Senate Panel Okays Far-ranging Privatization of Texas CPS Workers’ Duties

AUSTIN -- A Senate panel has endorsed a sweeping child welfare privatization measure that in future years could outsource most of what Child Protective Services does beyond initial investigations of child-maltreatment reports.Under the bill, Texas would embrace a new "community-based care" method for procuring beds and therapies for abused and neglected kids.It differs in at least two key respects from the "foster care redesign" approach that has produced some good initial results after more than two years of effort in Tarrant and six nearby counties:· Employees of a private, nonprofit entity would take over the job duties of CPS "conservatorship caseworkers." Currently, the CPS employees work with foster children and their birth families and report on their progress to judges.· The nonprofit picked to run community-based care in a region also would do what CPS "kinship care" workers currently do -- track children who've been removed from their homes and placed with relatives or family friends, not in foster care.Other parts of the bill would require two regional pilots testing whether work now done by a third cadre of CPS employees - "family based safety services" caseworkers - also can successfully be privatized.Senate GOP leaders have downplayed the scope of the privatization. They noted that in the El Paso area, the Department of Family and Protective Services is about to take bids for private delivery of family based safety services. The work involves such things as making birth parents obtain drug counseling or attend parenting classes while they keep custody of their kids.Also, bill author Sen. Charles Schwertner has questioned as too ambitious a proposal by department chief Henry "Hank" Whitman to roll out foster care redesign to eight more regions in the next two years. That's in addition to the Fort Worth area and the Abilene-to-Wichita Falls region, where a lead contractor is expected to be named soon.Still, if Schwertner's bill becomes law, it potentially could threaten about 3,200 CPS caseworker jobs, according to a Dallas Morning News analysis. That's nearly 55 percent of the approximately 5,800 caseworkers for whom agency leaders successfully sought big pay raises late last year. The various privatization pushes would have to extend statewide for so many to lose their jobs - something Senate GOP leaders have said is by no means a sure thing.Hiring preference for laid-off CPS workersIn a brief description of his newly revised bill Wednesday, Schwertner made no mention of state workers' job security.As was true in previous versions, though, his measure would require lead contractors for community-based care to give preference in hiring to CPS workers who lost their jobs because of the case management outsourcing.There's one caveat. CPS' parent, the, would have to deem the workers to be "in good standing."  Continue reading...

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