The state’s child welfare agency is suffering from high employee turnover among caseworkers and is having trouble replacing them.
In a new report, Texas State Auditor says turnover reached 34.3 percent in some regions of the state. The audit also found that job vacancy rates hover above 15 percent.
Patrick Crimmins of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services says exit surveys indicate a tense work environment and a heavy workload as reasons for quitting.
“Some of the reasons that have been described in exit surveys include the stress of the job, which is understandable,” Crimmins says. “The work environment can be very difficult. It can be a 24/7 position. Low pay has been described as a factor in that.”
The state auditor says CPS offers competitive starting salaries for caseworkers at around $34,656. As employees progress, however, their pay rate does not match their counterparts in neighboring states. The highest-level salary for a CPS caseworker is $40,560, which is 5.3 percent lower than the average of Oklahoma, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Arkansas.
But a former CPS caseworker says the major reason people leave is that caseloads are too high.
"It really does push workers to finally just leave, because they feel like they can't do what's best for the children and families on their caseloads," said Ashley Harris, who spent four years at CPS before taking a job as a policy consultant at the non-profit organization Texans Care for Children. "Ultimately, when you have high caseloads, you can't do your best job as a worker."
Harris testified to state lawmakers in February that the average daily caseload for CPS workers in 2011 was about 27 cases per employee, almost twice the recommended average. Harris was speaking in favor of House Bill 304, a measure would have capped the average caseload of CPS workers, but cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars over several years. The bill by State Rep. Armando Walle (D-Houston) was left pending in committee.
You can read the Texas State Auditor's full report online [PDF].