February 26, 2009 / Dallas Morning News
Some Child Protective Services issues brewing in the Legislature:
BUDGET: Last fall, CPS' parent agency, the Department of Family and Protective Services, asked for $332 million in additional money; so far, lawmakers are looking to fund just $81 million of that. Some of the big-ticket CPS items include $36 million to pay and equip additional "conservatorship" caseworkers hired in the past two years and hire even more of the workers, who visit children removed from their families, and more workers who try to preserve families. About one-third of that request has been funded in the Senate's "base budget." Also, CPS wants $27 million for pay bonuses to better recruit and keep caseworkers. Lawmakers haven't yet found money for that.
CASELOADS: A measure by Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, would make CPS reduce caseloads so that at least once a month, caseworkers could visit each child identified as mistreated.
COMMUNAL LIVING: A measure expected to be filed in the House this week aims to make it easier for CPS to remove sexual abusers of children from communal living situations. The bill, inspired by last year's CPS raid of a West Texas polygamist ranch, is being co-authored by Reps. Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville, and Drew Darby, R-San Angelo.
PRIVATIZATION: A measure by Sens. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, and Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, calls for outsourcing up to 10 percent of foster child case-management services in one or more geographic regions by 2011.
FAMILY PAY: A measure by new Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo, would require the state to pay relatives who agree to care for abused children at least 60 percent of what foster-care contractors are paid.