- Texas Military Department / Flickr.com
Based on internal emails recently obtained by the News, Abbott, who entered the governor's office in 2014 with a promise to renovate the state's Child Protective Services, appears to have only watched the program flounder from afar – until recently, that is.
The emails show that in the past year alone, more than 200 Texas children have died because of maltreatment, compared to 173 in 2015. For 28 of those children, CPS had an active investigation into whether they were being abused. That's up from 19 kids who died under CPS investigation in 2015.
The internal emails also show that the sobering October data on the amount of at-risk foster kids who have been left in potentially abusive homes (nearly 1,000) was actually old news to the governor's office. Abbott's team evidently knew about the neglect in 2015 — but only began taking action in the last few months of 2016. The first response out of the governor's office? Throwing pizza parties for CPS social workers who regularly checked in with their children.
After a week of tense negotiations this November (following a whole lot of bad press), the state finally approved an increase in CPS caseworkers' salaries in hopes of retaining the historically overburdened and underpaid staff. Just this month, Abbott announced a plan to move foster kids out of state psychiatric institutions and treatment centers.
What's still unknown is how many at-risk children remain unchecked by state case workers. Meanwhile, some lawmakers argue Abbott's delayed action could have cost some foster kids their lives.
“Had action been taken sooner, could deaths have been prevented? I have to believe yes,” Rep. Chris Turner, an Arlington Democrat, in an interview with the News. “When we see that simultaneously deaths are up, deaths in open cases are up, and the delinquent case metric is worsening, it’s reasonable to draw a direct correlation there."