Sex trafficking, drugs and assault: Texas foster kids and caseworkers face chaos in rental houses and hotels
A report from Department of Family and Protective Services watchdogs paints a picture of a roughshod safety-net system that is unprepared to protect its youthful charges from predators and unable to keep them from endangering themselves.
One-third of Texas foster care caseworkers left their jobs last year as the agency continued putting kids in hotels
The Department of Family and Protective Services has increasingly relied on housing foster kids in hotels when it can’t find them a home. In the 2022 fiscal year, after record staff turnover, more than 1 in 4 caseworkers had less than one year of experience.
New Texas laws favor parents in child abuse investigations as legislators try to limit number of kids in foster care
Legislators also passed bills that will provide foster kids entering the troubled system with duffel bags or backpacks and those aging out of the system with help setting up bank accounts.
Judge admonishes Texas foster care officials, saying they don’t properly monitor facilities housing kids
A U.S. district judge has long presided over a court case that found Texas’ foster care system unconstitutionally harms kids. Tuesday’s hearing was the first appearance by the state’s new team of defense attorneys.
Texas will create new database to screen child care workers after alleged abuse, expands mandatory reporting requirements
The legislation came after The Refuge, a Bastrop foster care facility, hired a caretaker without knowing she had a history of sexual misconduct with children at a state juvenile facility. Coworkers also concealed evidence of the abuse, which further put the foster girls at harm.
Federal judge says Texas’ use of psychotropic drugs puts foster kids at serious risk
Residential facilities did not refill medications in a timely manner, failed to follow psychiatric orders and, in several instances, violated state guidelines, court monitors documented after site inspections. The lawyer representing the foster kids said it could be “the tip of the iceberg.”
Texas Senate votes to close employment loophole after Refuge foster care scandal
The upper chamber unanimously passed Senate Bill 182 after The Texas Tribune reported that a state-licensed foster care facility hired a caretaker whom the Texas Juvenile Justice Department previously fired for having inappropriate relationships with children.
In abrupt retirement letter, an investigations director decries Texas’ “untenable” child welfare agency
Sharon Fonvielle-Baughman said Texas Department of Family and Protective Services leadership has failed to support the special investigators division, a unit created in 2005 to handle the most high-risk cases.
Texas AG Ken Paxton pushes court to reconsider injunction halting investigations into affirming care
In the state’s final brief to appeal a September injunction that halted the investigation into Texas parents of transgender children, Paxton argued that individual families must provide evidence of harm from the actions of the Department of Family and Protective Services.
Texas should tell parents their rights when it investigates child abuse claims, lawmaker proposes
Most reports of child abuse or neglect turn out to be unfounded. But while under investigation, parents with little understanding of their rights or the process often make decisions that could impact the fate of their families.
New family and child welfare commissioner foreshadows change as agency plans to outsource case management
Department of Family and Protective Services Commissioner Stephanie Muth told lawmakers Friday the agency will require a different set of skills from its employees as it changes how foster children’s cases are managed.
Federal judge again threatens contempt-of-court fines for Texas’ slow progress on foster care reforms
The judge warned the state could be held in contempt of court for not following through with three mandates: youths not knowing their rights, not adequately responding to abuse allegations and still having too many children without placement.
After alleged sexual assault of two children living in state care, another foster shelter closes
Two girls in the care of Child Protective Services were allegedly sexually assaulted in October after sneaking out of a facility run by the state agency. Advocates say it’s a symptom of the Texas foster care systems’ problems.
Texas’ child welfare agency told staffers to keep quiet about gender-affirming care investigations, documents show
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services leaders instructed employees to avoid written communications about the cases and barred low-level employees from handling the investigations, according to internal agency communications.
Watch: With a ‘feeling of betrayal,’ one family flees Texas in search of safer climate for their transgender daughter
Gov. Greg Abbott directed the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate parents who provide their children with gender-affirming care, driving one such family to leave home.
Head of embattled Texas child abuse investigations resigns after less than a year
During Robert “Rich” Richman’s short tenure, he oversaw the investigation of parents who provide gender-affirming care to their transgender children and the mishandling of allegations of sex abuse at a foster care facility.
Judge temporarily blocks some Texas investigations into gender-affirming care for trans kids
The state has been investigating whether parents who provide access to gender-affirming health care are committing child abuse. The temporary restraining order is part of a lawsuit filed on behalf of three families and members of PFLAG, an LGBTQ advocacy group.
Judge plans to levy “substantial fines” after Texas failed to comply with court-ordered fixes to its foster care system
The judge in the 11-year federal lawsuit against Texas said the state has not properly punished or shut down unsafe child care placement facilities or curbed the rate of children who are sexually victimized while in the state’s care.
Lack of communication between child welfare and juvenile justice systems hurts foster kids, court monitors say
The court-appointed watchdogs expressed concern after learning that a caretaker accused of exploiting children at a state-licensed facility in Bastrop had been previously fired from a state juvenile justice facility for misconduct.
