Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The eyes of Texas are averted

Two days ago, I noted that there are some in Texas who claim that the children from Eldorado won’t suffer as badly as so many other Texas foster children because they’re in the national media spotlight. Therefore, it is argued, they’ll get extra attention.

I argued then that even were that true, it would mean only that other Texas foster children will be even worse off, since the eyes of Texas CPS would be taken off their cases. Evidence for that came Monday, when Texas announced that enough caseworkers will be assigned to these 463 children to give each a caseload of “only” 15 cases – or maybe it’s 15 children; news accounts vary, and it makes a big difference. The typical Texas caseworker has more than 45 cases and, of course, many of these cases will involve more than one child.

But if CPS means 15 cases, imposing this kind of a cap on the Eldorado cases may mean that three times as many other Texas foster children suddenly are going to be without a caseworker. And if CPS means 15 Eldorado children per worker, then the number of other children who will lose their caseworkers will be even greater. Who’s going to handle their cases? Odds are, they’ll further inflate the caseloads of the remaining workers. And of course, a brand new worker will have to relearn all about each of these children.

A CPS spokesman says not all of the workers assigned to the Eldorado children will be workers who normally handle such cases, so not every worker will be diverted from an existing caseload. But that simply means these workers either were sitting around doing nothing, or something else children need isn’t going to get done.

The impact already is being felt. The Parent Guidance Center reports that families already are having visits with foster children canceled by caseworkers, citing the workload from the Eldorado case as an excuse.

As for the Eldorado children benefiting from extra attention from CPS, the track record so far is not promising.

● Two days ago, we noted that CPS broke its promise not to institutionalize the youngest children.

● Now, The Salt Lake Tribune reports, one of the children’s law guardians says they’ve broken another promise, the one about not splitting up siblings.

● CPS has admitted that nine of the children have been hospitalized and, as of Tuesday, three still were in the hospital.

● And CPS is having trouble with even the most rudimentary tasks. Again, according to the Tribune (which generally has been well ahead of Texas media on this story) some mothers still haven’t been able even to contact the caseworkers assigned to them. CPS provided lawyers for some of the mothers with a list of caseworker names. But they neglected to include phone numbers.