Nonprofit Says Worker Shortage Hurts Their Ability to Protect Kids 10/20/12
CBS 7 Reporter
October 20, 2012
Midland, TX -It’s a story gaining national attention: a child abuse case in Abilene that turns tragic.
2 months ago 22-year-old Tiffany Klapheke left her 22-month-old daughter Tamryn to die in her own soiled bed sheets, while her husband was deployed overseas.
Just 6 days before the toddlers death a CPS employee closed an eleven-month investigation into the family. That employee has since resigned.
Klapheke remains in the Taylor County Jail on injury to a child charges.
The Abilene Police Department is investigating the Abilene CPS office.
Now a Midland children’s advocacy group is speaking out, hoping to stop tragedies like this one from happening again. The problem is, they say a shortage of workers and volunteers is hurting their ability to protect kids.
CASA of West Texas is a nonprofit group that serves as a voice and advocate for children in foster care. They work closely with CPS and CASA says it's more important than ever that they work together, since both organizations are overloaded with cases.
"It’s just tragic what happened to that child in Abilene,” says CASA of West Texas Executive Director Patty Pisklak. “This is a prime example of why there needs to be another set of eyes and ears on a case."
Volunteers with CASA work closely with children in foster care and in some cases they work just as close with Child Protective Services.
"We have had instances where we've had to call CPS and say this is going on where the child’s placed and that's not ok, they're not safe, they're at risk for abuse when they're in foster care as well," Pisklak explains.
CPS caseworkers across the state are backlogged with cases because of an employee shortage. CASA of West Texas says it's more urgent than ever that their organizations work together.
"We desperately need people to stand up for these kids and make sure they don't get abused again."
But there's no CASA in the Abilene area and even our local office is struggling to find volunteers.
"We’ve got 30 kids right now in this community, or in our 7 County service area that don't have a volunteer," Pisklak claims.
In fact, CASA of West Texas currently serves 300 children, but they only have 91 volunteers.
"They need somebody, they need somebody. They move from foster home to foster home and generally their CASA is the most consistent person in their life"
All CASA volunteers will have a background check and will be required to take 30 hours of training. For more information on how to help call CASA of West Texas at 432-683-1114.
Officials with CPS tell us the worker shortage has been a problem since April and they are currently working on their recruitment and retention efforts. CASA says the reason there is no branch of their nonprofit in Abilene is because of hesitation from the legal community there.