Sunset Commission votes for nearly 100 changes to DFPS

This legislative session could bring big changes to the Department of Family and Protective Services. The Sunset Advisory Commission voted to change the state agency which oversees Child Protective Services.

During the commission's final hearing the group voted to adopt 97 recommendations to help transform the agency that's come under fire for how it has handled some cases.

"We must strike a balance in giving the agency flexibility it needs to protect children and ensuring accountability and transparency. I believe this modification does that to protect Texas children," said State Sen. Charles Schwertner, (R) Georgetown.

The commission hopes the proposed changes will allow case workers to spend more time with children and families instead of pushing paperwork. Part of the problem according to the agency is keeping tenured employees

On average caseworkers spend only 26 percent of their time with children and families according to an operational review of the agency. The remainder of their time is tied up with administrative responsibilities.

Judge John Specia is the head of DFPS and is optimistic about the proposed changes.

"We have to make this job a job that is do-able and have a reasonable work load and a lot of paperwork and a lot of time doing things like travel. We need to work on creating a system that gives workers more time with families," said Judge Specia.

The agency has made changes on its own. Most of these proposed changes deal with the way the agency is governed. Not all of the recommendations DFPS made to the commission are included in the modification that was approved.

The spotlight was put on the agency in the days following the discovery of Colton Turner, 2, in a shallow grave in East Austin and the signs caseworkers missed.

"My agency wouldn't exist but for the terrible things that people who are responsible for children do so we need to work hard to make the right decisions and giving our workers the right tools to make the right decisions," said Judge Specia.

Lawmakers will vote on the recommendations before they become final.