- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 12, 2017

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - New state funding is helping Texas Child Protective Services make more timely first visits with the state’s most endangered children and improve employee retention.

The Dallas Morning News (https://bit.ly/2o5wdWR ) reported that in December, Texas lawmakers approved $142.4 million for the agency to hire nearly 830 employees and increase salary after the agency failed to see at-risk children quickly.

In the first week of January, 78 percent of children in the most high-risk situations were seen within 24 hours of being reported to the state child-abuse hotline. That number increased to 92 percent between March 19 and March 25.

“The impression that I’m getting … from caseworkers is morale is up,” said Democratic Sen. Carlos Uresti of San Antonio. “The pay raise certainly helped.”

After some case workers received $12,000 pay raises in January, an average of 72 caseworkers a month left the agency. That’s down from the last four months of 2016, which saw an average of 131 caseworkers quit monthly, according to the Department of Family and Protective Services.

Democratic Rep. Gene Wu of Houston said the funds were essential to making improvements.

“Money doesn’t solve everything, but it solves a whole lot of problems when you have none,” Wu said.

House lawmakers have voted to give the department money to hire another 733 people over the next two years, mostly to better serve foster children. The Senate have also budgeted funds for 382 new employees who would focus on improved supervision of foster kids.

Uresti urged the Legislature to focus on two areas in particular that still need improvement: increasing the capacity of foster-care homes so kids no longer have to sleep in agency offices and better allocation of resources to prevent abuse.

“This could be a historic session,” Uresti said. “It could be, but we’re not done yet.”

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Information from: The Dallas Morning News, https://www.dallasnews.com

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