By Michael Locklear, News 4 San Antonio
SAN ANTONIO – Texas Child Protective Services is asking for emergency funding to hire hundreds of additional caseworkers to deal with a serious backlog.
Numbers presented Wednesday to the Senate Committee on Finance showed more than 2,800 children suspected of being abused or neglected have not even seen a caseworker, and 511 of those are children younger than six believed to be at the highest risk of bodily harm or death.
“There’s 2,800 kids that are suspected of being abused and neglected that we haven’t talked to, we haven’t seen, we haven’t identified and God forbid, anything bad or worse is happening to them,” said Sen. Carlos Uresti of San Antonio.
Sen. Charles Schwertner of District 5 called the statistics “really unexplainable.”
One of the chief issues is overworked and underpaid caseworkers who burn out quickly, Uresti said.
“We’re losing about 1,500 caseworkers a year that are walking out the door,” the state senator said. “It’s costing us $54,000 to train each caseworker, so that’s $83 million just in training costs that we’re losing.”
Uresti said the turnover rate for caseworkers in the San Antonio area is more than 30 percent.
He’s pushing for higher salaries, and so is Department of Family and Protective Services Commissioner Henry “Hank” Whitman, who also wants funding for 550 additional caseworkers.
Commissioner Whitman said CPS has changed schedules and shifted resources to help track down children who may be in danger.
“Many of those special investigators were being used as caseworkers,” Whitman said, “and that’s not what they were intended for. I’m bringing them back to what they were supposed to be doing – looking for these children.”
The path forward wasn’t immediately clear, but lawmakers are committed to an immediate fix, Uresti said.