Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Child sex abuse scandal in TX foster care system should undercut Abbott's attack on trans kids and their families


TX Governor Greg Abbott attacks trans kids and their families while there are sex scandals in the state's troubled foster care system.

There is a huge foster care scandal happening right now in Texas. It's significant on its own, but reaches a higher level of concern when one takes into account the recent attacks the state is inflicting upon the LGBTQ community, particularly trans kids and their affirming parents. Tx Governor Greg Abbott is attempting to remove trans kids from the households of affirming parents by falsely declaring trans healthcare as child abuse. But based upon what's been going on, the actual abuse is happening in Texas foster care facilities.

From the Austin-American Statesman:

A federal judge, expressing disappointment with Texas law enforcement, is now seeking a federal investigation into allegations of child pornography at a Bastrop County foster care facility for victims of sex trafficking. During a virtual court hearing Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Janis Jack raised concerns about the allegations, which involve staff at the Refuge Ranch residential facility for minors. Court monitors, who are tasked with overseeing the improvements in the Texas foster care system, this week said they found holes in the investigation undertaken by Texas Rangers into the allegations.

 Earlier this month, the Department of Family and Protective Services had alerted the court monitors of an urgent situation concerning the safety of children at the Refuge. The department reported that it had received several reports since Jan. 24 to the statewide intake hotline alleging sexual and physical abuse; sexual exploitation; neglectful supervision; and medical neglect at the facility.

According to a March 21 article in Courthouse News Service, the alleged incident involved an employee who gave two of the girls a cellphone to take nude pictures of themselves. The pictures were then sold for drugs (Percocet and Xanax). The article also said:

The Refuge promptly notified the sheriff’s office about the photograph seller and its investigation is ongoing. But after the shelter’s problems were publicized in a March 10 filing and hearing in the class action, sparking widespread media coverage, Governor Greg Abbott ordered an immediate probe by the Texas Rangers.

The Austin-American Statesman said the following about the investigation:

On March 10, Gov. Greg Abbott ordered Texas Rangers from the Department of Public Safety to investigate the trafficking allegations at the Refuge. The facility has been temporarily closed. Less than a week later, the Texas Rangers’ investigation said that initial allegations of sex trafficking were inaccurate, but that allegations of nude photography of teenage girls were still under investigation. In a letter to Abbott, DPS Director Steven McCraw wrote that Texas Rangers found "there was no evidence that any of the residents at the Refuge shelter have ever been sexually abused or trafficked while at the shelter." 

 But, according to a March 28 edition of The Texas Tribune

 Court-appointed watchdogs of Texas’ troubled foster care system found "ample evidence" that former sex trafficking victims were abused at a foster care facility, contradicting the Texas Rangers’ findings earlier this month. After reviewing thousands of documents and recordings, the monitors said in a court filing Monday there is evidence to substantiate allegations of child sex abuse, exploitation, neglectful supervision and physical abuse at The Refuge Ranch in Bastrop. 

The monitors also called a letter from Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw to Gov. Greg Abbott, which said there was no evidence kids at the shelter were sexually abused or trafficked, “was, at best, premature.”

Apparently, this incident (and the reasons why court-appointed watchdogs were put in place to monitor Texas's foster care system in the first place) is merely the latest in an 11-year class action lawsuit against the state of Texas involving foster care. Apparently the state is being sued for providing inadequate care for the kids in its foster care system. In January, U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack blasted the state for not even having a system to keep track of children in foster care:

From MSN:

More than a decade into an ongoing lawsuit surrounding the state's troubled foster care system, U.S. District Judge Janis Jack was angry when she asked the state if they have a system to keep track of where foster children are and the head of the agency said they don't. When Jack asked Department of Family and Protective Services Commissioner Jaime Masters for an update on the system, Masters said IT is still working on it. 

 "Oh, for God's sake. I just don't understand this incompetence ... You don't know where the children are," Jack said. "Now we know today, 11 years into this lawsuit, that no one knows where these children are placed. I'm just - I'm speechless. You are the parent. I don't want to hear that IT is still working on it." 

 Several minutes later, Masters received an update that IT would go live with the system in July. "Sorry I acted so angry," Jack said. "It's actually because I am angry."

According to Fox 4 KDFW, during that same hearing:

Three experts were hired by the state in response to a federal lawsuit. They explained in a Tuesday hearing that the state needs to avoid placing children in group homes and needs to stop sending children without placements out of the state. U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack made it clear she is not happy with how the state is handling children without family placements. "Texas, in spite of 11 years of litigation, was not prepared for closing all these unsafe GROs and thrust all these children into hotels motels and offices," she said.

Seems to me that taking Abbott's side when it comes to trans kids and their families is the equivalent of kicking Little Red Riding Hood  out of grandma's house and into the jaws of the hungry wolf.

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