Op-ed: Better-Paid Caseworkers Would Benefit CPS, Texas Kids

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Madeline McClureMadeline McClure, LCSW, is the CEO and founder of TexProtects, the Texas Association for the Protection of Children. We are pleased to bring you this op-ed encouraging support for higher compensation for Child Protective Services caseworkers.

Better-Paid Caseworkers Would Benefit CPS and Texas Children
By Madeline McClure, LCSW, CEO of TexProtects

When I left behind my career on Wall Street, I wanted to protect children from abuse and neglect and strengthen families, so I earned my Masters in Social Work and my clinical license.

I thought becoming a child protection caseworker would be an ideal way to achieve my calling. But I was quickly advised by those who have been there that CPS was where you worked “when you can’t find a job anywhere else.” The stress and the hazards are high, I was told, while the pay is too low for the work required and in comparison to comparable careers. And while the poor pay was not a factor for me, it’s a basic Economics 101 equation that compensation is a factor in attracting and retaining a higher quality workforce.

As a result of multiple factors, Texas is unable to reduce their yearly turnover of 40.5% for new frontline caseworkers. And many of those the department does manage to recruit do not have the appropriate background, experience and wisdom to make life and death decisions required of this enormous responsibility.

This is one of the primary problems that motivated me to found TexProtects, the Texas Association for the Protection of Children, a nonprofit working to reduce and prevent child abuse and neglect through research, education and advocacy.

One of our major goals this session is to upgrade the bleak working conditions that dissuaded me and many others from working for Child Protective Services (CPS). Our legislature has tried many avenues in the past. The current Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) Commissioner, John Specia, is making excellent changes all around. But the one area that we have failed to adequately address is to competitively compensate frontline CPS workers and reward great casework.

CPS turnover cost DFPS an estimated $72.6 million in 2013. It also resulted in poorer outcomes for children. One study showed children with one consistent caseworker had a 74.5% chance of achieving permanency (a broad concept that can include adoption, family reunification, or other permanent living arrangements) within one year. But when a case was handed off to just one other worker, a child’s chance of reaching permanency within a year plunged to 17.5%. For children experiencing a change of caseworkers 6-7 times, their chances of achieving permanency in one year almost vanish.

In its report to the Sunset Commission, DFPS said that it must improve its recruitment and hiring practices “to identify the most qualified candidates who truly want a career at CPS, not just those who need a job, and who will work for the agency for a long time.”

The ways to do that are multiple – we also must tackle a change of culture, more manageable workloads and caseloads, less redundant and archaic paperwork, more non-monetary acknowledgements and rewards, and more field-based training. But increased investment in the number one asset of CPS – the frontline worker – is part of that solution. It’s a simple fact that business executives know well: money attracts and retains talent.

Those leaving the profession cite low pay among their main reasons for doing so. CPS caseworkers in Texas make only about two-thirds what workers in other crucial social service professions make, such as police, teachers and social workers. TexProtects has proposed a new compensation system that incorporates cost-of-living differentials and market-based comparable pay, targeted to the higher-turnover positions per county.

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and on April 1, TexProtects will rally on the south steps of the Texas Capitol and then speak with legislators about accomplishing this goal and many others. Please join us by going to www.texprotects.org and registering. Allow the Texas legislative budget writers to hear your voice in advocating for the secondary caregivers of our abused children.

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About Author

Burnt Orange Report

Burnt Orange Report, or BOR for short, is Texas’ largest political blog, written from a progressive/liberal/Democratic standpoint.

1 Comment

  1. No more money would only bring more scandal. I am involved in an ongoing cps case, and I see social workers who take my information and don’t present it to the court. My court appointed lawyer, whom I fired, doesn’t contact me with a strategy to have my baby returned. She withdrew on 3/6/15 because I asked her to help me. Which left me with no representation with a mediation upcoming on 3/9/15. They constantly ask me is my baby up for adoption, or for me to sign my rights over to them. Now I have no money, no lawyer, no support or help with the social services I acquired myself with no help from my social worker you want to give a raise. All they did in the family plan meeting was talk about how hungry they were. Now that I have completed their family plan; I find that they didn’t file the charges I thought they had against the boy who raped me. They make no mention of my accomplishments with the social services or the fact that I am now a full-time student. You need to assess the need by following them in private not with smiling faces. Little Colton’s family called on numerous ocassions, yet you as well as I are expected to do our work or find a New line of work. Pay raises will only create a New set of problems that will just raise the price of our children to even higher. These vultures prey on the ignorance of parents with deception. By parents thinking these vultures have their best interests as the agenda. When their interest is selling babies for federal money to adoptive parents who can afford it most. See what they do for 5 hours of mediation or a day in court. If I had someone to guide me through the process daily. Eventually I would learn the process and will be able to train another with no formal training. The money would be best spent on an advocate for each child. Maybe to college students as a daily case study for each child. To report their progress daily via video conferencing with child present daily or in better ways.

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