CFRP Report | R.011.0417
In 2014, the CPS program within DFPS began a self-improvement process – Transformation – that aims to improve the ways CPS supports the safety, permanency, and well-being of children. The Texas Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS or the agency) contracted with Dr. Cynthia Osborne and the Child and Family Research Partnership to conduct an evaluation of initiatives to build a high-quality and stable workforce under Child Protective Services (CPS) Transformation.
A key component of Transformation is to restructure the program’s training, learning, and supervisory models with the goal of improving the quality and stability of the CPS workforce.1 The agency’s initiatives to enhance training for new caseworkers through the new CPS Professional Development (CPD) training model are the focus of this evaluation report. The evaluators were tasked with two primary research aims. First, CFRP is assessing whether CPD is effective for building a more stable and higher-quality workforce with the ultimate objective of improving outcomes for children and families. The evaluators are also examining the extent to which the assessments developed by the agency for CPD are aligned with the goals of the model and whether the data collected by the agency can be used to inform ongoing quality improvement.
We find that during the first year of statewide implementation, the CPD model is achieving the intended goals and contributing to building a higher-quality, more stable CPS workforce that will support the agency’s mission to protect children from abuse or neglect.
Specifically, we find that:
- CPS staff report that the CPD training model is the right approach for training new caseworkers.
- CPD-trained caseworkers are 18 percent less likely to leave within their first year than caseworkers trained under the old Basic Skills Development (BSD) training model, resulting in approximately 340 fewer caseworkers leaving the agency, which equates to approximately $18 million in cost avoidance annually.
- CPD-trained investigators are more likely than their BSD-trained counterparts to meet critical casework deadlines, resulting in approximately 6,000 more children being contacted in a timely manner and having their investigation stages resolved more quickly.
CPS staff consistently report that the CPD training model, which emphasizes field-based learning, mentoring, and individualized training and supervision, is the right approach for training new caseworkers. Staff assert that CPD-trained new caseworkers receive a more realistic understanding of their job responsibilities earlier in their training, begin developing skills more quickly, and are more prepared when they become case assignable than their counterparts trained under the previous BSD training model.
Caseworker retention is a central goal of the CPD model, and consistent with this objective, we find that CPD-trained caseworkers are 18 percent less likely than BSD-trained caseworkers to leave within their first year of employment. Reduced caseworker attrition is an important intermediate step to improving the quality of services the agency delivers because attrition directly impacts continuity of care for children and families and is costly to the agency.
Based on the 18 percent reduction in new caseworker attrition, the agency needs to replace approximately 340 fewer caseworkers annually. With lower attrition, approximately 5,700 fewer children each year are experiencing caseworker turnover while in care; assuming each caseworker is carrying a recommended caseload at the time of her departure. In addition, each new caseworker who leaves costs the agency $54,000.2 Therefore, the lower attrition associated with the new CPD model results in over $18 million in cost avoidance for the agency annually.
We also find that CPD-trained investigators are more likely to complete timely attempts at initial contact with families and to close investigations within the designated timeframe, suggesting a measurable difference between the quality of casework performed by CPD-trained caseworkers and the quality of the casework of their BSD-trained counterparts. If the increased rate of timely initial contact attempt and timely investigation closures by CPD-trained workers are realized across all opened investigations, this increase would amount to approximately 5,900 more alleged victims being seen on time, and an additional 6,300 families whose investigations are closed within the mandated timeframe.
The CPD model provides a new framework for training based on experiential and competency-based development that has been shown to be associated with better-prepared caseworkers, lower caseworker attrition, and more timely completion of key investigations deadlines. One of the greatest strengths of the CPD model is that it provides a set of core elements – exposure to fieldwork, mentoring, and structured supervision during training – but also allows for flexibility, which is of great value for an agency like Texas CPS that works in a dynamic environment.
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1 Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Progress Report to the Sunset Advisory Commission: Child Protective Services Transformation, October 2016. Retrieved from: https://www.dfps.state.tx.us/About_DFPS/Reports_and_Presentations/CPS/documents/2016/2016-11-04_CPS_Transformation_Progress_Report_Sunset.pdf. 2 Sunset Advisory Commission. Staff Report with Commission Decisions: Department of Family and Protective Services, August 2014: https://www.sunset.texas.gov/public/uploads/files/reports/DFPS%20Commission%20Decisions.pdf.â