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Abbott, Texas Leaders Order CPS to Stop Failing Thousands of At-Risk Kids

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Governor Greg Abbott is demanding changes after the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services released numbers last week showing that thousands of Texas children were in danger of abuse because Child Protective Services workers failed to check on them.

On Tuesday, Abbott sent a joint letter with Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Strauss to DFPS, directing the department to immediately take action and put together a plan to tackle the huge backlog in CPS cases that aren't being dealt with promptly. The state's top lawmen showed understanding that the department was strapped for both cash and manpower, but said the lack of resources cannot be an excuse when it comes to kids who are in danger, and said they needed to find a way to help those kids immediately.

Last week, DFPS data showed that, on any given day, nearly 1,000 of the state's highest-priority kids, who faced immediate threats of sexual or physical abuse, were not checked on in person even once by CPS investigators. Another 1,800 of these children were checked on — but not within the 24-hour time frame required by law.

As Abbott noted in the letter, these failures can be largely traced back to the dangerous lack of CPS investigators on hand, creating a backlog of children in danger who are not getting helped, a problem the Houston Press has covered extensively. Here's what Abbott had to say about it:

“While the Texas Legislature has taken significant steps to provide the requested resources to DFPS in the past several biennia, the increasing number of reports of abuse and neglect are beyond what the agency’s current workforce can support. We understand that additional resources are required in order for you to begin to address the increasing number of children requiring the state’s intervention. We are confident that the 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.”

Abbott, Patrick and Strauss directed the state agency to immediately come up with a plan to hire and train more investigators, to create more partnerships with faith-based communities and to (somehow) “reinforce the culture of accountability at all levels of management by inspiring your 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.” 

Lastly, because of lack of available foster homes, according to other reports, children were sometimes sleeping in CPS staff offices — which Abbott called “unacceptable.” He asked for plans on how to combat this shortage as well.

“We will not tolerate inferior residential foster care operations,” he said. “The state’s residential providers must be held to the highest standards while caring for our most vulnerable, or no longer operate in our system.”

The governor expects to see those plans by next week. Looks like DFPS officials may be running on coffee and no sleep in the meantime.

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