The foster care crisis in Texas is out of control, and reaching new lows as Texas officials discover a foster care facility employee who allegedly sold nude pictures of two girls in their care.
The incident took place at The Refuge, a Bastrop facility that was contracted by the state for sex trafficking victims and ordered to shut down after the children were removed.
The Refuge staff member who was accused of giving her phone to two girls so they could take naked pictures for her to sell was fired when the allegations were first made on Jan. 24, and a criminal investigation is ongoing.
Another facility resident informed the staff that the alleged perpetrator was dating a man who previously trafficked one of the girls before she arrived at the facility, as reported by The Texas Tribune.
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Commissioner, Jamie Masters, disclosed those details when she testified before lawmakers at the first meeting of the Senate Special Committee on Child Protective Services.
On Thursday, senators discussed how to remedy a number of issues regarding its care of children. Shedding light on a wide range of issues from federal court monitor reports that detail abuse, neglect, and deaths over the last several years.
Why did it take so long to act?
According to The Texas Tribune, Masters said she learned of the situation last week — about a month and a half after the initial report, saying facility staff should have notified DFPS sooner.
Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, who is chairing the special committee, asked Masters why it took DFPS so long to act on the situation.
“There is no good reason why,” Masters replied.
Texas DFPS employees twice this year classified the Bastrop facility as “high risk for harm to children.” But DFPS managers broke agency policy by failing to notify higher-ups, including Masters herself.
Who is to blame?
Masters repeatedly said the problem wasn’t the department policies, but rather human error and lack of judgment.
“I do not think this was a failure of the process. … None of us can be everywhere at all times,” she said. “Policy was not followed. Naked pictures of children in our care should have rung every bell.”
However, critics would argue the problem stems from a much higher power that has cultivated an incentivizing and demoralizing culture amongst CPS state workers.
The higher power being: Gov. Greg Abbott.
On Wednesday, Beto O’Rourke slammed Abbott for “absolutely failing” to improve Texas foster care and Child Protective Services, despite repeated nudges by a federal judge and the state system’s obvious failings.
Speaking at a news conference outside the former headquarters of the Department of Family and Protective Services in Austin, O’Rourke also said Abbott has failed to listen to stakeholders, appoint competent state agency leaders and provide adequate state funding for the system, as reported by The Dallas Morning News.
Commissioner Jamie Masters “clearly” should be replaced, however O’Rourke urged “to scapegoat someone else,” pointing out Abbott has had 12 years as attorney general and eight years as governor to improve things – and hasn’t.
“The situation within CPS has only gone from bad to worse,” he said.