Texas resumes probe into parents of transgender children, family attorney confirms

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Child welfare agencies in Texas have resumed at least part of their investigation of parents who provide gender-affirming care for transgender children.Last week, the state Supreme Court overturn the ban Prevent the state from investigating whether these parents abused children.

On Thursday, nearly a week after the ruling, investigators with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services began contacting attorneys representing some of the families to tell them they would continue their investigation.

“They reached out and said they needed to complete the investigation,” said Tracy Harting, an Austin attorney representing a family in central Texas. “I’ve spoken to my clients and now they have to decide how to proceed.”

Austin attorney Ian Pittman, who represents a family in central Texas and a family in north Texas, said he heard from a DFPS employee Thursday about the resumption of one of the cases, but has not yet Receive an update on another case.

Both Pittman and Harting said their clients have been preparing for it since the state Supreme Court overturned the ban on Friday. But the same ruling that allowed those investigations to go ahead also raised questions about whether they should have been made public in the first place.

The cases began in February, after the attorney general Ken Paxton posted a non-binding legal opinion This equates certain medical treatments and procedures for trans teens with child abuse.Governor Greg Abbottcite the comment, and send A letter to DFPS Directs the agency to investigate parents who provide gender-affirming care to their transgender children.

In a statement in response to the order in February, the DFPS said it would “abide by the laws of Texas,” as Paxton argued, “[i]n As directed by Governor Abbott. The agency has launched at least nine investigations of parents of transgender children.

But the state Supreme Court ruling said that while Abbott and Paxton “have the right to express their legal and policy views on this topic … the DFPS is not compelled by law to follow them.”

“However, the DFPS press statement indicates that the DFPS may consider itself bound by the Governor’s Letter, the Attorney General’s Opinion, or both. Again, this Court has no evidence to support the notion that the DFPS is so bound,” the ruling said.

The ruling leaves the DFPS court to decide whether and how to proceed with the ongoing investigation. On Thursday, the department said only that the agency “takes all reports of abuse, neglect and exploitation seriously and will continue to investigate to the extent permitted by law.”

But as the Supreme Court’s decision explained, neither Paxton’s opinion nor Abbott’s order changed the legal definition of abuse or neglect to include gender-affirming care prescribed by medical professionals.

Lawyers and the families they represent are waiting to see what happens when these cases resume.

“The question now is, will the commissioner be a child welfare law professional or a politician?” Harting asked. “Are they going to close the case, or are they going to go to hell for these families?”

impact on family

At least nine families are being investigated for providing gender-affirming care to their children. These surveys include home visits, family interviews and, in some cases, unannounced visits to children’s schools.

“It’s not just nameless, faceless people that are affected,” Pittman said. “It’s normal, normal people are just doing what kids think is right.”

But since the initial flurry of investigative activity, the cases have been stalled because of the statewide ban — open, but no investigation. Lawyers for the families claim this violated department policy in multiple ways.

Child Protective Services Policy Requirements A social worker has face-to-face contact with children whose parents are under investigation at least every 45 days, which several lawyers said did not happen in their cases.

If a parent under investigation for child abuse or neglect requests an update on the status of their case, National regulations The department is required to respond within 14 days. Emails provided by Pittman show that he requested clarification on April 1 and April 21 on behalf of a family he represents, but the department did not respond.

Pittman said he has spoken with his clients about bringing legal action against the department for violating its policies in these cases. While he believed they would have a case, he also understood that his clients had witnessed the full legal firepower of the state directed against them.

“The state has basically unlimited resources, and these families don’t,” he said. “We’ve seen what they’ve done with the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] Litigation, appeal to the Court of Appeal, or even to [Texas] Supreme Court. This can take months or years, and tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. “

Legally, their next steps may be affected by the agency’s administrative next steps.

“I tell people, God and CPS, these two entities have the ability to give you children and take them away, so these investigations are important,” Harting said. “These families are entitled to due process.”


From the Texas Tribune

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