Texas order on trans children is handled differently

AUSTIN, Texas — When Texas Governor Greg Abbott launched investigations into abuse against parents of some transgender children, child protection supervisor Randa Mulanax said what happened then strayed from normal protocols.

There was unusual secrecy, with texting and email being discouraged. Allegations about trans children have been given high status. In Texas, fewer than three in 10 child protection investigations end with findings that harm likely occurred — categorized as “reason to believe” — but the changes seemed to Mulanax that those cases would be predetermined from the start.

“I had understood that they wanted us to find them a ‘reason to believe,'” Mulanax told The Associated Press in her first interview since leaving the Department of Family and Protective Services. from Texas, where she worked for six years until she quit last month. “That’s why we had to find a way to staff it and see how we go about it, because that’s not our current policy.”

As early as Friday, the Texas Supreme Court could decide whether the state can resume at least nine investigations into parents of transgender children. They are the first to fall on the radar of child welfare authorities since the Republican governor of Texas in February ordered the state to begin processing care reports confirming the gender of children as child abuse. children – the first such prescription issued in the United States.

The court battle in Texas comes as Republicans across the country weigh in on policies targeting transgender Americans, primarily through banning transgender athletes from women’s sports teams. But Texas is the only state where a GOP governor has given the go-ahead to abuse cases against parents of transgender children, which several current and outgoing Texas child welfare workers say was rushed into action and has already lowered the morale of their struggling state agency even further.

It’s unclear how many Texas child protection investigators — who are tasked with implementing Abbott’s directive — have quit in protest. Mulanax is one of at least two state child protective services workers who are leaving and added their names this week to a court filing that has urged Texas judges to keep investigations out of the way. . Five other investigators who remain with the agency have also signed on.

Abbott’s instructions to Texas child welfare officials are aimed at treatments for children that include puberty blockers and hormone therapy.

Patrick Crimmins, spokesman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, declined to comment Thursday, citing the ongoing lawsuit.

“We’re being watched so closely on these types of cases that you couldn’t just say, ‘Oh, nothing to do,'” said Shelby McCowen, a child protection investigator who called the directive ” last drop”. and left after less than a year at the agency.

Texas completed more than 157,000 child protection investigations in the last fiscal year, according to state data. McCowen said cases involving parents of transgender families get the same attention as child death investigations, and like Mulanax, said instructions were given not to discuss cases over email or by state telephone – only on personal or face-to-face devices.

Cases were to be called “special assignments” rather than using a name or case number, according to McCowen. She said senior executives told investigators a survey would be sent internally to answer questions about the directive, but none ever arrived.

“I don’t know how many times they review the cases, but we are told that if we receive one of these cases, the documentation should be almost instantaneous because it is monitored,” she said.

Abbott’s directive runs counter to the nation’s largest medical groups, including the American Medical Association, which have opposed Republican-backed restrictions filed in state homes across the country. On Thursday, President Joe Biden marked Transgender Awareness Day by denouncing such legislation, saying that “the onslaught of state anti-transgender laws that attack you and your families is just plain wrong.”

Pressing for investigations in Texas to be allowed to proceed, Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office wrote that “if DFPS cannot investigate possible child abuse, children could be harmed – perhaps irreversibly – in the meantime”.

Mulanax said that if investigations were to resume, she considers it unlikely that children will be removed from their homes around Texas’ largest cities, which are controlled by Democrats and where some county officials have previously said that they would dismiss such cases.

But if harm is discovered, Mulanax said, putting in place what are usually other security plans doesn’t make sense to her either. She said those options typically include required parental supervision or services such as therapy, which Mulanax said some families may already be doing.

“It was just a complete betrayal of the department,” she said.

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