New figures from Adult Protective Services show efforts aimed at reducing turnover rates among case workers are gaining traction across North Texas and the state.


According to APS, turnover in the North Texas region decreased from 37 percent in fiscal year 2018 to 21 percent in the first quarter of fiscal year 2020. Statewide, turnover rates fell from 25 percent in 2018 to 21 percent 2019, but 2020 projections put the year figure as low as 17 percent by the end of the year.


The North Texas region was served by 138 staffers APS staffers in 2019, but just four employees were assigned to Grayson County last year and completed 575 investigations across multiple counties.


Amid the high case loads and emotional rigor of protecting the elderly, APS said the newest caseworkers are often the hardest to retain.


“New APS caseworkers face a particularly tough time acclimating to the work, and the hours each day spent in the homes of elderly and vulnerable abuse, neglect and exploitation victims,” the release said. “Almost half of them left the job in their first year…”


In a press release distributed Monday, APS said the reduction largely stemmed from a three-pronged approach spurred during the last legislative session. APS caseworkers and supervisors were ultimately given a $750 monthly raise, more than 40 new caseworkers were hired across the state and the agency launched a mentorship program to assist new staff.


“Our turnover was too high, particularly with our new workers, and when that happens our ability to serve clients is going to suffer,” APS Associate Commissioner Kez Wold said in the release. “We were spread too thin and couldn’t get workers hired, trained, and in the field fast enough. The job of an APS caseworker is difficult, it can be complex, and with higher salaries and a supportive mentorship program, our service to clients is much improved across the board.”


Under the agency’s new mentorship program, APS is starting to see a drop in new-hire turnover rates. The program is led by tenured caseworkers who receive special training and support new staff with advice and weekly sit-downs. The turnover rate of first-year caseworkers was more than 50 percent in 2018, but the agency expects the number to fall to 31 percent by the end of 2020. And of And of the 194 first-year workers who signed up for the APS Mentor Program, 81 percent are still on the job.


Wold said APS plans to expand the mentorship program to other staff positions and the agency is far from done in its mission to make improvements protect some Texas’s most vulnerable populations.


“In APS we cannot afford to sit still,” Wold said. “With the aging Baby Boomer population, estimates show that in the next 10 years the population over age 65 will grow by 43 percent. And we all know that Texas is gaining new residents, every single day. Many of those individuals are older, and we have to be able to meet that challenge when they need our help.”


Drew Smith is the crime and emergency reporter for the Herald Democrat. Contact him at asmith@heralddemocrat.com.