Police raided a Texas residential treatment center for girls after receiving roughly 90 complaints alleging some staff members physically and sexually abused the youths in their care, say authorities.
Montgomery County officials executed a search warrant Wednesday, seizing boxes of evidence from two locations of the Care Cottage, a privately owned treatment center in Willis that offers residential services for at-risk girls ages 6-17 who are in foster care, the juvenile justice system, or come to them as private clients.
The alleged abuse included choke marks on a seventh grade girl’s neck, a ninth grader who said she was hog-tied as punishment, and a 14-year-old autistic girl who suffered a broken arm after being restrained forcefully. In the latter incident, a Care Cottage employee purportedly said the girl had “an accident on the trampoline” according to the search warrant.
The Houston Chronicle reported the warrant stated the injury occurred on October 10, 2017, after the girl allegedly argued with a staff member. However, it was not until weeks later, on November 2, when the child’s mother learned about the incident and the girl was taken to an orthopedic surgeon who diagnosed that her arm was broken.
Another complaint alleged that a 27-year-old Care Cottage employee was having a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old resident.
“It’s big, we’ve had numerous allegations of sexual abuse, or sexual contact of kids by staff members,” said Tyler Dunman, chief of the Special Crimes Bureau at the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office. He told KHOU: “We’ve also had even more with physical abuse by the staff members on kids.”
The Care Cottage describes its mission as providing a “safe and stable environment that assist youth in thriving and achieving their greatest human potentil through quality care, integrated treatment strategies, social support, and development.”
These treatment centers care for girls who often come to them from horrific circumstances including homes where they were physically and/or sexually abused.
“They come from the most tragic of circumstances that you can ever imagine,” said Dunman. “They’ve probably been physically or sexually abused in the past, so it’s a tragic situation for them.”
The Care Cottage also is accused of trying to cover up a sexual assault allegation against a staff member, according to KHOU. This employee purported logged the incident as an “alleged inappropriate staff relationship” to minimize the incident.
Some of these youngsters repeatedly tried to escape the facility, according to the search warrant. One girl reported breaking her ankle after jumping from a second-floor window. Others refused to be picked up at school by a Care Cottage bus.
Montgomery County Attorney J.D. Lambright told the Chronicle he heard from Willis Independent School District Superintendent Tim Harkrider around three weeks ago expressing concerns for the care of these girls at Care Cottage. Many of them attend schools in Willis. According to the search warrant, teachers and administrators reported several incidents where these students came to school with marks and bruises.
“He was reaching out to me to see what I could do,” said Lambright. He indicated that when his office began to compile complaints, they totaled 90 different incidents.
For now, the girls residing at the Care Cottage will remain in their facilities despite the allegations. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services told KHOU in a written statement: “It is crucial that we do not disrupt the lives of these children and youth unless absolutely necessary. We are in contact with law enforcement, we are in the facility regularly, and are confident it is a safe placement. If that changes we will act accordingly.”
Authorities have not yet made any arrests in connection with the complaints or the raid.
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