HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES COMMITTEE LOOKS AT PROTECTIVE SERVICE REFORMS
The Senate Health and Human Services Committee heard testimony today regarding the progress the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) has made in implementing sweeping reforms to the state's protective service system. Senate Bill 6, passed during the 79th regular session, mandated a number of changes to the overworked Adult and Child Protective Service agencies. DFPS Commissioner Carey Cockerell testified that his agency has made excellent progress in complying with the Legislature's requirements.
Cockerell said that Adult Protective Services (APS) has complied 100 percent with the reforms set forth in SB 6, according to a fourth quarter review of the agency conducted last year. APS has hired 180 new case workers, lowering the average case load per worker from 51.3 per day to 42.3. The agency has overhauled its risk assessment procedures, allowing caseworkers to better anticipate and serve disabled or disadvantaged seniors.
Training for APS employees has been expanded from a three week program to an eleven week program, and special task units comprised of experts in adult protective services have been created to work with agency employees on special or difficult cases.
SB 6 implementation has also lowered case loads for Child Protective Services (CPS) workers, said Cockerell. A new screening process eliminates cases involving minor complaints against guardians where the child's safety is not in question. This program has allowed CPS workers to eliminate 25 percent of more than 24,000 reviewed complaints since January 2006.
CPS has also significantly increased its workforce, hiring 2200 staff since September 2005, which in turn has led to decreasing case loads. Training for CPS workers has been expanded to twelve weeks, with five weeks spent on core subjects, and seven weeks dedicated to specialized training. CPS also hired 131 special investigators with experience in law enforcement to apply to CPS cases.
Cockerell added that more foster children are being placed with family or friends rather than strangers thanks to requirements set forth in SB 6.