- Associated Press - Thursday, June 30, 2016

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Texas child welfare officials are backing away from an earlier proposal to increase pay for top managers to at least $100,000 at a time the agency is seeing high turnover among caseworkers who receive modest pay for heavy workloads.

Child Protective Services announced Thursday in the wake of an Austin American-Statesman report (http://atxne.ws/2989Q1h ) that it’s ending any further consideration “until clear improvement is seen at CPS.”

The newspaper had obtained a confidential CPS document showing officials were recommending that salaries for CPS’ 10 regional directors top out at $142,000. The memo said the directors perform “highly advanced managerial work.”

The director serving the Austin region would have seen a pay raise of nearly 30 percent, pushing her annual salary to $110,000. The raises for the 10 directors would cost the agency about $268,000 a year, according to the memo.

CPS is regularly criticized for low pay for caseworkers who in many instances are contending with soaring caseloads. An entry-level caseworker earns about $33,000. And the agency is contending with the broad problem of high turnover among staffers and plummeting morale.

The Dallas Morning News previously reported that a backlog of cases in the Dallas area is resulting in investigators missing deadlines for visiting children or not visiting them at all.

In Travis County, there are 110 investigator jobs available but just 54 workers who are handling dozens of welfare cases, according to the Austin newspaper. The number of delinquent cases, which are open for more than 60 days, rose both in Travis County and statewide.

Patrick Crimmins, spokesman for the Department of Family and Protective Services, had said the salary proposal was part of a broader effort to improve the agency and that the raises wouldn’t be tied to people but instead to the positions and number of employees a manager supervises.

Caseworker salaries are based on a state-mandated classification system that results in a range of compensation, Crimmins said. New workers start at a lower salary because CPS can’t afford to pay everyone higher wages, he said. The agency, however, does offer bonuses as a reward; CPS in 2014 granted $615,000 in merit raises to 2,800 employees, the newspaper reports.

Scott McCown, director of the Children’s Rights Clinic at the University of Texas, said regional directors should get more money, but caseworkers who conduct a range of important work also need substantial raises.

“That’s a great thing, as long as it’s coupled with going to the Legislature and saying we need more money for the people at the bottom,” McCown told the newspaper.

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Information from: Austin American-Statesman, http://www.statesman.com

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