AUSTIN (AP) – The commissioner of the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services has proposed giving $12,000 raises to each Child Protective Services caseworker, supervisor and administrator.
The raises are part of a plan Commissioner Hank Whitman submitted to lawmakers late Thursday. Whitman submitted the plan after a Texas Senate committee ordered him to provide a revised plan for caseworkers or law enforcement officers to visit thousands of youth reported as abused or neglected.
Committee Chairwoman Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, had given Whitman until the close of business Thursday to submit the new plan and demanded that higher pay be a key part of it, as most caseworkers are paid starting salaries as low as $34,000. Whitman said last week that he wanted to hire more than 800 investigators, caseworkers and staffers at a cost of $53 million.
“Get the National Guard or the Texas Rangers or whoever out to each house to see these kids now,” Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, told Whitman.
Records show that as of Oct. 17, more than 15,000 children had not been seen by Child Protective Services investigators, as required, between 24 and 72 hours after an abuse report. More than 2,800 at-risk children have not yet been seen by CPS staff. After a Dallas newspaper reported that through early September half of the children referred to Harris County’s CPS investigators weren’t being seen on time, two legislative leaders called for “action plans” to improve face-to-face visitations. Whitman acknowledged that as of early last week, not much has changed.
Department consultant John Stephen testified that child abuse complaints have increased to about 240,000 a year, compared to fewer than 200,000 four years ago. Currently, there are 211 vacancies for caseworker positions.
“I can’t imagine why we would want to do anything more than go find these children tonight,” Nelson said.
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