to rush them or are they going to get good people. … This is not good and it doesn’t auger well for sort of a level of competence at the highest levels of state government. But it may not be fatal if they hire really good people.”
Garrett says the governor’s, lieutenant governor’s and house speaker’s offices are to blame.
“I think you got to lay the blame at the leadership offices at the highest levels for holding this thing up for five, six weeks and haggling,” he says. That took the spotlight off of some of the homework that needed to be done.”
The question going forward, Garrett says, is whether the legislature will fund the pay raises for two years, including other changes the department wants to make.
“That’ll be another test,” he says.
Post by Beth Cortez-Neavel.