DALLAS — The head of the agency charged with protecting Texas children said better worker training is needed to ferret out deception from caregivers.
In at least four recent deaths of young children, Child Protective Services caseworkers didn’t push hard enough to find out the truth about the kids’ circumstances.
Department of Family and Protective Services chief John Specia told the Dallas Morning News that workers need to be trained to be able to see through lies about relationships inside foster homes, the home’s actual occupants and whether there is ongoing abuse.
“We’ve got to be able to connect dots,” said Specia, a veteran San Antonio family court judge. “It’s really a matter of being able to have that little red light go off that somebody isn’t telling you the whole story.”
Specia, who Gov. Rick Perry selected last year to run CPS’ parent agency, said women who are abused are sometimes “really good liars.”
CPS workers need more training on domestic-violence victims’ tendency to protect abusers, he said.
Experts told the paper that caseworkers trying to get to the truth are hampered by a heavy workload and the young age of most CPS workers.
Expecting young workers to suspect deceptions as well as someone around 40 could be foolish, said former McKinney police Sgt. Ida Wei Cover.
She spent seven years as a CPS worker and then switched to law enforcement.
“They just don’t have the life experiences,” she said.
Mike Foster of Austin, who has decades of experience running a residential treatment center and a family services agency for abused children, said that if adults are uncooperative in child safety investigations, CPS or private companies should escalate their aggressiveness.
They should randomly interview neighbors and demand to look into closets to check whether a man’s clothes are present, which could indicate he lives in the home.
“You should always take it to the next step,” Foster said. “You almost always regret not trusting your intuition. If you feel like something’s up, you better chase that down.”