Texas Department of Family and Protective Services
Advisory Council Meeting
July 18, 2008
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) Advisory Council met in Public Hearing Room 125-E of the John H. Winters Building, 701 West 51st Street, Austin, Texas. Council Members present were Chair Ommy Strauch, Vice Chair Imogen Papadopoulos, Gigi Edwards Bryant, Debbie Epperson, Paul Furukawa, and Linda Bell Robinson.
Also present were Commissioner Carey D. Cockerell and Department staff.
Not present were Richard Hoffman, Faith Johnson, and Mamie Salazar-Harper.
Agenda Item 1 – Call to Order
Call to order by Chair Ommy Strauch at 9:02 a.m.
Agenda Item 2 – Reading, Correction and Approval of Minutes of April 18, 2008
Ms. Papadopoulos moved adoption of the minutes as written, and Dr. Furukawa provided a second. There was no further discussion, and the minutes were approved.
Agenda Item 3 – Public Testimony
Kathleen Nickels addressed the Council and commended the DFPS for being one of the most progressive agencies in the U.S. when it comes to recognition in its policies regarding siblings’ rights and preservation of family unity. She noted, however, her perception that a significant gap exists between policy and implementation and practice.
Ms. Nickels said that this past February, after a six-month foster placement, she adopted her eight-year-old son. She is currently attempting to adopt her son’s infant sibling, a process that has thus far taken three months. Ms. Nickels enumerated many of her unpleasant experiences in her efforts to adopt over the past three months.
Chair Strauch requested that CPS staff follow up regarding Ms. Nickels’ case.
4. Agency Briefings
4.a. Rider 13 – Michael Roberts, Operations
Michael Roberts provided a brief background on Rider 13 and noted that resulting from the last appropriation bill, the legislature requested DFPS review and, where necessary, improve employee turnover and morale, particularly among case workers. In response, DFPS has started the Workforce Support and Retention Initiative (WSRI). Seven workgroups have been formed to study how the Agency might attract and retain quality employees. Mr. Roberts discussed turnover rates for the past few years, through the FY ’08 third quarter, and stated the projected Agency-wide turnover rate is 18.6 percent.
Mr. Roberts stated that some positions with particularly high turnover rates are in CPS: special investigators and entry-level specialists. Some of the positions with the lowest turnover rates are in CCL: CCL workers and RCCL workers. The regions with the highest turnover rates are Region 4, Tyler/Northeast Texas, and; Region 11, the Valley. The regions with the lowest turnover are Region 2, Abilene, and; Region 10, El Paso. In addition, Mr. Roberts noted that Region 6, which includes Houston, had the fourth-lowest turnover rate with 18.7 percent.
Mr. Roberts mentioned a few major accomplishments to date resulting from the WSRI: a six-month contract with Careerbuilder.com in order to enhance recruiting efforts; improvement of the STARS tool kit designed to give new supervisors and managers support and training, and; a recently launched exit survey in Region 8, which captures some basic data particular to the region. Mr. Roberts announced some future activities: creation of a realistic job preview for case workers, to be supplied to applicants prior to interview; involvement of supervisors in development of core Basic Skills Development (BSD) curriculum, in which supervisors will be able to provide input regarding identification and mitigation of employee deficiencies.
Mr. Roberts said one WSRI work group is researching ways to distribute case loads. He noted that while case load distribution is certainly a local issue and regional directors have discretion regarding assignments, the idea is to review the process and develop best practices and recommendations for implementing such practices. Currently under consideration is an employee recognition plan that would be both championed by Agency leadership and flexible enough for implementation with local flair and customization for each region.
Mr. Roberts provided a short list of special items in the Legislative Appropriation Request (LAR), one of which is elimination of Worker I as the entry-level position. He noted that in
CPS, the entry-level position is Protective Service Worker II; in APS and Statewide Intake, new employees come in as Worker I. Mr. Roberts stated that special funding will be required in order to equalize entry-level positions program-wide to ensure all new employees start out in Worker Two positions.
Mr. Roberts reported that currently under consideration is establishment of recruitment and retention bonuses. He remarked that when an employee leaves, it is typically within the first two years of employment. One idea is a program with a $3,000 recruitment bonus up front in which, if an employee leaves within his or her first year, a prorated portion of the bonus would be returned to the Agency. After an employee has been with the agency for one year, the employee may sign an agreement by which an additional $3,000 bonus would be rewarded should he or she stay for an additional year.
In conclusion, Mr. Roberts said that another idea under consideration is expansion of educational stipends. He noted that while the federal government currently matches state funds for some
CPS workers who are hired under universities’ Title IV-E programs, DFPS would like to acquire state funds in order to expand this assistance where federal funds are not offered, such as CPS investigators, APS and CCL.
