Why are So Many Dallas County Child Protective Service Workers Quitting?

It’s a symptom of larger issues within the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services.

By Alain StephensApril 5, 2016 11:21 am, ,

Three Child Protective Services workers are now without a job. Two of those workers were fired, one of them resigned after the agency was accused of failing to prevent the death of a 4-year-old girl in Grand Prairie, The girl’s parents have been arrested and charged with injury to a child. CPS is trying to figure out if case workers mismanaged reports.

All this comes in the wake of another issue – an unusually high number of Dallas County CPS investigators quitting the job. So much so that the state has rushed to replace those workers by plucking investigators from other parts of the state. Robert Garrett has been covering the story for the Dallas Morning News. He says that staff turnover in Dallas County is unusually high. In the first quarter of the fiscal year, CPS staff were leaving at a rate of 57 percent per year. That raised eyebrows within the agency.

“Theres an investigation, internally, of that at the Department of Protective Services. My reporting showed that there was a change in leadership over Dallas County investigations last year,” Garrett says.

Several factors have influenced workers to leave. A major one is frustration with the system.

“They changed the case assignment process, whereas before you’d either work cases in the north part of Dallas county or the southern part, and they changed it to where you were going all over the county,” Garrett says. “Workers really got frustrated. Many of their supervisors warned that that was not going to be a popular change … People just started heading for the exits. And in CPS work, that can be contagious and create spiraling effects.”

Of course, all of this comes against the backdrop of agency-wide failings. The staff resignations are more like a symptom of larger problems within the state’s Child Protective Services system.

“Dallas County right now is what they call the front end, where they’re going out and checking on fresh tips of child abuse and neglect,” Garrett says, “but the federal judge in her ruling found that the back end was broken, where kids have been removed from their birth families. And on top of all this, the top brass is all leaving the department at headquarters in Austin.”

With all of the problems, Garrett calls the situation a “big ugly mess” that will demand attention next legislative session.

“So this thing is spiraling. In many ways it can’t wait until the next session for a fix, it certainly is crying out for some kind of interim leadership from the governors office.”

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.