Review: CPS Inconsistent with Policies
Updated: Monday, 14 Dec 2009, 9:30 PM CST
Published : Monday, 14 Dec 2009, 1:18 PM CST
HOUSTON – Approximately 200 children die of abuse or neglect in Texas each year; a growing number of those children who die had a prior history with Child Protective Services.
There has been outrage that prior visits were failing to detect warning signs in order to protect children.
A review of the Houston CPS region was ordered in July by the state, after several deaths of children who had a history with CPS. The results from that review were released on Monday.
A team of people with the Department of Family and Protective Services were deployed to Houston for the review. They researched records and cases and did extensive interviews with staff.
The review team concluded that CPS caseworkers are not spending enough time with families and that is partly due to extensive workloads.
Caseworkers missed some risk and safety issues when conducting home visits during investigations, according to the review. In almost half the cases, risk and safety were evaluated appropriately.
Review team members also said that investigative caseworkers are only reviewing and using CPS history in approximately half the cases and need more training in mental health issues.
Reviewers found that cases were transferred out of investigations before all steps had been taken to to fully assess risk and safety, which has left regular caseworkers at a disadvantage and the child potentially unsafe.
Decisions made in case reviews lacked sufficient follow-up by caseworkers and supervisors, according to the review.
Reviewers added that in the Family Based Safety Services program, newly reported incidents of alleged abuse or neglect were addressed with families only half the time.
One recommendation made by reviewers is for CPS to hire all the 116 family-based safety service program caseworkers allocated in the previous legislative session and also reviewing whether more employees need to be shifted to this area.
Reviewers also recommended strengthen practices to keep children safe when parents voluntarily place them outside of the home with relatives or family friends.
Gaps in the transfer of cases from investigations to the Family Based Safety Service program need to be eliminated, reviewers said.
The review team also recommended that investigators be given more immediate access to critical case history and information.
On the Web: Child Protective Services Region 6 Operational and Management Review (.pdf) —
Review: CPS missed warning signs
Investigation shows family history of abuse missed in half of cases
Caseworkers for Texas Child Protective Services have regularly missed warning signs that Houston-area children were in danger, including failing to thoroughly investigate a family’s previous history of abuse or neglect, according to a report released on Monday.
“In only half the cases, risk and safety were evaluated appropriately,” the report’s investigators — a review team from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services in Austin — concluded. “Investigative caseworkers are reviewing and utilizing CPS history in only about half of the cases.”
The team’s report is based on a review of 95 randomly selected child abuse investigations, a fraction of the 16,107 investigations completed between February and July in Harris and 12 surrounding counties.
The review was part of several regional reviews scheduled this year. However, the review here was expedited following the deaths of three Houston-area children who died of child abuse: 4-year-old Emma Thompson, of Spring, David Tijerina, 3, of Conroe and Katy infant Amber Maccurdy.
All three died either during or shortly after CPS investigated complaints of abuse involving their care and the children were allowed to remain in their homes. In the Maccurdy and Tijerina cases, there had been several visits to their families regarding abuse or neglect.
The caseworker in the Amber Maccurdy case walked away after the girl’s mother refused to let her examine the child. Amber died of a staph infection shortly after that visit.
In David Tijerina’s case, CPS workers had visited his home at least four times. He died of a beating.
In Emma Thompson’s case, the girl’s doctor called CPS after finding what appeared to be a genital herpes outbreak on her. Three weeks later, she was dead. An autopsy determined she had been sexually abused and suffered a skull fracture and more than 80 bruises.
The report also noted that child abuse cases in this region were passed too quickly from investigators to Family-Based Safety Services caseworkers — those assigned to help the family eliminate risk of abuse — leaving “the child potentially unsafe.”
With the exception of the removal of 439 children from their polygamist parents in 2008, CPS officials have strived to remove children from abusive households only when there is immediate risk to the child.
“We’ve always tried to keep children safely in their own homes or with their extended family, if possible,” CPS spokesman Patrick Crimmins said.
But at least one children’s advocate says this latest report shows once again that CPS’s goal of keeping families together often runs counter to keeping the child safe, which is the agency’s ultimate mission.
“Investigative and (Family Based Safety) have different focuses,” said Randy Burton, executive director of Justice for Children. “And these coordination challenges of keeping families together has led to the deaths of these children.”
CPS insists the issue is not that clear-cut.
“Whether a child is removed from the home, whether or not there is a voluntary placement with family members or not, those are decisions made to ensure a child’s safety, not decisions made solely to keep families together,” Crimmins said.
Monday’s review offered several remedies, from reallocating workers from investigations to the family caseworker unit to using more of the agency’s “special investigators,” those workers with a law enforcement background, to help locate families more quickly, thereby getting the child help more quickly.
Burton said none of the findings were a surprise.
“These are things we have known for a long time,” he said.
CPS review of Houston cases targets caseworkers
AUSTIN, Texas — Risk and safety were properly evaluated in only about half of the Child Protective Services cases in the Houston region during an internal review.
Details are from a review of 95 randomly selected caseworkers conducted by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
The report, released Monday in Austin, found caseworkers regularly missed warning signs that children were in danger.
CPS spokesman Patrick Crimmins says workers always tried to keep children safely in their own homes or with their extended family, if possible.
Suggestions for improvement included using more of the agency’s “special investigators,” those workers with a law enforcement background. Another recommendation is to enroll parents more quickly in parenting classes and substance abuse treatment.
Reports on other CPS regions of Texas are expected next year.