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Children Allegedly Sex-Trafficked Via Texas State Shelter For Foster Children.
"The Refuge" in Bastrop, Texas is contracted by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
Bastrop, Texas (TRL) - According to a federal judge, a state-run facility in Bastrop, Texas in charge of the care of female minors have been re-trafficking the sex trafficking victims in their care.
"The reports of child sex trafficking at The Refuge in Bastrop are abhorrent. Child abuse of any kind won’t be tolerated in the state of Texas, and we are committed to ensuring these despicable perpetrators are brought to justice and punished to the fullest extent of the law."
-Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas
“The Refuge” describes its mission as providing "trauma-informed, long-term restoration community with on-site services for girls, ages 14 through 19, who have been exploited through sex trafficking."
The Bastrop-based facility was closed on Friday due to an emergency order by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.
Spokesperson for the Refuge for DMST, Steven Phenix, stated that not all nine accused employees took part in the alleged child sex trafficking, asserting that details of another investigation involving a runaway child are being conflated.
The residential care director of the facility is believed to have known about the on-going sexual abuse.
One minor reportedly fled the premises of the facility with the assistance of three staff members.
One of the nine children is refusing to be placed in another Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) facility and the search for another “placement” is ongoing.
One employee was reported to have sold nude photos of two children before using the profits to make purchase of illegal drugs and alcohol, both of which were given to the minor victims.
From June 2019 to May 2021, it was discovered that at least 23 children died while in the care of Texas’s long-term foster system.
According to the The Texas Tribune, the judge “blasted DFPS” for not removing the children from the situation as soon as the initial abuse allegations were reported. This incident seems to imply a pattern: In 2015, a federal judge found that the State of Texas had violated foster children’s constitutional rights.
The allegations were not reported to the government-appointed DFPS commissioner, Jaime Masters, until this week. She went on to state, "There is no excuse for why I didn't know, which is why several people are losing their jobs."
“Our hearts are broken and we are outraged by the actions of former employees whose intent was to harm, not help. While we are limited in what we can say in order to protect the confidentiality of the girls, I know that the truth will prevail. We are looking forward to a positive resolution from these investigations, and we are confident that we will be providing child survivors of sex trafficking with excellent care for years to come."
-Brooke Crowder, founder and executive director of the Refuge for DMST (Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking)
The Associate Commissioner for the DFPS "child-protective investigation", Rich Richman, claims that he did not remove the children after the first abuse report because he thought the accused employee had been terminated.
Attorney Paul Yetter, who represents the foster-care minor victims in a class-action lawsuit stated "The state of Texas's child welfare system has been broken for 30 years, and it remains broken, but there is a long way to go before it becomes safe. Until the state officials get serious about protecting these children - which is their duty - it's going to put children at risk every day."
The statement from CPS claims that a plurality of the accused perpetrators are either related to each other via blood, marriage, or were cohabitating. Governor Abbott has claimed he's order the Texas Rangers to arrest and charge any involved suspects.
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