October 8, 2005
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) Advisory Council met at the John H. Winters Building, Room 125-E, 701 West 51st Street, Austin, Texas. Council Members present were Ronald Brandon, John R. Castle, Jr., Anne C. Crews, Richard S. Hoffman, Faith Johnson, Imogen S. Papadopoulos, and Ommy Strauch. A quorum was present. Also present were Commissioner Carey Cockerell and Department staff.
Agenda Item 1 – Call to Order
Call to order by Mr. Hoffman.
Agenda Item 2 – Reading, Correction and Approval of Minutes of July 8, 2005
Ms. Johnson noted a minor correction on page 3. The minutes show, “Mr. Johnson,” as having seconded Ms. Papadopoulos’ motion to approve the minutes of May 6, 2005; that second by, “Mr. Johnson,” should be corrected to, “Ms. Johnson.” Mr. Castle moved approval of the corrected minutes, and Ms. Johnson seconded. Approval was unanimous.
Agenda Item 3 – Public Testimony
There was no public testimony.
Agenda Item 4 - Staff Briefing
4.a. Commissioner’s Report – Commissioner Cockerell
Commissioner Cockerell discussed Department and staff activities in response to evacuations due to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, dealing with the strain on the social service delivery system of Texas. APS and CPS had staff in the major shelters, and Licensing staff assisted, as well. IT staff were instrumental and moved quickly in providing shelter staff and our staff with the needed technology and resources, such as computers, cell phones and internet access. Statewide Intake opened up a toll-free line for shelter staff to call in reports.
DFPS had staff at the State Operations Center (SOC), the central command center for the state's disaster response team, on a daily basis from the very beginning. A primary function was identifying and having referred to us instances of unaccompanied minors; approximately 170 to 180 children under the ages of 16 or 17 were identified as separated from their adult caregivers or parents
Commissioner Cockerell noted that 51 children had been removed from their primary caregivers. Thus far, of those 51 children, 28 have been reunited with their families. He also discussed coordination with the State of Louisiana. APS worked very closely with the DADS and DSHS on meeting the needs of both vulnerable adults and special needs clients.
Commissioner Cockerell mentioned that as of September 28, 2005, staff hours in shelters alone were in excess of 12,000, not including time spent daily, on weekends, and holidays, in field offices and the state office. Nearly 24,000 clients were served in this effort.
The Commissioner stated that he was very proud of the response by our staff, noting that they went beyond the call of duty and quickly mobilized not only our staff, but also our resources, and they quickly deployed the shelters. He has received a number of compliments from the State of Louisiana, as well as the other people who were involved in our activities.
Commissioner Cockerell stated that in the wake of Hurricane Rita, we were called back to the SOC and worked with FEMA. He also noted that we’re facing a few challenges in Region 5, the Beaumont/Port Arthur area, as a result of the hurricane
Commissioner Cockerell discussed our current disaster response plan and how we’ll be reviewing and updating it to ensure better preparedness in the future. He once again expressed pride and praised the Department and staff for all of their hard work and many hours as regards the hurricane evacuations.
The Commissioner briefed the Council on legislative activity. He also mentioned that in September 2005, the first quarterly legislative briefing was held at the State Capitol for legislative staff; the focus was on Adult Protective Service and the improvements in investigation and the services offered by our APS program and staff. DFPS will give a presentation on November 9 before the House Health and Human Service Committee.
Commissioner Cockerell discussed the upcoming National Conference of State Legislators meeting in November. He then noted that he, Representative Hupp, Senator Nelson, Representative Davis and Troy Alexander from the Speaker's office have been asked to make a presentation on reform efforts in Texas.
The Commissioner discussed the Texas tour initiated in June 2005. He visited DFPS offices in Amarillo, Lubbock, Midland, Abilene, Edinburg, McAllen and Corpus Christi and made presentations regarding his expectations, what we are doing and how we’re going forward. Commissioner Cockerell has met over 1,000 staff in the last couple of months and staff have asked some very interesting and rather difficult questions. Though he’s not certain that he has always given them the answer they wanted to hear, they seem to be pleased that we're coming out and listening.
Commissioner Cockerell stated APS client, CPS client and child care licensing visits have been quite a learning experience. Additionally, the Commissioner mentioned Deputy Commissioner Sue Milam’s focus groups with staff. He will be going to Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio, wrapping this travel session up with Austin.
