On Wednesday, October 9, Gov. Greg Abbott announced that he would be appointing Jaime Masters to be the Commissioner of the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), which oversees Child Protective Services (CPS) and the foster care system.
Masters currently works for Jackson County, Missouri as the Chief of Health Services and Acting Chief of Operations. She has previous experience in the state of Kansas with their Department for Children and Families.
“[DFPS] needs a leader who has the experience to build upon its recent successes and improve care for all Texas families,” Abbott said in his press release. “Jaime is that leader and I am confident in her ability to keep Texas families, children and vulnerable adults safe from neglect and abuse.”
Masters’ appointment is scheduled to begin on December 2, 2019.
At this point, there is no anticipated change in other current leadership positions, such as that of Deputy Commissioner Trevor Woodruff, who has served as the acting commissioner for the past several months.
The previous commissioner, Hank Whitman, was appointed in 2016. Shortly after his appointment, he fired several of the agency’s regional administrators and made all of the others reapply for the position.
During his tenure, Whitman also sought to decrease caseloads for CPS investigators, which had been considered by some to be part of the problem for the agency’s inadequate performance.
Despite his initial efforts to bring about change in the department, significant issues have persisted.
Shortly after Whitman’s departure, CPS in Kaufman County removed a four-year-old, Drake Pardo, from his family, refusing to disclose the allegations made against them. Since then, the case has dragged on with CPS admittedly violating several of its own policies.
With over twenty state legislators signing their support for the Pardos as the case pends before the Texas Supreme Court, lawmakers are beginning to realize the lack of checks and balances within DFPS.
The job Masters is walking into is undoubtedly a difficult one, and success in tackling the problems with oversight might only come with an unbending eagerness to create stronger accountability mechanisms for caseworkers and supervisors.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.