In a pilot program meant to test privatization of child welfare services, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) has appointed a nonprofit organization to provide family-based safety services to families at risk of child abuse or neglect in six Texas counties, including El Paso.
According to DFPS spokesperson Patrick Crimmins, the nonprofit partner will be responsible for delivering all child welfare services with the exception of investigation and removal decisions, which will remain under the control of the Child Protective Services division of DFPS.
The contract with Pathways Youth and Family Services, Inc. is expected to begin in March and cost the state somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 million per year for two years, according to Crimmins.
The pilot project will reach about 3,180 children across the six counties. The Texas State Employees Union anticipates the elimination of 55 CPS workers. Pathways CEO Dan Johnson has said he expects to hire 60 employees in the region.
Amy Zachmeyer, an organizer for the union and a former CPS employee, said she doesn’t expect the pilot program to resolve the state’s underlying issues.
“When something goes wrong, they can point the finger at the private agency and hire another private agency without addressing the root of the problem, which is that state programs across the board are underfunded,” Zachmeyer told the USA Today Network.
Texas lost a class-action lawsuit in 2015 to Children’s Rights, a nonprofit litigation firm that has brought dozens of systems into court. U.S. District Court Judge Janis Jack leveled a scathing criticism on DFPS in her decision, saying that the foster care system is “broken” especially for children who had spent several years in foster care, “who almost uniformly leave state custody more damaged than when they entered.”