Lack of communication between child protection and juvenile justice systems harms adoptive children, court monitors say

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Court-appointed watchdogs have expressed concern after learning that a guard accused of exploiting children at a state-approved facility in Bastrop had previously been dismissed from a state-run juvenile justice facility for misconduct .

Lack of communication between the Texas child welfare agency and its juvenile justice system puts children in foster care at risk, Texas foster care watchdogs said in a Filing in court on Wednesday after learning that a caretaker accused of exploiting children at a Bastrop shelter had previously been fired from a state juvenile justice facility for misconduct.

Le Refuge, a shelter for victims of sex trafficking in Bastrop, has come under fire in recent weeks after a former employee, Iesha Greene, was accused of soliciting and selling nude photos of children in her care. Watchdogs, appointed by a federal judge to oversee Texas’ long-term foster care system under a 11 year trial, examine the situation independently. Greene has not yet been arrested. Attempts to contact Greene for comment were unsuccessful.

Although the monitors had access to several video interviews of children previously housed at the Refuge, they said they had not had access to others and that many of their questions remained unanswered. The monitors added that it is unclear how the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services reviewed certain interviews and allegations or whether the agency fully considered all available evidence.

“Ongoing investigations reveal significant safety issues related to the care provided to children at the Refuge prior to the suspension of its license. There are troubling gaps in [DFPS] investigating these security issues,” the monitors wrote in their report.

Forensic monitors said they were particularly concerned that Greene was hired after being fired for misconduct at a Texas Juvenile Justice Department facility, because The Texas Tribune previously reported. Refuge leaders were unaware of his history of misconduct as they did not verify his previous employment with TJJD.

The state requires state-licensed child care centers to conduct criminal background checks on all potential employees, but does not require them to check all former employers before hiring new employees.

In Wednesday’s court filing, reviewers said the fact that Greene was hired at The Refuge when he had already been fired and barred from future employment at TJJD “exposed flaws in reporting abuse. , neglect and exploitation in the Texas Register that pose a significant risk to foster children.”

Monitors pointed out that there were more than 100 findings of abuse or excessive use of force by staff at state and county facilities each year between 2019 and 2021. But those findings are not shared. in a state database, which means employees have been terminated for abuse or negligence. in this system may find employment serving children elsewhere – such as in a foster home.

“This is deeply concerning,” the monitors wrote. “Because the agency does not report substantiated findings to the Texas Registry, a state or county juvenile justice employee who abused a child in their care will only appear in the Texas registry only if he was also arrested or prosecuted for abuse.”

Monitors also said they encountered hurdles in rewatching some interviews related to the events of The Refuge, leaving many questions unanswered.

Pictured: Federal Court monitors say new information from the Bastrop foster home investigation shows the lack of communication between the state’s child welfare agency and its justice system for minors puts children at risk. Credit: Jordan Vonderhaar for The Texas Tribune

BY REESE OXNER with Texas Tribune.


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