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03.29.2017

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Child welfare workers fear losing their job with new legislative bill

Since October, Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus pressured legislators to do right by Texas children with more funding for the Department of Family and Protective Services.

On Wednesday, March 1st, Texas legislators from both chambers unanimously passed House Bill 4 and House Bill 5 that change how the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services cares for vulnerable children.

The bill would create a so-called community based care program in which the Department contracts with local non-profit organizations to handle casework. Other provisions include a pilot program for non-profit organizations to handle behavioral health care for children, requiring managed care organizations be notified of a child’s placement change within 24 hours and requiring children under conservatorship to have medical exams within three days of entering into the system. The bill would also require the Department to retain abuse and neglect records for longer periods of time.

Since the passing of the bill, state caseworkers along with employees from both the Child Protective Services and Texas Department of Protective and Family services feel that their concerns are not being heard. Sheila Hazley, a retired caseworker and manager for Texas Department of protective and Family Services, stated "It is a good philosophy, and if we could do it, it would be great for families and children, but the services aren't available," Hazley said in regards to creating so-called community based care programs with local non-profits to handle casework. "So when our representatives are talking about it, they're talking about it in an ideal world ... but unfortunately, we don't live in an ideal world."

Along with Sheila, caseworkers feel that with the passing of this bill it is not taking the time to allow a third-party to do proper research in the potential outcomes of implementing such a drastic change. The fear with allowing community based programs to handle delicate cases, which need experienced and trained case management, is that a lack of experience working with these children can cause irreversible damage. The amount of work involved is going to require a very specific training that these non-profit organization may not have the funding to provide.

Click here to read more about the changes in the legislative bill.

Child welfare workers fear losing their job with new legislative bill