The Commissioner informed the Council that Deputy Commissioner Milam is leading an effort to develop a strategic plan for DFPS; this is being led by HHSC, and she is the point person. Commissioner Cockerell also stated that he is going to be asking Chairman Hoffman to designate a sub-committee of Council members who will participate in this strategic planning process, and more information will be sent to the Council in the near future.
Commissioner Cockerell discussed Senate Bill 6 and its requirement for a plan to deal with the RFP for outsourcing. The plan was completed this week and is being provided to legislative leaders, and it will be provided to the Council the following week.
Commissioner Cockerell noted that this Council work session and meeting had been combined into one day, Friday. After polling the Council, the Commissioner confirmed the Council’s preference for returning to Thursday work sessions and Friday Council meetings.
4.b. APS Reform Update - Debra Wanser
Assistant Commissioner Wanser reported that as of September 1, 2005, 191 of the 252 APS
reform recommendations had been completed and the remainder will be implemented by May 2006. All of the APS reform recommendations and legislative initiatives have been integrated into the DFPS renewal plan. Ms. Wanser stated that an MOU regarding the September 1, 2005 transfer of the Guardianship Program to DADS has been developed and is in the process of being signed by both agencies and the Commission, noting that there was no interruption of service to our clients, our contractors or our judicial partners. She attributes this success to the hard work and cooperation by staff at DFPS, DADS and HHSC.
Assistant Commissioner Wanser stated that 32 additional case worker and/or supervisor
positions have been authorized for FY '06 and for the most part, with the exception of a few
who started in mid-September, most of those staff were on board and ready for training
September 1, 2005. Ms. Wanser announced the selection of Kez Wold as the new APS Regional
Director for Region 7; she informed the Council of Mr. Wold’s background with the agency and
remarked on his strong commitment to our mission and the APS client population.
Assistant Commissioner Wanser discussed the 42 computer-based training modules in BLAST
and noted that this training program expands what was previously three weeks of classroom
training into an 11-week training program. Ms. Wanser then described the on-the-job and
classroom training and continuing education requirements and stated that the recently hired APS
case workers will be the first group to participate in this new program. She noted that not only
are new staff receiving this training, but also every APS worker has received training on the
reform and updated policies and procedures on three different occasions.
Assistant Commissioner Wanser reported that the new CARE tool became fully automated in our
IMPACT system as of May 2005, although aspects of the CARE instrument have been
incorporated into our investigations over the past year. Training has been provided on the tool
and related policies to all APS staff across the state. Ms. Wanser stated that statewide rollout of
the APS mobile technology began September 19 and is scheduled for completion by the end of
October, noting the improvements this new technology offers by allowing case workers to interface with the DFPS network, making access to our policies, forms and IMPACT instantaneous.
Assistant Commissioner Wanser discussed the Tablet PCs and positive feedback received from case workers in that regard, noting improved investigations, better access to supervisors and subject matter experts from the field, more efficient and timely documentation, and a decrease in travel time from the field to the office. Ms. Wanser noted that system testing for the facility mobile technology application began this week and roll-out of the Tablet PCs to the facility investigators begins November 14 and will go over a two-week period.
Assistant Commissioner Wanser announced that DFPS won the Government Technology Conference "Best of Texas" award for the best application serving the public for the APS mobile technology project, noting that APS in a distinguished group of candidates and winners, as the Government Technology Conference is the largest and most respected technology conference for state and local governments in the U. S. DFPS will receive the award on October 19. Ms. Wanser attributes the success of this project to all staff in IT, Program Support, Operations, Training, Budget and the APS program, noting this has truly been a cross-agency project that we could not have accomplished without the excellent support from our contractor, Accenture.
Assistant Commissioner Wanser discussed the 22nd annual APS conference to be held November 2 - 4, 2005 in San Antonio and remarked that attendance for this conference last year was in excess of 350 people, from 32 states and three countries. Ms. Wanser stated that to date, we are ahead of where we were with registration at this time last year, with well over 300 people already registered, and that the majority of people tend to register in the month prior to the conference, and she handed out sample fliers.
Assistant Commissioner Wanser commented on the unprecedented amount of change that the APS program has been asked to undertake this past year. She paid tribute to the staff from across the Department for rising to the occasion, as they have approached it with energy, commitment, seriousness, flexibility and creativity.
