The teen accused of killing UT freshman Haruka Weiser on April 3 faces life in prison if convicted of killing her.
Meechaiel Criner's troubled childhood has been revealed in court documents. In 2001, Criner was removed from his mother's home. In 2002, then three-year-old Criner was awarded to his grandmother. Her custody was terminated in 2009 after court documents show she "hit Meechaiel in the face with a belt, leaving him with two black eyes."
Custody of Criner was transferred to an aunt who died last year. His arrest affidavit showed he is homeless and has been living in Central Austin, and his sister said he has mental illness.
Daryl Weinman, an attorney who has represented children and adults in Child Protective Services, said she is not surprised that someone with a history like Criner's, could end being accused of committing such a horrific crime.
"When the system breaks down, everyone wants to know, 'Why didn't we do more?'" Daryl Weinman said.
Weinman said the major underlying problem is the lack of money. She said CPS and mental health are both severely underfunded. Weinman also said there aren't enough CPS caseworkers because they aren't paid enough and are overwhelmed. She added its the same with attorneys assigned to represent children and parents in CPS.
According to CPS, the average daily workload for an investigator in the Austin region in 2014, which covers 30 counties, is 24 cases.
"Way too many cases. And they're working 14 hours a day, six days a week. They can't keep up. They can't follow through with every single kid. You never know which kid is going to break," said Weinman.
Which is why Weinman said more money needs to be used on prevention. Getting children in state care they help they need, before it's too late.
A CPS spokesperson declined KVUE's request for an on-camera interview but provided the following information:
According to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, CPS is making improvements and undergoing something called Transformation.
Transformation is a rigorous self-improvement process that Child Protective Services (CPS) began in 2014 to transform itself into a better place to work and the most effective program possible. It's a bottom-up effort built on the knowledge and insights of front-line staff and led by both regional and state office staff. Transformation will improve child safety, build community collaboration, create a stable workforce, and build leadership.
CPS is increasing its emphasis on finding permanent families for children in foster care. DFPS Commissioner John Specia, addressed the issue in a video message to CPS supervisors who recently gathered from all over the state to begin addressing the issue.
The CPS Practice Model defines the values, principles, relationships, and techniques caseworkers and supervisors use as they work with children and families in a consistent, sustainable way.
Structured Decision-Making (SDM®) is a new suite of tools that works hand-in-hand with the Practice Model. SDM helps caseworkers and supervisors make consistent, fair, and accurate decisions.
CPS dramatically streamlined its policy on investigations and family-based safety services to eliminate red-tape and free caseworkers and supervisors to do their work more efficiently. CPS Transformation means better recruiting and training, mentoring caseworkers and empowering them to make sound decisions, and eliminating bureaucratic clutter to free them to focus on children and families – always keeping the needs of the Texans we serve at the forefront.
CPS added it holds regular online webinars to update stakeholders about their progress towards Transformation.
Go here for more information from Texas DFPS.