A Texas State Senator charged with oversight on the embattled Child Protective Services agency said that one of its foster care facilities “was a brothel.”
The teenage girls and boys were using the chapel at the center to frequently engage in sex.
As reported by Breitbart Texas, members of the Texas Senate Finance Committee held hearings this week to take testimony about the embattled Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (TDFPS).
During the hearing, Senator John Wittmire (D-Houston) spoke of a residential treatment center in Crockett, reported the Houston Chronicle. In describing the situation, he was reported to say, “Boys and boys, Girls and boys. It was a brothel.”
The residential-treatment center in Crockett, Texas, is housed in what used to be a state juvenile detention center. The Chronicle reported that there are approximately 36 high-need foster care children housed at the facility. The majority of these youths have been in juvenile detention centers; have dire behavioral and emotional issues; and were victims of sexual or physical abuse.
An investigation by the Texas Rangers is ongoing, but Texas law makes the information confidential because the victims are juveniles.
The Texas senators were incensed to also learn during the hearing that the agency has not seen over 2,800 at-risk children after there were formal reports of abuse or neglect, as reported by Breitbart Texas. Senator Wittmire immediately procured a promise from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) for help to address the emergency. Of these 2,800 children, 511 are classified in the “priority one” category. These situations can be dire emergencies because the children are the most vulnerable to physical or sexual abuse. Sen. Wittmire, who is also the chairman of the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee, exclaimed, “Get the National Guard or the Texas Rangers or whoever out to each house to see these kids now. Hell, they may die before we get there,” reported the Houston Chronicle.
The director of the Texas DPS, Steve McCraw, promised the Houston senator that his department would rush-in to help the agency.
Texas law requires Child Protective Services (CPS) employees to check up on these children within 24 to 72 hours of the report. Thousands of children remain vulnerable as a result.
In mid-September, over 14,000 children were left unchecked and approximately 2,000 of these cases were emergencies and the most urgent cases.
Commissioner Hank Whitman told Texas senators during the finance committee hearing, “Beat on me. I don’t care,” the Chronicle reported. “But I’m telling you right now, we need help.” The agency has requested more funds for budget year 2017 and are wanting to hire at least 500 more caseworkers, including investigative caseworkers.
Whitman has been leading the agency for six months. Texas Governor Greg Abbott appointed him to head the TDFPS in April, as reported by Breitbart Texas. Whitman is a former chief of the Texas Rangers.
Senate Finance Committee Chair Jane Nelson announced during the hearing that she was appointing a senate working group to immediately study recommendations that would be made by Commissioner Whitman. Senator Schwertner is acting as chair, Senator’s Whitmire, Kirk Watson (D-Austin), Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), and Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury) are on the committee.
As reported by Breitbart Texas just a few weeks ago, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Patrick, and House Speaker Joe Straus sent a letter to Commissioner Whitman demanding that he take action to protect children after the reports that the most exposed were left unattended.
Editor’s note: this article has been updated to reflect a correction made by the Houston Chronicle. Senator Wittmire originally compared the foster care facility to a “brothel”.