Agenda Item 5 – New Business
5.a. Recommendation to propose rule changes in 40 TAC Chapter 720, 24-Hour Care Licensing; Chapter 745, Licensing; Chapter 746, Minimum Standards for Child-Care Centers; Chapter 747, Minimum Standards for Child-Care Home-Diana Spiser
Diana Spiser presented for consideration a proposal to consider changes to the rules as a result of the legislation passed during the 79th Legislature. She noted that the requirements in HB 798, HB 877, SB 6, SB 325 and SB 565 direct us to adopt or amend rules relating to the use of restraints and seclusion in certain child-care facilities, operations that may take a child into care from law enforcement, conducting a random sample to monitor Agency foster homes, limiting the number of anonymous complaints investigated by DFPS and posting a list of current employees in child-care facilities and family homes.
Ms. Spiser asked that the Council recommend to Commissioner Cockerell and Executive Commissioner Hawkins that these rules be proposed and published in The Texas Register for formal public comment.
Ms. Strauch moved that the Council recommend for proposal the new and amended rules regarding new legislation concerning the licensing program as reflected in the Council's October 7, 2005 Agenda Item 5.a. Mr. Castle seconded the motion. There was no further discussion, and the motion carried.
5.b. Recommendation to adopt rule changes in 40 TAC, Chapter 745, Licensing Subchapter F, Background Checks – Diana Spiser
Diana Spiser presented rule changes regarding 40 TAC Chapter 745, Licensing Subchapter F, Background Checks and noted the changes are required by Senate Bill 6 in order to increase protections to children in care. Ms. Spiser added that ten comments, all of which have been addressed, were received from the public and were listed in the Council’s meeting packets. Ms. Spiser stated that these are minor, non-substantive changes, to be effective December 1, 2005, and requested the Council to recommend their adoption to Commissioner Cockerell and Executive Commissioner Hawkins.
Mr. Castle moved that the Council recommend for adoption by HHSC the new and amended rules concerning background checks, as reflected in the Council's October 7, 2005 Agenda Item 5.b. Ms. Johnson seconded the motion and requested as an addendum that the Council recommend that HHSC and DFPS look at additional rules to require national criminal background checks.
There was discussion between Dr. Brandon and Ms. Spiser concerning the number of staff and hours required for background checks, and Ms. Spiser stated that no additional staff would be necessary, noting that IT staff have already worked on the technology end of it to complete that process. Dr. Brandon requested that, assuming this passes, the Council get a report back in three months as to the progress of the process, and Ms. Spiser responded affirmatively and noted there should be enough data by the Council meeting after the January 2006 meeting to perform a comprehensive review of the process.
Chairman Hoffman called first for a vote on the amendments, and the motion carried unanimously. The Chairman then called for a vote on the addendum regarding the recommendation to HHSC, and the motion carried without opposition.
5.c. - Recommendation to adopt rule changes in 40 TAC, Chapter 720, 24-hour Care Licensing; 727, Maternity Facilities, and Chapter 745, Licensing - Diana Spiser
Diana Spiser reported to the Council that the proposed rule changes regarding drug testing are required by Senate Bill 6 in order to increase protection to children in residential child care. Ms. Spiser noted that 12 comments were received from the public and have all been addressed and are listed in the Council meeting packets. Ms. Spiser requested the Council recommend to Commissioner Cockerell and Executive Commissioner Hawkins that these minor changes to the rules be adopted, to be effective December 1, 2005.
Ms. Johnson moved that the Council recommend for adoption by HHSC the amended rules concerning drug testing requirements, as reflected in the Council's October 7, 2005 agenda Item 5.c., and Ms. Papadopoulos seconded the motion. There was no discussion, and the motion passed unanimously.
5.d. - Recommendation to adopt rule changes in 40 TAC, Chapter 700, Relative and Other Designated Caregiver Program - Colleen McCall, CPS District Director
Colleen McCall, CPS Director of Field, presented for consideration the adoption of the proposed rule changes regarding the Relative and Other Designated Caregiver Program and noted that the rule changes are required by SB 6 in order to increase support for kinship placements of children in the conservatorship of the Department. Ms. McCall reported that HHSC has been consulted and changes were recommended to allow additional caregivers to qualify for annual reimbursements and to make the process less burdensome for caregivers and the Department. She also mentioned that no comments on these changes were received from the public and that the changes would become effective December 1, 2005.
