State lawmakers call on reforming Texas Child Protective Service

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T Alumnus Will Francis works as the government relations director of the Texas Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers and helps children in the foster care system.
Photo Credit: Chase Karacostas | Daily Texan Staff

Members of the Texas Senate Finance Committee proposed emergency funding Monday for the state’s Child Protective Services to hire more caseworkers and raise current caseworkers’ salaries to keep up with foster care children’s cases.

“Ultimately they’re going to need to sustain a higher level of investment to have more caseworkers and they’re going to need to raise the pay so they can retain good and experienced caseworkers for this very important work,” said Gina Hinojosa, District 49’s State House Representative-elect.

Members suggested $75.3 million in funding, with $67.6 million from state general funds and the remaining $7.7 million in federal funding, according to an article by the Texas Tribune.

According to the Texas Senate Finance Committee, the caseworkers’ raise would be $12,000 per person.

“I think all of our caseworkers do need a raise,” said Shari Pulliam, media specialist for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. “When you have other higher paying jobs, especially in a metropolitan city, of course they’re going to gravitate towards those jobs.”

Christine Johnson, director of the School of Social Work’s Child Welfare Education Collaboration, said the Child Welfare League of America, which advocates for family and child welfare, recommends 12 to 15 cases per social worker, but being overworked with more cases is common.

“We never really get the funding that we need,” Johnson said. “All [caseworkers] get out of it is helping people. It’s hard work [and] you go home crying a lot of days.”

Court-appointed special masters Kevin Ryan and Francis McGovern, who are leading the reform of CPS, said current caseloads should be cut in half and not exceed more than 14 cases at a time. Currently the average caseload for Texas caseworkers is about 30 cases each, according to the Dallas Morning News.

UT alumnus Will Francis worked alongside CPS caseworkers through the Child Welfare Education Collaboration program before graduating and working for them officially. 

Francis said some CPS caseworkers lack social work skills and move from case to case quickly without engaging with the child.

“We have to bring some value into their interactions with kids,” said Francis, the government relations director of the National Association of Social Workers’ Texas Chapter. “CPS has to move away from numbers.”

Francis said his internship with CPS was valuable and he was inspired by UT’s School of Social Work.

“It was really wonderful being in this environment where you had a whole lot of people passionate about social justice and changing the world.”

Francis said he tells his collegues that working for CPS only requires “thirty percent of social work,” while the rest is less interacting with the families and children involved. Francis said this lack of emphasis on relationships needs to change. He said he is passionate about working closely with people, and so doing less of that with CPS was upsetting.

“When I graduated and completely went to work for CPS, I sort of carried over the momentum of that kind of optimism from school,” Francis said. “It just got more challenging as it went along because it was further and further away from social work.”