NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Child Protective Services caseworkers received a $12,000 raise back in January. Bosses, including Jennifer Claude who oversees seven Deep East Texas counties, got a percentage increase.
"It has had a good improvement on our retention," Claude said. In 2016, we had about a 21 percent turnover for this region. And in 2017, it went down to 13 percent"
Statewide, the CPS turnover rate is the lowest it's been in 10 years. Experienced caseworkers and supervisors are sticking around. And when they do leave ...
"It's more competitive, so it's drawing in other professionals as well, so that's been a big help," Claude said.
Court Appointed Special Advocates known as CASA work extremely close with CPS. CASA Nacogdoches Director Tonya Harry once held Claude's job at CPS. She knows resignations can be demanding.
"You're still looking at a 3 to 4-month downturn where the other workers are impacted by having a short-staffed unit while that person is in training," Harry said.
Harry said she values the time she spent at CPS. Pay was not a factor for leaving, but rather the demands that required away from her family. It's something experienced by every CPS staffer.
"Their deadlines become shorter, and their days become longer, and some of the things that are required of them, and so the stress level is higher," Harry said.
The CPS pay raise has improved morale, but accountability has increased. There are more investigators and additional staff. Caseloads in some parts of the state dropped from 70 to the state goal of 12. It's a measure the Nacogdoches region has often fulfilled for the hundreds of children it serves.
"We're able to do a better job of identifying their needs and providing the services or the resources that are needed to help meet those needs," Claude said.
It's the most meaningful aspect of a pay raise.
Before the raise, CPS workers made around $30,000 a year. Salaries can vary based on the number of years the individual has worked for the state.