Learn more about Transformation, the rigorous improvement process that Child Protective Services (CPS) began in 2014 to transform itself into the most effective program possible. Ongoing struggles with high turnover, growing caseloads, investigations that take too long, and complaints of poor caseworker supervision make it necessary to take a significant transformative step.

DFPS recently issued a report to the Sunset Advisory Commission on its progress and plans for Transformation.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How did Transformation begin?

In 2014, DFPS hired an experienced outside consulting firm (The Stephen Group) to conduct a top-to-bottom review of CPS. This review, based largely on extensive input from front-line CPS staff across Texas, yielded a set of recommendations (CPS Operational Review) in June 2014. In that same timeframe, the Sunset Advisory Commission released its recommendations for DFPS and Casey Family Programs provided CPS with recommendations on improving foster care in Harris County.

Transformation brings together all three sets of recommendations, and entrusts much of their implementation to the frontline field staff whose insights are fueling the effort.

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What has been accomplished so far?

We're taking important steps to make CPS a better place to work and more effective for our clients. DFPS developed a comprehensive plan that details priorities for the year and outlines a definitive path for CPS Transformation. Below are examples of our accomplishments so far related to the key priorities of Transformation.

Develop a Professional and Stable Workforce

To help build a high-quality, stable workforce we recently:

  • Increased recruiting efforts at military bases, colleges and universities.
  • Began collaborating with universities to promote CPS as a profession.
  • Improved screening and hiring processes and realigned the roles of CPS supervisors, DFPS hiring specialists, and human services contractors.
  • • Tested a new caseworker mentoring program in Region 8 and will be expanded to the rest of the state from May through October 2015.
  • Redesigned both CPS' basic training (professional development) and specialty training, established core competencies (skills and capabilities staff need to be case assignable), and tested a field-based delivery model.
  • Began testing a new learning model that combines mentoring, the new CPS professional development training, and specialty training in the San Antonio area (Region 8).
  • Began Strengths-Based Supervision training for all CPS leadership and supervisors statewide.
  • Updated job descriptions for frontline positions.
  • Revised performance evaluations for CPS caseworkers.

Ensure Child Safety, Permanency, and Well-being

Transformation includes many initiatives to better protect children and improve their outcomes. Here are some of our accomplishments so far:

  • Created a Structured Decision Making (SDM) safety assessment tool that went live March 30, 2015.
  • Established a new comprehensive CPS practice model that is the basis for practice guides that will be rolled out throughout the state beginning in May 2015.
  • Tested several process and practice improvements in Investigations, Family-Based Safety Services (FBSS) and Conservatorship (CVS) stages of services in select areas of the state and made plans for statewide roll out.
  • Harris County moved 288 children into permanent homes. These children were in care more than two years and adoption was the goal for most of them.

Establish Effective Organizations and Operations  

CPS put all non-critical activities on hold and refocused its efforts on Transformation. We reorganized our state office (headquarters) to better align with the people we serve. We are also looking to break down barriers that get in the way of serving children and families effectively. Some of our accomplishments include:

  • Streamlined Investigations and FBSS policy.
  • Created a new Workforce Management and Support Division within DFPS to give better support to CPS staff.
  • Hired a permanency director to provide leadership for the divisions that oversee Community Based Care, placement services, and the conservatorship stage of service.
  • Put new processes in place for developing and communicating policy and practice.
  • Started using predictive analytics to anticipate high-risk events, making it possible to make real-time interventions in all stages of service.

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What happens next?

There is much work ahead.  New programs and improvements will be rolling out over the next few months.  Some improvements will be quick and others will take more time.
As we put our plans into action, we're looking at how they affect our staff and our clients and will continue to make changes as needed to make Transformation as effective as possible. 
Some Transformation improvements in the works include:

  • Training DFPS hiring specialists in their new recruitment roles and responsibilities.
  • A college collaboration workgroup to find ways to expand the number of programs providing tuition stipends that prepare social work students for a career with CPS.
  • New performance evaluations for all CPS staff including non-direct-delivery staff.
  • Launching a new mobile app that lets caseworkers in the field quickly upload photos and audio files.
As we put our comprehensive plan into action, we are closely comparing the results we get with the outcomes we’re hoping to achieve.   While some outcomes require time, we are seeing some progress in worker turnover and reducing caseloads.  We are also tracking performance data by region and statewide. We report these findings every six months in our reports to the Sunset Advisory Commission, so check back for updates.

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Will Transformation improve foster care, and specifically Community Based Care?

Yes to both. Children who come into foster care are our number one priority and finding permanent homes for them (what we call permanency) is the best outcome when it is possible.

CPS has made extraordinary gains in adopting children in recent years, repeatedly earning special recognition from federal child welfare officials.  However, there are still more children than permanent homes.

According to the CPS Operational Review, bureaucratic burdens and outdated or duplicative state laws and policies keep CPS workers from focusing on the best outcomes for children – in and outside of foster care.  The Sunset Advisory Commission report called for more scrutiny and a statewide plan for putting Community Based Care into action.  Also, Casey Family Programs studied children in foster care in Harris County and found that they stay in care longer than the state average and are less likely to be reunified with their families. Fulfilling the combination of all these recommendations should significantly reduce those problems.

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