Opinion: State workers apparently can't get their act together despite a decade-long lawsuit against the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. It appears that things are far worse than anyone could imagine. While the foster care situation in Texas continues to deteriorate, and children are still sleeping in hotels, the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) neglectful patterns reach farther than children that are placed in foster care.
Houston, Texas- You'd think that with so many tragedies and negative publicity that DFPS has received in recent years, they would take some sort of corrective action. Unfortunately, that is far from the case. DFPS continues to neglect and fails to protect vulnerable children.
Earlier this year a report was made to DFPS by law enforcement regarding at least four young girls being drugged up and trafficked out of an abandoned "trap house" in Spring Branch, a small suburb of Houston, Texas. The intake didn't become a priority one or priority two investigation. In fact, DFPS failed to open an investigation and check on the welfare of the children.
When the children were finally recovered, one of the perpetrators threatened to kill two of them and their families. DFPS and law enforcement were contacted, but DFPS again failed to ever conduct an investigation.
However, after the children's parents sought medical attention for them, reports were made against the parents by two Texas hospitals, and CPS investigations were opened against the parents.
Allegedly, several parents that have attempted to seek assistance from DFPS for their children have received little to no help from workers and their superiors. Meanwhile, the parents are scrutinized, threatened, and harassed for trying to protect their children and get appropriate care to meet the child's needs.
One mother whose daughter was diagnosed with a severe emotional disturbance and severe drug use disorder has made numerous attempts to get her child proper care for over a year to no avail. According to her, after she challenged the faulty practices of CPS workers, false findings were put on her record. On another occasion after complaining to a supervisor, director, and the DFPS Office of Internal Affairs, the mother said that more falsified reports and documents were placed in her case file.
We have a systematic problem that is harming children and families all over the country, said one parent. Because of CPS and their negligent workers, she added that her child was exposed to more trauma and abuse.
In another incident, a 15-year-old child in Katy attempted suicide by overdose. After the child was rushed to Texas Children's Hospital, CPS was contacted and an investigation was opened against the mother for allegations of neglect and medical abuse. Based on messages exchanged between the mother and worker, the CPS worker assigned to that case never made contact with the child or the other children to ensure their safety. Instead, the worker, whose name will not be released at this time, sent text messages to the mother asking her just to send pictures of the children and her home so that the case could be closed.
In the case of 7-year-old Kendrick Davis in Montgomery County, TX, abuse was ruled out. The irony of this case is that although Kendrick was traumatized to the extent of being unable to remember much of the attack by Montgomery ISD counselor Christa Tatem, a surveillance video shows the entire attack.
According to the family of Kendrick Davis, CPS was contacted by school officials and other professionals after they watched the video of the attack. Allegedly, DFPS refused to take action and properly investigate. They also locked the family and protesters out of a Montgomery County CPS office when the family tried to seek answers about the case.
On numerous occasions, complaints were filed with the Department of Family and Protective Services Office of Internal Affairs.
Dana Stanley was in charge of investigating one of those complaints relating to a CPS worker not having access to a file. According to documents, Stanley failed to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation. She also falsified an investigation report and falsified statements from CPS worker DeAndria Hickman.
On three other occasions when the DFPS Office of Internal Affairs allegedly opened investigations from complaints, one dating back to last year. CPS superiors again failed to conduct thorough and impartial investigations. Allegedly, in several other instances, they failed to investigate at all.
Where does this leave children and families in need?
According to some parents, they have been given no assistance despite exhausting all available resources. One person interviewed is an attorney who fights against DFPS in court, asked them for assistance with his troubled child before she turned 18. According to him, his family was denied any assistance. Now his 21-year-old daughter is sitting in prison.
One person said, "the same tax dollars used to spend on investigations against innocent parents could be spent on getting help for these troubled teens. The state doesn't want to help, though. They don't want solutions because it would leave a lot of state workers without jobs. Meanwhile, children are slowly deteriorating and losing their lives," she added.
She asked, when will the state take action? When another tragedy occurs, when another child dies and is thrown in a ditch somewhere, or when one of these kids kills someone and ruins the rest of their life and another person's life?
Community activist and journalist Jenifer Knighton says a lot of this chaos could be prevented if state workers were held accountable for their misconduct instead of being given immunity when they are abusing their authority. According to her, it's become DFPS culture to mishandle cases, falsify documentation, and intimidate and threaten innocent parents trying to get help for their children.
In my opinion and observations, the corruption in the child welfare system runs deep, from local DFPS offices all the way to the Office of Internal Affairs. Everything looks good on paper, but facts and evidence don't lie! DFPS is not protecting our children and families, they are protecting themselves. If more state offices and judges took proper action to hold these corrupt officials accountable, maybe it would cause others to think twice before they participate in the misconduct. Nobody wants to have that conversation though. CPS makes billions off of our children and families. Workers all over the country exploit, abuse, and neglect vulnerable children and families, and what happens? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! They get away with a slap on the wrist, if that, and they continue on to the next case. Why would they make any changes if there are no real consequences for their misconduct? - Community activist and journalist Jenifer Knighton