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Texas State Senate Focused On CPS & Foster Care Issues

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NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Child abuse, neglect and a broken foster care system were all the focus in the Texas State Senate Wednesday.

Texas Child Protective Services (CPS) Commissioner John Specia explained that he has been trying to fix the system since taking over in 2012. "The very first goal of transformation is to develop a professional and stable workforce, a goal that will only further improve our child welfare system."

The Senate health committee examined the current process CPS uses to track the recurrence of child abuse and neglect and the cause of disrupted foster care adoptions.

In December, a court said the Texas Foster Care system was broken. U.S. District Court Judge Janis Graham Jack found the foster care system abusive to the point of unconstitutionality. Jack said, "children have been shuttled throughout a system where rape, abuse, psychotropic medication, and instability are the norm."

Will Francis, with the National Association of Social Workers, said part of the problem is the perceptions that officials have. "At the end of the day I think we still don't value what the CPS system can become. [We] still look at it as kind of a holding area for kids whose parents have 'messed up.'"

When it comes to child abuse statistics show that:

  • Each day 185 Texas children will be victims of abuse.
  • Each year there are more than 65,000 confirmed cases of child abuse in Texas.
  • 1 in 4 girls will be sexually abused before her 18th birthday.
  • 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before his 18th birthday.

The hearing comes after a Grand Prairie 4-year-old was beaten to death -- allegedly by her mother and her boyfriend. The grandparents of Leiliana Wright said CPS failed to help the child even after numerous calls and several visits. A CPS caseworker and supervisor were fired and a special investigator with the agency resigned after Leiliana's death.

Today the Senate also examined the current process CPS uses to track the recurrence of child abuse and neglect. Specia, who is retiring next month after 30 years of public service, said, "We recently reorganized the CPS state office to better support field operations and we are working to relieve administrative burdens such as unnecessary paperwork."

The Senate is also looking for recommendations to improve data tracking to assist in preventing abuse.

CPS records show the average caseload for child abuse caseworkers in North Texas has risen from 18 in 2014 to 23 this year.

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