News Roundup: More Than 100,000 Calls Per Year To Abuse Hotline Go Unanswered

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelMarch 30, 2018 2:57 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

Each year, more than 100,000 callers trying to report potential child or elder abuse and neglect in Texas hang up before reaching a hotline operator. That’s because of long wait times.

Julie Chang took a deeper look at this issue for the Austin American-Statesman. “This year, the agency is on track to exceed 180,000 abandoned calls – which would be the highest in at least a decade,” she says.

Chang found that while the average hold time is about 12.5 minutes, there have already been 23 days this year where a caller has waited more than an hour.  The primary reason is that there just aren’t enough people to take these calls at the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services, which runs the Texas Abuse Hotline.

“And so you saw this year that the number of call taker positions actually reduced by 13, and that was also because of vacancies that happened within the division and so those were just never filled,” says Chang.

While Child Protective Services caseworkers received raises from the state legislature over the last year or so, call takers, who have to have a bachelor’s degree for the job, did not.

“Division officials had told me that the average starting salary is $31,000,” Chang says.

Those officials are hoping to get these workers raises in an effort to address a 15 percent turnover rate.

“But nothing official has yet been proposed by the agency,” Chang says.

Last year, the workers processed more than 800,000 calls and online reports of suspected abuse. The Texas Abuse Hotline is at: 1-800-252-5400.

Immigrant rights advocates have lodged a complaint against an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center in west Texas, on behalf of 80 African immigrants.

Marfa Public Radio reports most of the detained men are Somalian. Many have family members who are U.S. citizens, but were unable to gain citizenship themselves. While detained in west Texas, the complaint says these men faced physical assault and were denied medical attention. (This report details the alleged abuses.)

Jonathan Ryan is with the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, or RAICES, one of the groups that is calling for an investigation into the alleged abuses. He says the men were held in what was essentially a waiting room, “a place to wait for your departure, became for these people a living hell that lasted in some cases six months, in some up to a year and a half.”

Ryan added that a large number of the immigrants are in the process of being returned to countries where they don’t know the language or have family. In a statement, ICE says it takes any allegation of misconduct or unsafe conditions seriously and that all allegations are independently investigated.  

A north Texas woman was sentenced to five years in prison this week for illegally voting in the 2016 presidential election.

43-year-old Crystal Mason, of Rendon was on supervised release at the time from a 2011 tax fraud conviction. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports she told the court that her supervision officer, election workers, and the judge in her fraud case never told her she wouldn’t be able to vote until her sentence ended – including her supervised release.

Last year another Tarrant County woman was sentenced to eight years for falsely claiming to be a U.S. citizen on her ballot.