Governor Greg Abbott may have fought off his Republican primary challengers, but now he’s under fire as yet another foster care scandal comes knocking at his door. The fact that Abbott was apparently caught unaware is leaving some people scratching their heads.
For the past seven years, the Texas foster care system has been woefully undermanaged to the point of disaster on its young charges. Children are being forced to sleep in government offices because no place can be found for them, and many of those with medical and behavioral issues are stuck without specialized care. Abbott convened an expert investigation that eventually came back with a list of fixes needed immediately, but little has been done besides creating more oversight positions. In particular, Abbott has declined to call another special legislative session to fund much needed changes.
Apparently, this investigation did not turn up the appalling incidences of child sex trafficking that took place at some facilities. At a place called The Refuge, young girls were photographed nude and had their pictures sold for profit. Seven children were allegedly involved in this scheme that included Refuge employees.
When the story broke, Abbott launched an investigation by the Texas Rangers.
“The reports of child sex trafficking at The Refuge in Bastrop are abhorrent,” said Abbott in a statement. “Child abuse of any kind won’t be tolerated in the state of Texas, and we are committed to ensuring these despicable perpetrators are brought to justice and punished to the fullest extent of the law. No child should ever suffer the atrocities of trafficking. I expect a thorough and prompt investigation by the Texas Rangers into these horrific crimes.”
Yet, it seems strange that despite all the fact-finding going on in the foster system under Abbott, the public is only learning about the sex trafficking now. Especially since a Refuge staffer first reported the problem in January according to court records.
One person particularly incensed is Abbott’s Democratic challenger, former congressman Beto O’Rourke. In an interview session, he skewered Abbott for his recent order to investigate the parents of trans kids supporting their children with lifesaving gender affirming care for child abuse while allowing the foster system to traffic minors.
“Four months ago, Governor Greg Abbott is warned that there is a facility here, not too far from Austin, in Bastrop, where children who have been trafficked for sex are in the custody and the care of the State of Texas,” he said. “And they are, in turn, being abused by their caretakers… the governor knew there was a problem for four months and did not do shit to help those kids out.”
The underfunded and broken foster system makes it ripe for victimization. As Texas refuses to put real money and resources into the problem, it will only grow. Instead, Governor Abbott spent his special sessions on a delusion of voter fraud, banning abortion after six weeks, and keeping trans kids out of school sports. Meanwhile, the most vulnerable children in the state go wanting for leadership and protection.