Chair Strauch suggested Council members meet with their individual regional directors in order to learn more about some of the specific recruitment and retention initiatives in their respective areas. She remarked that these programs are quite comprehensive in their approaches toward determining root causes of turnover and systematically addressing them.
4.b. CFSR Update – Liz Kromrei, CPS
Liz Kromrei gave a slide presentation and updated the Council on the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR), a nationwide federal review process, the emphasis of which is continuous systemic improvement. Ms. Kromrei noted that while the CFSR is not intended to evaluate either CPS or DFPS, it is an assessment of our state’s child welfare system, which includes many external stakeholders and participants.
Ms. Kromrei noted that there are many changes between Rounds 1 and 2 of the CFSR, one of which involves increasing performance levels. For example, the passing mark has gone from 90 to 95 percent, the bar for data elements has increased, the number of cases has increased from 50 to 65, and the method of data review has changed to what are called data composites, with weighted pieces and parts, which are quite complex but more robust in their assessments.
Ms. Kromrei reported that Round Two of the CFSR occurred in March in Dallas and El Paso counties, and she noted that Chair Strauch was interviewed and participated in the statewide assessment. Nearly 600 people were interviewed in the three counties and in Austin combined during the one-week interview process. Ms. Kromrei stated that although DFPS probably will not have our final report until late September 2008, our federal partners did provide us some preliminary information during the formal exit conference. As was the case in Round One, none of the states passed every element of the second round.
Ms. Kromrei noted that while the CFSR identified DFPS’s strengths and challenges for the seven systemic factors, these were only mentioned, and specific ratings were not provided. Since no challenges were identified in the Agency’s statewide information system or quality assurance system, it is probably safe to say DFPS passed these. All of the other areas have a mixture of strengths and challenges.
In conclusion, Ms. Kromrei stated that following receipt of the final CFSR report, collaborative work to develop a PIP will commence. It is anticipated the final PIP will be ready by December or early January, and the requirement is to submit it within 90 days of receipt of the final report.
Ms. Papadopoulos remarked that some of the improvements CFSR expects DFPS to make will require funding, and she asked Ms. Kromrei how much of the LAR involves these CFSR initiatives. Ms. Kromrei replied that while there is some request for additional funding, the appropriations and outcomes of CPS Reform I and II place the agency in good position to receive what has been requested.
4.c. Commissioner’s Report – Carey D. Cockerell
DFPS Commissioner Carey D. Cockerell opened his report by discussing the LAR , and he noted some Council members have provided feedback on prioritization of the exceptional items and more input is expected. Commissioner Cockerell also said he greatly appreciates input received from stakeholders at the April 25th LAR stakeholder meeting. The Commissioner reported that he has met with the Council’s LAR committee and has provided a list of the exceptional items as were discussed in that meeting. He said although the LAR is a work in progress, the final submission is due August 13.
The Commissioner said although the LAR items have been organized into broad categories of the issues they address, there are three main categories: maintain current services; retention and recruitment, and; enhance services. In addition to maintaining current staffing levels, the “maintain current service” category addresses case load growth in foster care and adoption subsidy in relative caregiver programs, and it requests additional staff in purchased client services in order to address increasing case loads.
Mr. Cockerell noted the “retention and recruitment” category addresses continued improvements for worker and supervisor training, expanded use of the educational stipend program, establishing pay incentives to recruit and retain employees, and replacement of the Worker Level I classification with Worker Level II. With regard to the “enhanced services” category, DFPS is requesting funding to add additional staff in order to lower both case loads and some call center hold times, to improve IT systems, to increase prevention services, to strengthen APS and CCL oversight and to enhance CPS service delivery and oversight.
The Commissioner stated the LAR also includes placeholders for additional items not yet included, one of which is strengthening capacity, an issue which is currently being reviewed systemically; the Agency is contracting with University of Houston to provide analysis and a report in this area, and once the process is complete, that item will be included in the LAR. The other LAR placeholder involves development of a proposal regarding outsourcing of 5 percent of the case management. Mr. Cockerell stated that although the legislative session does not begin until January 2009, prefiling of the bills starts in mid-November. DFPS government relations staff is currently working on the session preparation plan.
Commissioner Cockerell thanked the Council for its participation in the six HHS consolidated Strategic Planning Public Hearings conducted in various cities around the state in April and May. He noted that DFPS was well represented at the hearings by Council members and that he looks forward to sharing more information about the consolidated strategic plan when it is released by HHSC in early August.
