Let public see CPS exit interviews – Express-News Editorial Board | December 23, 2014
This brief “Opinion” is from last December; however, the importance of the message is relevant to the current and continued issues within Child Protective Services. By listening to the valid reasons why Workers leave the Field our Government can take appropriate actions to divert systemic issues from broken to functional. JDP
“It’s no secret that the Department of Family Protective Services struggles with retaining Child Protective Services workers. What is secret, though, are the exit interviews CPS workers give when they leave the beleaguered agency. As we head into next legislative session, lawmakers should consider making the substance of those exit interviews public.
The concern, of course, is that workers won’t be candid about their reasons for leaving, for fear of retribution. At present, the exit interviews are done online through the Texas State Auditor’s Office; and they remain inaccessible to even the Department of Family Protective Services.
But given the incredibly high turnover rate among CPS workers — it has at times exceeded 40 percent in some parts of the state and is often through the roof here in Bexar County — understanding why workers are fleeing the agency is a crucial step toward improving child welfare.
One way to understand this issue would be to make the exit interviews public record, but with appropriate privacy protections for the departing worker and existing employees.
The public benefit is obvious. Why, just this year a consulting group, The Stephen Group, reviewed CPS exit interviews from an entire year as part of an overall agency review. That report was remarkably insightful, including the revelation that CPS workers only spend about a quarter of their time with families. The workers spend the majority of their time on administrative tasks like data entry, the report said.
The Austin American-Statesman requested the same exit interviews but was denied. It turns out that The Stephen Group was a special exception, as outlined in its contract with the state. That strikes us as odd, to say the least. But the larger point here is that the exit interviews might provide the public with insight into these departures.
We already know through disciplinary records and Sunset reviews of the agency that CPS’ work culture is marked with toxicity, which only fuels turnover. The results are frightening for child welfare: Caseworkers and supervisors often are not on the same page, there can be little communication between the two sides and thousands of cases go stale or slip through the cracks.
Why not then, with proper privacy assurances, open up these exit interviews for the public record? It could help to identify trends and challenges at the agency that otherwise are being shrouded in secrecy, and that just might help kids and troubled families.”