A 4-year old girl beaten to death in Grand Prairie is highlighting issues within Child Protective Services.
Leiliana Wright died on March 13 from blunt force trauma to the head and abdomen. Wright’s mother and the mother's boyfriend are charged in connection with her death.
“I've had to work cases like this before. So, seeing this, it obviously triggers a lot of feelings for me about just how hard the work is,” said Dimple Patel, a former CPS investigator and supervisor.
In 2014, Patel left the agency to work for the child advocacy group, TexProtects. As a policy analyst, her mission is to now fix the problems she found with her former employer, many of which she felt made it difficult to properly protect kids in North Texas.
“Case workers are carrying workloads that are sometimes double what is recommended for them, and it's really hard to get to every family,” explained Patel.
According to most recent data from CPS, the average case load is approximately 16.5 cases per worker.
However, Patel said case workers report workloads of 40-60 cases each.
Compounding the problem is a lower pay scale than CPS offices in other states.
A case worker in Texas earns approximately $34,000 annually, while some other states pay up to $70,000. The end result, according to Patel, is a 25 percent turnover rate in the state.
“They're kind of running around from crisis to crisis, rather than being able to work each case with the time and really the resources that they need to,” said Patel.
In Wright’s case, the 4-year-old’s paternal grandparents have said they complained to three CPS case workers about her mother, Jeri Quezada.
Quezada gave birth to her daughter while serving time for a burglary conviction in 2012.
While she was away, Wright lived with the grandparents. But in 2013, Quezada was paroled and they tried to work out a visitation agreement. However, eventually, the issue was taken to court. Wright’s grandparents filed for custody in 2014, but it was awarded to Quezada.
“I’m trying to fathom how this happened,” said grandparents, Craig and Alisa Clakely.
Along with the burglary conviction, Quezada was arrested for drug possession in Tarrant County in 2014. Previous to that, she also faced drug and battery charges in Illinois between 2007-2008.
Since Wright’s death, two CPS workers have been fired. A supervisor has also resigned from the agency.
“The workloads up here in North Texas are exceptionally high right now,” said Patel. “We need more state and federal support to implement changes.”