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Texas Kept Children in Foster Homes Without 24 Hour Supervision, Judge Finds

The federal judge overseeing a class action lawsuit against the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (TDFPS) has issued an order that finds that the agency has not been complying with her December 2015 order keeping the department from placing children in foster homes that lack 24-hour supervision. She opines that the state agency has continued to have children in these facilities for over a year.

In this week’s order, U.S. District Court Judge Janis Graham Jack includes the language from her prior finding. She writes, “The Injunction states as follows” (emphasis added):

The State shall establish and implement policies and procedures to ensure that Texas’s PMC foster children are free from an unreasonable risk of harm. To effect this injunction, the Court will appoint a Special Master to help the State implement the Goals outlined below. Further, the State shall immediately stop placing PMC foster children in unsafe placements, which include foster group homes that lack 24-hour awake-night supervision. Foster group homes that immediately require 24-hour awake-night supervision may continue to operate while the Special Master and the State craft and enforce the Implementation Plan.

“PMC” is an acronym for “Permanent Managing Conservatorship.”

The judge overseeing the class action suit brought by a children’s advocacy group ordered the state agency to comply with her order issued a year ago–December 17, 2015. The judge says in her order that last year’s injunction order “was being incorrectly interpreted” by the agency.

The class action lawsuit was filed in December 2014 by a New York group called Children’s Rights, as reported by Breitbart Texas. Approximately 12,000 children who were in long-term care in Texas were included in the class action suit. The advocacy group successfully sought and received a scathing order from the federal district judge.

Judge Janis Graham Jack ordered the State of Texas to enact reforms in the system and in doing so she opined that the long-term foster care system was improperly run and “broken.” She called it a place “where rape, abuse, psychotropic medication and instability are the norm,” as reported by the Dallas Morning News in December 2015. She also said the system was underfunded.

The judge writes on December 27 that TDFPS:

interpreted the Injunction as allowing permanent managing conservatorship (“PMC”) children currently in foster care group homes without 24-hour awake-night supervision to remain in said homes and to disallow only future placement of PMC foster children into foster group homes without such 24-hour supervision. As a result, for over one year PMC as well as temporary managing conservatorship (“TMC”) foster children, have remained in foster group homes without 24-hour awake-night supervision, in contravention to the Court’s desired effect of its Injunction.

The order references that the parties to the lawsuit have agreed to “clarify” the injunction order.

The Court makes the issue of 24-hour supervision in foster care very clear writing, “it is ORDERED that no PMC foster child shall be placed in or remain in any foster group home that does not provide 24-hour awake night supervision.”

Judge Jack also ordered that the two special masters that were appointed in the case “shall continue to gather information regarding the number of foster care group homes, defined as those foster homes that exceed six (6) children (including birth, adoptive, or any other non-foster children living with the foster parents) which continue to exist with or without 24-hour awake-night supervision.”

A YouTube video about the sexual and physical abuse suffered by a 13-year-old boy in the Texas CPS (Child Protective Services) foster care system went viral after Breitbart Texas included it a 2014 article.

The YouTube video shows the young teenage boy holding homemade signs that convey his story of what he says CPS caseworkers, and the CPS foster care system, has done to him and his family. One sign says “I was beatened [sic] and sexually assaulted on a day to day basis while my Social Worker did Nothing.” He holds another sign saying “My abuse goes uninvestigated.”

Patrick Crimmins, a spokesman for DFPS said, “The allegations were thoroughly investigated and there was no evidence of any wrongdoing, nor have any criminal charges been filed against anyone in connection to the allegations in the YouTube video.”

Breitbart Texas has reached out to the mother of the teenager to get an update on the response to her testimony before the Texas Legislature, and if there was any response to her request to TDFPS for a complete investigation of the foster home and circumstances surrounding the abuse said to be suffered by her child. Breitbart has reported in the past that Angel Linthicum Cook said “they are trying to rake this abuse under the rug.”

Mrs. Cook told Breitbart Texas late Thursday that during the time period when the former TDFPS commissioner was in office, an individual from the Office of Consumer Affairs at DFPS contacted her after she spoke at the Sunset Commission before Texas lawmakers. Cook said, “I sent him evidence upon evidence only for him to never question me, my children, or our attorneys. She received an email that said, “I encourage you to contact the DFPS Abuse Hotline at 1-800-252-5400 to report your concerns relating to your children during their placements in CPS care.”

Cook sent the message she said she received from the representative who said the photographs of her children “are not dated, and do not identify the children in the photographs” and asked that she provide that information, and the identity of the foster care caregivers, to the hotline staff. Instead of forwarding the information to the other department within his own agency, he messaged Mrs. Cook that RCCL (Residential Child Care Licensing) was “a DFPS program responsible for investigating reports of suspected abuse or neglect of children in DFPS care.”

Cook said, “My children were once again failed by the very agency that was built to protect them. It’s been two years since they sat before state lawmakers trembling in fear while telling their gut-wrenching foster care stories. Today they still hold on to hope that the new commissioner, Governor Abbott, and state lawmakers, will hear their voices and stand united in fixing this broken system.”

 Justin Cook, the teenager in the photo messaged this writer:

My mom told me about your message and I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for being my voice and thank you for telling my story. I’m 16 now and I’m doing a lot better but still struggle with things that were allowed to happen to me in foster care, but with people like you and my parents I have hope that my video can and has raised awareness to not only the broken foster system but cps too. My mom tells me that I have helped give a voice to thousands of children and I pray that I have. I plan on speaking again at the Capital soon but I’m afraid my voice won’t be heard again like the last time. I can’t help but be disappointed in Tx state lawmakers and the agency that said they were here to protect me but instead hid my abuse. My abuser still walks free today, my foster parents that did nothing to stop it still foster Tx children and my caseworker’s and casa workers still hold a job. I can’t understand how that’s even possible, but it leaves me to believe that children truly don’t matter to the state of Texas. Sorry for bothering you with this but I know you will listen and I know you will give others a voice. I know you have never met me, but your sort of my hero. Thank you for all you have done for me and my family. And happy late birthday.

Lana Shadwick is a writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. She has served as a prosecutor and associate judge in Texas. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2.

This article has been updated to reflect additional information.

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