The Commissioner then provided the results of the 2008 customer service survey that was conducted by Survey Research Center of the University of North Texas (UNT). Mr. Cockerell noted that UNT will deliver individual presentations to the participating agencies later this month, and those presentations will include a comparison of the 2006 and 2008 surveys, as well as the results from each agency in the HHS system as a whole. The presentation of DFPS’s results is set for the week of July 21.
Commissioner Cockerell updated the Council on the STAR Health Plan, the statewide program to provide medical, dental, vision and behavioral health services to children in foster and kinship care, which began April 1. He noted that a Stakeholder Forum on STAR was held on June 30. The panel that provided the overview for the forum was a joint effort between DFPS, HHSC and Superior HealthPlan Network, our contracted provider. As of June 1, 2008, more than 28,000 children in foster care and kinship have enrolled and are receiving services in the program. As of June 18, 2008, there were 5,700 primary care providers, which translates to one provider per every five members statewide. The STAR program includes 2,800 behavioral health, 2,900 dental and 1,100 vision service providers.
The Commissioner announced “Don’t Be in the Dark,” a public awareness campaign about childcare, which is set to kick off August 4. He noted the campaign is a CCL program designed to educate parents about childcare facilities operating illegally and to encourage unlicensed operators to be inspected and licensed; 13 children in 2007 and 18 children in 2006 died while in unregulated care.
Commissioner Cockerell reported that also upcoming is the new verification process for CPS foster and adoptive homes. Beginning in September, CPS will be implementing this process, which will streamline the verification process for our internal foster and adoptive homes, which currently involves many steps that can differ slightly between regions. This newly revamped verification process will promote not only statewide consistency, but will make the verification approval process quicker, easier and more customer-friendly for foster and adoptive parents. It will also make the adoptive home approval process for relative or effective kin families quicker and easier and will increase the number of homes available to care for children and lessen the time required to achieve permanency for children.
On a more personal note, Commissioner Cockerell announced his retirement as Commissioner of DFPS, effective August 31, 2008. Commissioner Cockerell admitted that when he first met with the Council, in January 2005, he felt rather intimidated by the reform process ahead, but has enjoyed working with Council members, then and now, and has appreciated their input. The Commissioner thanked HHSC and the commissioners and agencies in the enterprise for their collaboration and strong support.
Commissioner Cockerell remarked that he is mostly grateful for the DFPS staff members, noting he would measure them against staff in any state or public agency. Commissioner Cockerell said DFPS staff members have been quite instrumental and worked extremely hard, and they have been willing to do whatever it takes to look at new ideas and strategies to improve DFPS overall.
In conclusion, the Commissioner assured that he will always consider himself a part of the DFPS family and will watch with great pride the agency’s future success in its desire to protect children.
Commissioner Cockerell’s closing sentiments were met with applause, and Chair Strauch thanked him and declared that it has been the Council members’ pleasure to work with him and, at times, allow him to educate them.
Ms. Papadopoulos thanked the Commissioner and said he will be missed; she noted that although the challenges have been enormous, she is pleased with the changes within DFPS and has enjoyed working with him.
4.d. Chair’s Report – Ommy Strauch
Chair Strauch began her report by discussing the search for a new DFPS Commissioner and said she has had a discussion with Executive Commissioner Hawkins, who assured her the process will mirror the previous search. The interviewing panel will be comprised of one representative from the Governor’s office, one or two senior representatives from HHSC and two members, to be appointed by the Chair, from the DFPS Advisory Council. Ms. Strauch noted that while the panel will provide input and recommendations, the final selection will be made by the Governor.
Ms. Strauch said the bulk of activities the Council has been involved with over the past quarter has had to do with the stakeholder hearings regarding the strategic plan and the very-much-deserved staff appreciation events, many of which the Council has attended. She noted her appreciation of the Council members’ involvement in some of the most important initiatives DFPS has undertaken on the issues regarding capacity and employee retention, as well as issues within APS. Chair Strauch asked if other Council members would like to comment on their activities.
Dr. Furukawa stated he and Ms. Strauch had a meeting June 9, with regional staff, Deputy Commissioner Sue Milam and Wynne Breece to discuss retention and to review documents of the Reilly Report and TexProtect. Dr. Furukawa is anxious to hear more about staff’s meeting with Bexar County judges as there are around 70 non-profits who have joined together on this issue.
Ms. Strauch asked if other Council members would like to comment on activities, and they declined.
