Child Protective Services Reforms

About 700 new Texas laws go into effect today. State lawmakers authorized legislation on a bevy of new traffic -- crime and health laws. They also enacted significant changes in the state's child protective services.

After several highly publicized deaths of abused children Governor Rick Perry asked the state legislature to make an overhaul of the state's Child Protective Services a priority for this past session. CPS Spokesman Patrack Crimmins says the legislature realized the agency was severely underfunded and understaffed.

Those new positions will help ease caseloads across the state. Scott McCown is the director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin. He says right now the average CPS social worker carries about 75 cases per month. The new hires will bring that number down to about 45 a month, and he says that's still too many.

Of those 2,500 new positions, 400 spots will go to senior investigators. Those individuals will be required to have a law enforcement background and experience dealing with criminal investigations of abuse cases. Another change to the system is a roll-out plan which will privatize all foster care and case management. The idea is that by 2011, all CPS caseworkers will do the initial investigations and then outsource the individual cases to private foster companies. McCown says this has been done in other states with mixed results, and he has doubts about whether it's an effective policy.

The state did implement safeguards into the policy. CPS must submit a transition plan by September 30th. After that, one region will be selected as the pilot for privatization. If it is successful, the roll-out will continue, but if lawmakers have doubts it can be reversed. Other changes include some alterations to the Baby Moses law and increased funding for technology and forensics.

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