Texas Foster Kids Face Harsh Realities in Unfit Housing!
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services has put kids up in a house where the police have been called 800 times this year, one that doesn’t have a working front door, homes that don’t have beds or food in the fridge, and hotels where babies can see drug deals and sex workers are constantly moving around.
Multiple witnesses went to a Dallas federal hearing and talked about what they saw of children without placement or CWOP. A judge is thinking about fines for contempt or an invasion of the state’s child welfare system by the federal government.
Children who have nowhere else to go are kept in unsafe, unlicensed places as part of the CWOP program, according to federal court officials. Although youth can be of any age, most are older and/or have more needs. “A pregnant 12-year-old girl was smoking when I walked into the house.” “Another child was smoking pot,” said Lindsey Dionne, a lawyer who has helped more than 70 CWOP kids.
Although some experts said the problem should have been fixed two years ago, unlicensed placements have continued in Texas. Kiddies from all over the state spend days in these places that don’t have any programs, services, or education.
According to Julie Pennington, an attorney who has helped several kids in CWOP, “the kids are out running the streets.” It’s common for kids who have nothing to do to leave places, and security guards and people from Child Protective Services can’t stop them. She worked with a client who was so young that she had never been on a date or kissed anyone. Everything changed after she went to and then left an unauthorized placement. She was soon sold for sex.
“She was also attacked. “She has been sexually assaulted at least 30 times by 30 different people since then,” she pointed out. According to Dionne, one of her clients was brought to Miami from a CWOP site to be trafficked for sex. The person who lost her was found, brought back, and put right back into CWOP. Following this, traffickers took another child from the same CWOP site to Miami, indicating that these kids were the target of a well-planned scheme.
State officials have been accused of using hotels for CWOP in places where prostitution is common. The situation worried judges in Central Texas, so they called a meeting with top DFPS employees. Dionne said that lawyers and judges told them a lot about the problem with trafficking, and a number of them confirmed the many problems with modern slavery. Participants said that the follow-up letter from a supervisor did not address the issues raised about trafficking and hotels.
Previously, Dionne was a contractor for the state and decided when basic standards were broken in child welfare placements. What would happen if they were approved for placements? “They would be shut down right away,” she answered.
U.S. District Judge Janice Jack talked about how behind schedule things are with CWOP and criticized the fact that Texas, with all its money, can’t end the program. There was someone else with her. “It’s disgusting,” said Viola Miller, an expert on child welfare who has worked as a consultant and run state systems in Kentucky and Tennessee. “Everything looked safer to me.”