July 25, 2007
More on the state school abuse scandal

Here's today's Chron story about the horrible abuse of mentally retarded residents of the state schools. Just one observation for today:

Texas spends about $110,000 annually on each of the mentally retarded residents of its state schools, but entry-level workers who care for them make less than $20,000 a year and start with only two weeks of training.

Critics say low salaries, compounded by inadequate training and poor working conditions, make it hard to attract and keep qualified workers, fostering the type of abuse and neglect that came to light this week.

"If you want quality care ... it's something you have to pay for," said Amy Mizcles, director of governmental affairs for The ARC of Texas, an advocacy group for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

As the tales of horrific abuse and neglect by employees surfaced, critics compared conditions at the institutions for the mentally retarded with the state's juvenile jail system, which was rocked this year by its own abuse scandal.

In some ways, the state schools fare worse.

Entry-level correctional officers at the Texas Youth Commission earned as much as $5,000 more last year than entry-level direct care workers do now caring for the mentally retarded. TYC correctional staff received the same 80 hours of training, but that was so widely attacked as being inadequate, it was increased to 300 hours.

"We can't keep enough people who are willing to work for those salaries or find people who are really prepared to do the work," said Mike Gross, vice president of the Texas State Employees' Union, which represents 2,500 employees at the state's schools.

The turnover rate at the Austin State School, he said, has reached 50 percent a year.

Gross said poor working conditions help explain the hundreds of confirmed cases of abuse and neglect that have occurred at the state's schools over the past seven years.

When we talk about "shrinking government", or "cutting government", or whatever the catchphrase that gets tossed around in times of budget crunches or election campaigns is, this is what it really means. We're not talking about the mythical elimination of "waste", or of throwing bureaucrats onto the street. We're talking about employees of places like the Lubbock State School, or the TYC facility in Pyote. We pay them stingy wages for their demanding jobs, we don't spend money to train them, we don't retain them long enough for them to earn raises and promotions, and every few years, we get to be shocked at the terrible conditions at those places. The only mystery is why this is ever a surprise.

I'm not going to belabor this. I'm too depressed just thinking about it. More later when I feel up to it.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 25, 2007 to The great state of Texas

i have been so upset by these articles and thought they should have been brought forth much sooner.

i am the mother and guardian of a son 44 yrs. old who resides at one of the bestest state schools in TX - Richmond State School. he is profoundly retarded, down syndrome, and cannot live in the "community". this ARC group you mentioned thinks that's the only way and has their nose in everything from state to federal. of course, they're getting $$ from private organizations in order to be at every hearing, etc., etc.

Richmond State School is my son's and he is very happy there. he does not need to be out in the community where we "normals" don't understand the retarded.

i keep very close contact with his caregivers; they're not perfect, but they work with you. this does not mean to say that their are direct care staff who should never be there. and as you say, it's the problem of the wages that are paid to them. these people are so impt. to the retarded. do you want to take their job away and take care of someone who can't even talk to you, on machines, etc. this is why they should be paid more.

also, the stipulations for a person to try to get a retarded relative into a state school is so hard, plus sometimes they're never advised that they have this option. these people they talk to work to get them in the community. yet the community waiting lists are in the thousands. the community homes are just inspected by the state 1/yr. whereas the state schools are always on the list. the community homes probably have been advised that they're being inspected and poof everything up. also, they are always privately owned which equals making money!!

also, you said how much it took to care for an individual in a state school. my son receives his dad's s.s. and the state receives over $1,000+/month for him. he is not on welfare, but many are, just like many don't have a guardian (the reason the state is able to get them out of the schools into a community home). sometimes i wonder if some of the state workers are not getting a "kick-back". it's feasible.

another thing in the paper/news is about the TYC letting the youth back out on the street. well, guess what, they are admitting dual diagnosed clients into the state schools which means they're a little slow, maybe a little retarded, but nothing like it take a retarded person to enter a state school. these people are the ones on the streets doing things wrong, abandoned by their somewhat caretakers and get into trouble and then they put these people with my son who doesn't even have any idea what doing something wrong [email protected]!!!!!!!!!!

yet the state is trying to close the state schools.


it's like the land that R.S.S. is located was given for that very specific reason...but yet the state can sell it. thank God, it has some kind of fault that you might not want to acquire the land.

you talk about being depressed, this isn't the half of it if you were a parent of one of these retarded individuals and you know the state and federal governments are trying everything they can to close them down.

yet, all the waste spent by both state and federal makes me sick.

i am a single parent, 66 yrs. old and am so very tired of fighting all of this. i had to go on disability when i was 62, worked since is was a 12-yr. old..........have never been on welfare, etc.

i am sick of our governments and their very selfish ways. they have no concern w/medicare, retirement, etc. as we are paying for that and yet we can't even get what we need and i am not speaking of welfare; yet we're giving to people who cross the border; food, healthcare, etc.

can you tell i'm pissed off?????????????????????/

Posted by: Jean Wilcox on July 27, 2007 5:27 PM