- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 2, 2016

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Special agents with the Texas Department of Public Safety have helped child welfare workers check on hundreds of at-risk children as part of a review demanded by legislators.

State Child Protective Services officials reported Tuesday that initial visits were completed with more than 400 children who were deemed high risk for harm as of Oct. 17. According a notice sent to state leaders, 10 of those children were removed from their homes.

A report last month showed that through early September, half of children referred to Harris County’s CPS investigators were not being seen on time. Staffers are required to see children between 24 and 72 hours after an abuse report.

Concerns were raised again last week by members of a Texas Senate committee that ordered immediate in-person visits with children not yet seen by CPS investigators. Department of Public Safety officials said most visits happened in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Lubbock and El Paso.

“This is unfortunately predictable,” said Sen. Paul Bettencourt, who pressed for the CPS-DPS task force to check on the children. “The fact that this agency doesn’t have a positive lock on solving these problems is a tremendous problem itself.”

Child welfare experts said that deploying CPS workers to constantly work overtime will be a short-lived effort.

In a “10-point plan” for agency improvements submitted in July, Department of Family and Protective Services Commissioner Hank Whitman is seeking funding from state lawmakers to add more than 800 staffers. He also asked for a $12,000-a-year pay raise for more than 7,000 staffers, stressing that the higher salaries would take effect Dec. 1 to speed up the improvements. In a response to senators pressing Whitman to ask for the pay raise last week, experts said that the raises can be key to reducing the agency’s high employee turnover.

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