A Democrat state representative in Texas has pre-filed a bill that would give Child Protective Services (CPS) a longer response window for both the highest priority and second highest priority cases after a report of abuse or neglect.
If passed, the embattled governmental agency would have 48 hours instead of 24 to investigate a report of abuse or neglect in the highest priority cases and would have five days instead of 72 hours to respond to a report of abuse or neglect that has been assigned the second highest priority.
The suggested changes would amend the Texas Family Code.
Texas House Bill 694 was pre-filed by Texas Representative Gene Wu (D-Houston) and if passed, would keep in place the requirement that the agency immediately investigate a report of abuse or neglect that involves circumstances in which a child is at risk of death or substantial bodily harm.
On October 5, Breitbart Texas reported that the Texas agency responsible for investigating reports of abuse and neglect was suffering from more bad press.
Although Texas law requires that a report of child abuse be followed-up by CPS investigators within 24 to 72 hours, media reports revealed that cases involving thousands of children were not investigated during those potentially very critical hours. Over 14,000 children were not seen during that time period and almost 2,000 of those cases were urgent or emergency situations.
The Texas Tribune reported in early October that for each day during the past six months, almost 1,000 “highest priority” children were not checked. Children in this category are those which the agency itself believes are vulnerable to an immediate risk of physical and sexual abuse.
On October 27, Breitbart Texas reported that members of the Texas Senate Finance Committee were incensed to hear that over 2,800 at-risk children had still not been seen by CPS after reports of abuse or neglect. Senator John Wittmire (D-Houston) immediately tapped the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to address the emergency. A reported 511 of the children were classified in the “priority one” category.
“Get the National Guard or the Texas Rangers or whoever out to each house to see these kids now,” demanded Whitmire. “Hell, they may die before we get there, reported the Houston Chronicle.
The director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, Steve McCraw, promised the senator from Houston that his department would rush in to help the embattled agency.
“Governor Abbott and Commissioner Whitman have both clearly stated that the protection of children from abuse is a top priority. The data indicates CPS is falling short of that goal and we absolutely have to get better. These kids have to be seen,” said Patrick Crimmins, media relations manager for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (TDFPS) in October.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott appointed a former chief of the Texas Rangers, Henry “Hank” Whitman, Jr., as the new Commissioner of the embattled agency in April of this year, as reported by Breitbart Texas.
The Texas Governor said at that time of the new appointment, “The status quo at CPS is unacceptable. Our children are too important to suffer through the challenges they’ve faced. I’ve insisted on overhauling a broken system.” Abbott added, “I applaud the leadership changes that will provide a new direction and focus that puts protecting children first.”
In March 2015, Breitbart Texas reported that Abbott directed the DFPS to implement comprehensive reforms. The reforms were aimed at protecting children in the agency’s care.
Crimmins added, “Specific to the problem of not seeing children when abuse reports are made, the key to seeing more kids is to get more workers in the field asap. To do that, we have asked for 510 more investigative caseworkers and more CPS Special Investigators.”
The Department’s Legislative Appropriations Request (LAR) for fiscal years 2018-2019 asks for “New staffing requests [which] total 1,823.4 FTEs in FY 2018 and 1,943.0 FTEs in FY 2019.”
The LAR also contains “Exceptional Item Requests” that are directed at eight goals. Besides an increase in funding and staff resources, one of the goals is to increase funding to retain a high performing workforce.