Agenda Item 5 – New Business
5.a. Selection of Meeting Dates: 2009-2010 calendar year* - Ommy Strauch
Chair Strauch discussed the selection of Council meeting dates for the 2009-2010 calendar year and noted a printed schedule has been included in the Council’s meeting packet. She asked
Council members to check their calendars and inform her of any conflicts they might have with the meeting schedule.
Ms. Bryant moved to accept the schedule of Council meeting dates as presented, and Ms. Epperson provided a second. There was no further discussion, and the motion passed.
Agenda Item 6 – New Business
6.a. Recommendation to propose rule changes in 40 TAC, Chapter 711, Investigations in DADS Mental Retardation and DSHS Mental Health Facilities and Related Programs* - Robert Daniel, APS
Robert Daniel presented these rule changes and said they would amend the rule to authorize APS to provide copies of facility investigative reports directly to DADS and DSHS state offices without expanding existing rights of appeal. Mr. Daniel requested Council to recommend to Commissioner Cockerell and Executive Commissioner Hawkins that the rule changes be proposed and published in the Texas Register for formal public comment.
Ms. Papadopoulos moved that the Council recommend for proposal by the HHSC the amendments to Chapters 711.3 and 711.605 concerning investigation in DADS, mental retardation and DSHS mental health facilities and related programs, as reflected in the Council’s July 18 Agenda Item 6.a. Dr. Furukawa seconded the motion. There was no other discussion, and the motion carried.
6.b. Recommendation to propose rule changes in 40 TAC, Chapter 745, Licensing* - Diana Spiser, CCL
Diana Spiser presented the rule changes and explained they are intended to clarify language in regard to rural areas and ensure consistency with regulation. Ms. Spiser asked the Council to recommend to Commissioner Cockerell and Executive Commissioner Hawkins that the rule changes be proposed and published in the Texas Register for public comment.
Ms. Robinson moved that the Council recommend for proposal by the HHSC the amendments to Chapters 745.371, 745.8447 and 745.8449 concerning licenses, as reflected in the Council’s July 18, 2008 Agenda Item 6.b., and Ms. Epperson provided a second. There was no further discussion, and the motion was passed.
6.c. Recommendation to propose new rules and rule changes in 40 TAC, Chapter 700, Subchapter H, Adoption Assistance* - Beth Engelking, CPS
Beth Engelking discussed these proposed rule changes and noted that they are amendments to the adoption assistance program for the enhanced adoption assistance. Ms. Engelking requested that the Council recommend to Commissioner Cockerell and Executive Commissioner Hawkins that the changes be published and proposed in the Texas Register for formal public comment.
Ms. Epperson moved that the Council recommend for proposal by the HHSC the amendments to 700.801 and 700.880, and the new 700.806 and 700.807, concerning enhanced adoption assistance, as reflected in the Council’s July 18, 2008 Agenda Item 6.c; Ms. Bryant seconded. There was no other discussion, and the motion carried.
Agenda Item 7 – Old Business
7.a. Recommendation to adopt rule changes in 40 TAC, Chapter 700, Subchapter M, Special Issues, relating to travel outside the United States or Texas by a child in foster care* – Beth Engelking, CPS
Ms. Engelking presented the rule changes and said no public comments have been received regarding adoption of the rules. Ms. Engelking asked that the Council recommend to Commissioner Cockerell and Executive Commissioner Hawkins that the rules be adopted as presented, to be effective September 1, 2008.
Dr. Furukawa moved that Council recommend for adoption by the HHSC the amendment to Section 700.1340 concerning travel outside the United States or Texas by a child in foster care, as reflected in the Council’s July 18, 2008 Agenda Item 7.a., and Ms. Bryant provided a second. There was no other discussion, and the motion passed.
7.b. Recommendation to adopt rule changes in 40 TAC, Chapter 748, General Residential Operations and Residential Treatment Centers, and Chapter 749, Child-Placing Agencies relating to Consistency with Legislation and language clarification* – Diana Spiser, CCL
Ms. Spiser presented the recommended rule changes and explained they will provide clarity and ensure consistency with House Bill 3997; she noted that all public comments received have been addressed and are outlined in the Council meeting packet. Ms. Spiser asked the Council to recommend adoption of the rule changes, with minor changes in formatting as discussed in the July 17, 2008 Council Work Session, to Commissioner Cockerell and Executive Commissioner Hawkins, to be effective September 1, 2008.
Ms. Robinson moved that Council recommend for adoption by the HHSC the amendments concerning consistency with the legislation and language clarification, as reflected in the Council’s July 18, 2008 Agenda Item 7.b., and Ms. Epperson provided a second. No other discussion ensued, and the motion carried.
Chair Strauch adjourned the meeting at 10:20 a.m.
* Denotes Action Item