Each month, Child Protective Services (CPS) hires 200 new caseworkers. Within six months, 33 of those caseworkers will quit. This is one of the principal issues the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) is dealing with in their attempts to fix the foster care system in Texas. Low salaries and heavy workloads bear much of the blame for the high turnover rates, along with inadequate training and a push by the agency to close cases as quickly as possible. Harris County (located in Region 6) has one of the highest turnover rates in the state with 26% turnover so far this year.
Key Facts and Figures:
- More than 30% of investigators leave each year.
- One out of every six new hires quits within the first six months.
- Caseworker salaries have barely increased since their 2007 levels. Entry-level investigators earned about $34,600 in 2007 and earn $36,700 today.
- On average, investigators juggle about 20 cases at any one time, but a state commissioned study showed those numbers vary widely. Last year, investigators in South Texas averaged 85 cases each. The Child Welfare League of America recommends investigators carry no more than 12 cases at a time.
- Caseworkers are so bombarded with paperwork that they spend just 26% of their time with children and families.
In an independent study of the DFPS, caseworkers indicated that realistic workload expectations, better supervisors who follow through on promises and allow worker input, more realistic training and better pay are the top issues contributing to high worker turnover rates. The agency, in an attempt to curve turnover rates and attract new candidates, lowered its educational requirements from a four-year degree to a two-year associates degree and two years of related work experience. Education and ongoing training are key aspects to the success of caseworkers in the field. They must be able to think critically and understand the kinds of things that lead to maltreatment of children. The legislature should take a closer look at the job requirements, years of experience and starting salary for CPS caseworkers.
The broken system and rising cases of child neglect are critical issues facing DFPS and the legislature in the fight to improve the foster care system. If elected to represent House District 126, I will continue to voice my concern for the need to immediately address the systematic flaws within CPS. We must hire well educated, experienced and properly trained caseworkers and pay them a competitive salary. These professionals are on the front line of the fight against child neglect and they deserve a better system of support from the agency and the state. Texas children deserve the best from us! In my blog next week, I will examine how prevention services can play a role in avoiding child abuse before the agency and caseworkers ever have to get involved.