Mistakes made by Child Protective Services caseworkers contributed to the deaths of two children and the serious injury of another during the past year, according to state records.
The Austin American-Statesman obtained records from 95 child death cases that were reviewed by the Office of the Inspector General between December 2012 and December 2013.The investigatory body began regularly reviewing child fatalities for the first time in December 2012, after a series of child abuse deaths.
Of those 95 cases, 71 indicated that CPS had been involved with the families before the child's death. CPS was cleared of mistakes in all but two of the cases.
According to records in one case, 1-year-old Aiden Fredrickson drowned in a Burleson County hotel bathtub in March 2013 after CPS workers "recklessly omitted a number of the resources that could have protected the life of the child." The investigator wrote that the caseworker knew the boy was living at the hotel with his mother even though she wasn't allowed to reside with him.
The CPS caseworker closed the case saying she couldn't find the family, even though she knew they were staying there. Aiden drowned while his parents were passed out on drugs. The caseworkers were not punished.
"We reviewed the case thoroughly and found that CPS actions were reasonable and policies were followed," said Patrick Crimmins, spokesman for the state Department of Family and Protective Services.
In another case, the investigators' report said that in May 2013, 6-week-old Skyler Joslin died from multiple injuries after a caseworker failed to visit her Camp County family in a timely manner.
In April 2013, a Cosicana child was seriously injured after a caseworker did not look into a neglect allegation, but reported that she had. Investigators eventually found that caseworker had lied in at least seven other cases. She was indicted in Navarro County and charged with tampering with a governmental record.
"We don't know what we're going to find when we open a case," Inspector General Doug Wilson said. "It might not be criminal, it might be criminal. . We follow leads to the logical conclusion, whatever it is."
The Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General is a state agency whose internal affairs unit investigates fraud, abuse and policy violations by state employees.
Caseworkers in Texas have been overwhelmed by caseloads. Nearly 38 percent quit within their first year on the job.
"I think most of them are very good, but there are cruddy people CPS holds on to because they don't have a replacement," said TexProtects Executive Director Madeline McClure. "I'm astounded how they let them get through the screening process to begin with."
In 2009, CPS hired a man, who had been accused of sexually assaulting several people in the 1990s, to be an investigator. He had been banned from working with Medicaid patients because of an abuse claim at a nursing home. CPS fired him in 2012, after the inspector general determined he had inappropriate sexual contact with the mother of a child he was supposed to be protecting.
Crimmins said the agency had run a background check before hiring the man.
"If we had been aware of his background, and we checked, he would not have been hired," he said.