Bastrop shelter caretaker accused of exploiting girls was fired from previous job for misconduct with children
State records show Iesha Greene was fired in 2020 from a state juvenile facility for having inappropriate relationships with children. The Refuge said it was aware of her previous work there, but it never requested her publicly available personnel records.
Over 100 children have died in Texas’ child welfare system since 2020, report says
Most of the deaths were attributed to “preexisting medical conditions” or abuse suffered before the children entered the system, according to the DFPS report. The numbers are on par with those reported in previous years.
Judge loses trust in Texas’ child abuse investigation of foster care facility and calls for federal inquiry
U.S. District Judge Janis Jack said she is seeking a federal criminal investigation into allegations that children were sexually abused and trafficked at The Refuge, a state-licensed foster care shelter for victims of sex trafficking.
Texas child welfare official resigns, saying top agency leaders scapegoated employees
The former child care investigations director said there are agency-wide communication issues that led to a breakdown in relaying key information, but two of his staff members are the ones who suffered the consequences.
Texas CPS department’s culture kept worries about now-shuttered foster care facility from being addressed, official says
It was also revealed at a special Texas Senate committee meeting that the Texas foster care worker who allegedly sold nude pictures of girls is also accused of dating a child trafficker.
Texas Rangers confirm investigation into nude photos of children at Bastrop shelter but find “no evidence” of sex abuse
An attorney representing foster care children in a suit against Texas said Department of Public Safety director Steve McCraw’s conclusion that there was no evidence of sexual abuse despite the investigation into the photos was “both surprising and extremely troubling.”
State-licensed shelter where sex trafficking victims were reportedly abused ordered to close
The Refuge, which closed Friday, said it fired an employee accused of coercing the victims to sell nude photos as soon as it found out. The Bastrop-based shelter has not addressed the other eight staff members also accused of causing harm to the girls.
Texas’ child welfare agency ordered to investigate trans kids’ families has been in crisis for years
The Department of Family and Protective Services has been under federal court monitoring for over a decade for violating the civil rights of kids in foster care. Now, the short-staffed agency has to investigate parents who provide their children with gender-affirming care.
Judge temporarily blocks Texas investigations into families of trans kids
District Judge Amy Clark Meachum said the governor’s directive for the state child welfare agency to investigate parents who provide gender-affirming care to their children was “beyond the scope of his authority and unconstitutional.” The statewide injunction will remain in effect until the case is heard in July.
Kids in foster care who’d been victims of sex trafficking endured fresh abuse at a state shelter, report says
The children were sexually abused and neglected while at The Refuge, a facility located in Bastrop contracted by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, according to a report from a current employee.
Texas foster care children exposed to sexual abuse, given wrong medication and neglected in unlicensed placements, new report says
The federal judge overseeing the decadelong lawsuit against Texas for conditions in its foster care system cut this week’s hearing short. She proposed all parties involved, including the governor, “cut to the chase” to identify solutions.
Targeting surgeries rarely used on kids, Gov. Greg Abbott asks state agency to determine if gender affirming care is child abuse
Medical experts say gender affirming care for transgender children rarely, if ever, includes use of the surgeries Abbott cited in his letter to the head of the Texas Department of Family Protective Services.
Texas officials knew foster children were illegally placed in an unsafe shelter. It didn't end until a whistleblower came forward.
State officials knew children were being illegally housed in an unlicensed facility but did not notify the court, despite a mandate from a federal court judge that came as part of a decade-long class action lawsuit against the state on the behalf of foster children.
Pasadena Memorial seniors gifts nonprofit $15,000 worth of electronics for children in CPS
Due to a donation from Pasadena Memorial High School students, BEAR, also known as Be A Resource for CPS Kids, were able to significantly increase their reach this year, providing more than $15,000 worth of gifts. “We basically wanted it to be a magical night then Covid happened,” said Pasadena Memorial senior Maya Arredondo. The class of 2020 has shown time and time again what their hearts are truly about,” said Pasadena Memorial principal Jeremy Richardson. Hetmaniak said the students’ gifts were heavily sought after and brought many smiles to many teens under CPS care. Arredondo said the seniors were happy to give back and said they hope that the children under CPS care know how loved they truly are.
Public comments sought about new education laws
The Department of Family and Protective Services is seeking public comments on its proposed rules to implement two important new laws that strengthen quality early care and education. The Department proposes eliminating a requirement that no more than half of the required training hours can be from self-instruction or online training. Classroom training provides a check to the misuse of online training that can occur if a student borrows the work of another or receives weak online training that does not require reading materials to answer the questions. Research has not yet documented the efficacy of online training for an adult population with minimal educational attainment. You can view the proposed rules at:http://www.dfps.state.tx.us/Child_Care/Child_Care_Standards_and_Regulations/comment.aspYou can submit your comments by Dec. 19 at MSC@dfps.state.tx.usPublic comments should include the following information: