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Texas Rangers Confirm Investigation of Nude Photos of Children at Bastrop Shelter, But Find “No Evidence” of Sexual Abuse

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An investigation by the Texas Public Safety Department at a state-licensed sexual assault facility, where an employee took nude photos of two girls, found no evidence that the victims were also sexually abused or assaulted, according to agency director Steve McCrow.

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Details of the charges against nine employees at The Refuge, a Bastrop shelter for child victims of sexual abuse, came out during a federal court hearing last week and initially described the incident as possible trafficking or abuse.

In a letter to Governor Greg Abbott McCrow, he confirmed that the Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office was investigating a Refuge employee accused of receiving photos of the girls with the intention of selling them. No one has been arrested, he said.

However, McCrow said some of the details released last week were not properly verified, adding that Texas Rangers investigators found no evidence that the children were victims of sexual trafficking while on The Refuge. McCrow’s letter did not say whether the accused officer had bought illegal drugs and alcohol and given them to the girls, as was alleged at last week’s court hearing.

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Paul Yetter, a lawyer representing foster children in a years-long federal lawsuit against the state, rejected McCrow’s letter, which declined to identify the allegations as possible trafficking.

“The letter in question confirms the existence of pornographic photos of these children in state care and that the children’s photos were sold for drugs and alcohol. “On this basis alone, the initial finding of no evidence of sexual violence or trafficking is both surprising and extremely worrying, especially since the investigation is still ongoing,” Yetter said.

McCraw also detailed another hitherto unknown investigation into individual allegations in The Refuge. Two residents fled the facility on February 20th with the alleged help of two employees, according to his letter. The facility’s employees reported the incident to the Texas Department of Family and Protection Services and the local sheriff. As a result, four employees were fired, McCrow said.

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The Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office is conducting a criminal investigation into four employees and one has been arrested for making a false statement to the FBI, McCrow wrote.

McCrow’s letter did not address other allegations that surfaced last week, including that other relatives of the employee accused of taking the photos also worked at The Refuge or that other shelter staff were also involved in selling the photos.

The governor’s office issued a statement thanking the Texas Rangers, but did not address the charges against an employee accused of trying to sell nude photos to two of the shelter’s residents.

“While it is a relief that no cases of child sexual trafficking were found in The Refuge in the Texas Rangers investigation, it is unfortunate that the letter sent by the DFPS to federal court observers was concluded before law enforcement investigation to be completed, “said Governor’s Office spokesman Nan Tolson. “Governor Abbott is committed to ensuring that all allegations of abuse or neglect are properly investigated by the DFPS.”

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Refuge’s management also expressed relief.

“We are deeply relieved by the Texas Rangers’ finding,” said Brooke Crowder, founder and CEO of The Refuge. “We are committed to continuing to work closely with DPS, the Texas Department of Family Affairs [and] Bastrop County Protection and Sheriff’s Office while prosecuting for the girls involved in the incidents. “

The Texas Senate Child Protection Committee will meet at noon on Thursday to discuss details of the situation in The Refuge. There will be an interim hearing on Monday at the Texas House Human Services Commission, which also focused on the findings.

Texas officials ordered the shelter to close temporarily last week after the children were removed. Abbott said last week that Texas Rangers would investigate, arrest and prosecute all suspects in connection with the allegations.

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The accusations against the shelter come at a time when the reception system has not yet solved many problems related to child care. Numerous bomb reports by federal court observers contain detailed abuses, neglect and deaths over the past few years.

Earlier on Wednesday, Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic candidate for governor of Texas, criticized incumbent Republican Abbott for the Texas foster care system and its decades-long problems with caring for its children.

O’Rourke said the governor had ignored long-standing problems that allegedly allowed the situation at Bastrop Shelter.

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“I wish it was an anomaly, but it’s not,” O’Rourke said. “It simply came to our notice then. There are changes we could have made. “

O’Rourke, who will face Abbott in the November general election, outlined several strategies for dealing with the issue if elected governor during a news conference Wednesday.

Texas is missing millions of dollars in federal funding because it does not comply with federal programs, O’Rourke said. He said he would ensure Texas complied with the Family Prevention Services Act, a federal law that restructures federal funding for child welfare. The new guidelines aim to reduce admission to foster care, limit the use of group homes and other shared care, and fund substance abuse and mental health services.

If Texas complies with the law passed in 2018, it will unlock millions of dollars for the foster care system, O’Rourke said. The Texas Department of Family and Protection Services expects a loss of $ 43 million in 2022 and 2023 because the state does not comply.

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But compliance is easier said than done.

DFPS officials said it had not implemented all the provisions of the federal program because Texas did not have enough qualified residential treatment programs to “serve children with the greatest needs and withdraw federal money.”

The state also does not have enough providers to offer the types of services required by law, the department said, and the state says it is unclear what services would qualify for funding. A statement from the DFPS website said the department expected federal guidance on how to proceed, along with feedback from Texas lawmakers.

Lawyers and a federal judge overseeing a decade-long foster care trial in Texas have called on the state to increase these services and use the funds raised to fund them.

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Preserving the family is paramount, O’Rourke added, and Texas must invest to keep children with their immediate families or other family members before moving them to foster care. He said the state should invest in mental health resources for both children and their families to prevent unnecessary removal from loved ones and in a system that has been found to be harmful.

O’Rourke also called for increased funding for child protection services staff to increase the number of case managers and detention rates. The agency has been understaffed and has had a high turnover rate for years, with many citing long hours for little pay.

“Typical Beto O’Rourke – all rhetoric, no real solutions,” Abbott campaign spokesman Rene Ez said in a statement after the press conference. It is sad that Beto O’Rourke has resorted to politicizing the welfare of children in Texas to take advantage of his campaign and distract from his disastrous interview at SXSW this weekend, where he discussed his true passions to take up arms. to the Texans, opening our borders and supporting President Biden. “

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During the press conference, O’Rourke questioned Texas’ approach to his foster care system, relying on private contractors to care for the children who care for him.

The Texas foster care system has been privatized and relies on the private sector to provide foster care. The state manages the placement and relocation of foster children and seeks to extend responsibilities for placement and therapeutic care to private partners.

“Why are we privatizing care for the most vulnerable in this country? You will certainly have problems, “O’Rourke said. “We take responsibility for the state of Texas, but I can’t think of a more important job.

Texas Rangers Confirm Investigation of Nude Photos of Children at Bastrop Shelter, But Find “No Evidence” of Sexual Abuse

Source link Texas Rangers Confirm Investigation of Nude Photos of Children at Bastrop Shelter, But Find “No Evidence” of Sexual Abuse

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