ABC-13 rides alongside Child Protective Services caseworker

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Eyewitness News was able to ride alongside CPS lead investigator Angela Smith as responded to a case at a home after an accusation of domestic violence.

"There's always a concern of the unknown until we get there and truly can assess," Smith said.

Smith's job is a delicate act. The safety of the children is the number one priority, while also trying to keep the family together.

"We want both parents to see their children; however, we want them to make sure the kids are safe. It's not about mom and dad and their issues," Smith said. "The last course of action is to remove a child."

Sometimes investigators look for other family members who can monitor or help, but the stories do not always have a happy ending. The agency has faced harsh criticism in recent years from children staying in state custody too long because of severe backlogs in caseloads.

"Yes, at the end of the day I think CPS probably gets the blame, but I believe you have to look at the whole picture," Smith said.

Low pay, long hours, and emotionally taxing work forces a high turnover among case workers.

In the fiscal year of 2012, the Harris County region had a 23 percent turnover. The number had only grown to more than 34 percent in 2015.

Child Protective Services Turnover Rates - Region 6
- 2012 23.2%
- 2013 25.8%
- 2014 30.6%
- 2015 34.1%
Source: Harris County CPS

Just a couple of years into the work, Smith says she is determined not to be one of the statistics.

"I'm very passionate about my job," Smith said. "When I go home at night I just want to be able to close my eyes and not see somebody's child."

The work can be dangerous and situations can quickly change. While ABC-13 cameras were rolling, a tense development unfolded.

To report abuse call the Texas Abuse Hotline number at 1-800-252-5400.

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