Ms. Papadopoulos moved that the Council recommend for adoption by HHSC the rule changes concerning the Relative and Other Designated Caregiver Program, as reflected in the Council's October 7, 2005 Agenda Item 5.d; she also noted that she would like to request an addendum to the motion. Ms. Johnson seconded the motion. There was no discussion on the original motion, and it was passed without opposition.
Ms. Papdopoulos then proposed as an addendum that the Council also recommend that HHSC look at the possibility of expanding the Grandparents Program under Human Resources Code Article 31.0041 to include additional funding as an expansion of the number of grandparents that would be eligible for the program and any other solutions aiding the grandparents in situations where the children are not in the care of the state but where the grandparent is raising the grandchild. Ms. Johnson seconded the proposed addendum. There was a vote, and the addendum passed unanimously. Chairman Hoffman suggested that it would be good within several months to have a report on this item in order to see how many parents or relatives make application and how it affects our budget.
5.e. - Recommendation to adopt new rules in 1 TAC, Chapter 351, 351.504, Caseload Management Reduction Plan for Adult Protective Services - Debra Wanser, APS Assistant Commissioner
Debra Wanser, Adult Protective Services Assistant Commissioner, reported to the Council that SB 6, passed by the 79th Legislative Session, requires the Executive Commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission to develop a caseload management reduction plan for Adult Protective Services. Not later than January 1, 2006, the Executive Commissioner is required to adopt rules establishing the caseload management reduction plan.
Ms. Wanser noted that DFPS worked with HHSC in the development of these proposed rules and the rules were published in The Texas Register on September 2; she also stated that no comments were received. Ms. Wanser requested that the Council recommend to Commissioner Cockerell and Executive Commissioner Hawkins adoption of these new rules, to be effective January 1, 2006.
Ms. Papadopoulos moved that the Council recommend for adoption by HHSC the new rule concerning the APS Caseload Management Reduction Plan as reflected in the Council's October 7, 2005 Agenda Item 5.e., and Mr. Castle seconded. Dr. Brandon asked whether at the next Council meeting it would be possible to find out what the current caseload, the average caseload and/or the turn-over rate in case workers were, and Ms. Wanser responded affirmatively. Chairman Hoffman called for a vote, and the motion carried without opposition.
Agenda Item 6 – Old Business
6.a. - Recommendation to adopt rules changes to repeal Communities In Schools Rules in 40 TAC Chapter 704, Prevention and Early Intervention Services, and Chapter 702, General Administration - Carolyn Francis
Carolyn Francis outlined recommended changes to repeal Communities In Schools Rules in 40 TAC Chapter 704, Prevention and Early Intervention Services, and Chapter 702, General Administration, and noted that when this item was presented to the Council previously, it was noted that the 78th Texas Legislature moved the Communities In Schools Program from DFPS to TEA effective September 1 of 2003. Because TEA has since adopted the rules for that program, DFPS rules are no longer necessary, and she requested that the Council recommend to Commissioner Cockerell and Executive Commissioner Hawkins that these rules be repealed.
Ms. Johnson moved that Council recommend for adoption by HHSC the repeal of the Communities In Schools Program rules as reflected in the Council's October 7, 2005 Agenda Item 6.a., and Ms. Strauch seconded. There was no discussion, and the motion passed unanimously.
6.b. - Recommendation to adopt changes in 40 TAC Chapter 700, Subchapter P for the new federally-funded Education and Training Voucher (ETV) Program - (Presented unknown)
Gerry Williams, General Counsel, reported that the new training voucher program gives additional funds to the Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) program. He also stated that these changes are as previously drafted and are unchanged from the last time they were presented to the Council, and he requested that the Council recommend adoption to HHSC.
Chairman Hoffman called for a motion, and Ms. Johnson moved that the Council recommend for adoption by HHSC the new rules concerning the Education and Training Voucher Program as reflected in the Council's October 7, 2005 Agenda Item 6.b. Mr. Castle seconded, and the motion was passed without opposition.
Agenda Item 7 - Adjourn
Chairman Hoffman called for a motion to adjourn, and Ms. Strauch so moved; Ms. Johnson seconded. The meeting was adjourned.