Governor Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Patrick And Speaker Straus Direct DFPS To Take Immediate Action

October 12, 2016 | Austin, Texas | Press Release

Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus today sent a letter to the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) Commissioner Hank Whitman directing the agency to immediately initiate several actions to protect Texas children in Child Protective Services (CPS) care who are in harm’s way. The directive comes following reports showing the backlog of children not seen within statutory guidelines remains nearly unchanged since the spring.

“It is critical that the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) eliminate the backlog of children not seen within the statutory guidelines,” the letter reads. “Action plans must be demanded from DFPS regional management in order to address the current situation and proactively prevent additional lapses in the required face-to-face visitations and interventions.

“We are confident that the Texas Legislature will make judicious budgetary decisions in the 85th Legislative Session to address the ongoing resource needs for the future biennium. However, we must act now to protect our children who are in harm’s way.

“To that end, we are directing that you immediately initiate the following actions as a focused effort to apply expedient stop-gap measures to the problem while legislators prepare for and make funding decisions for the next biennium.”

The state leaders outlined the following steps DFPS must take to eliminate the current backlog ahead of the 85th legislative session:

  • Develop a plan to hire and train more special investigators, building on their law enforcement backgrounds and utilizing the safety and risk assessment tools available to find the children that the agency has been previously unable to locate.
  • Develop a plan, including a strategic hiring and training schedule, which will ensure DFPS is staffing an increased number of the necessary caseworkers to account for the increase in workload and system backlog of serving children and families.
  • Reinforce the culture of accountability at all levels of management by inspiring the DFPS workforce to rise to the challenge and embrace the commitment to the safety and risk assessment tools as an aid in their critical decision making.
  • Build upon ongoing efforts to enhance more partnerships with local faith-based communities.