BAYTOWN, Texas (FOX 26) - Kim Chapman has lived next door to the Baptist Children and Family Services immigrant youth facility in the Lynchburg neighborhood since it opened and she says she has seen many juveniles cut and run.
"Seen them break out, run across the field," described Chapman. "Seen them break out on Kubotas and go across and go down the street on them. I've seen them over here when they've run across a field. People in cars go down the street make a u-turn and come back and pick them up." That confirms the account of other neighbors who tell FOX 26 News that they have lived in fear and uncertainty for years.
For its part, BCFS is now conceding to seven unauthorized departures from that facility in the last three years.
"I don't believe that, none whatsoever," said Chapman.
FOX 26 has reported the claims of two former workers who say children within the facility have been treated for serious communicable diseases, including isolated cases of tuberculosis.
While BCFS says there has never been a case of TB at the facility, two more former workers tell FOX 26 that they were aware of children segregated and treated for the disease.
The government contractor did confirm reports of fighting among the juveniles, but downplayed its severity, characterizing the violence "as what might typically occur on school grounds."
The former workers have a much different recollection.
"Oh yes, there was physical fights because you had some from El Salvador, some from Guatemala and some of them didn't mix," explained one former worker whose identity FOX 26 has agreed to protect.
"They did not like each other," said the second former BCFS worker.
Then there's the issue of the center's close proximity to the San Jacinto River Waste Pits and the Dioxin waste stored there.
The Texas Health and Environment Alliance told FOX 26 on Wednesday that the BCFS facility was inundated during recent flood events and the advocacy group is "deeply concerned about the environmental integrity and safety of this facility."
THEA is calling for comprehensive testing of the facility for toxins.
BCFS reports it receives $238 from the federal government per immigrant minor per day for complete care and is in complete compliance with all state and federal guidelines.
BCFS submitted the following statement in response to a request from FOX 26 for comment:
First and most importantly, it is our duty to provide a safe and healthy environment for the youth and communities we serve as well as the staff that are employed with the BCFS Health and Human Services. We take this responsibility very seriously. We also take false information, slander and defamation very seriously. We therefore thank you for your efforts to obtain factual information.
The Baytown facility is a licensed General Residential Operation and is monitored regularly by the Texas Department of Family Protective Services. We are operating with a valid license and meet all requirements. The facility was audited (unannounced) by the Texas Department of Family Protective Services on October 3, 2017, with zero deficiencies. In addition, as recent as two weeks ago, the regional Residential Child Care Licensing Supervisor for the Texas Department of Family Protective Services reported that Baytown was, “hands down” one of the best.
With that, please note the water damage sustained in the boys' dormitory occurred from urban street flooding during a severe rain event. This was not stream or river flooding. There was no contamination and there was a slope grade modification made to mitigate this from reoccurring.
The health information you were given is also erroneous and it would be a disservice to share this inaccurate information and instill fear in this or any community. At BCFS Health and Human Services -Baytown we employ a full time healthcare provider and nursing staff. Youth are treated onsite for minor injuries and typical childhood illnesses. There has never been a case of tuberculosis at the facility. The only rare, more serious illness since this facility opened has been the flu.
Lastly, there has never been a serious altercation involving the youth at this facility. Any incident that has taken place can best be described as what might typically occur with teenagers on school grounds. BCFS Health and Human Services does not operate detention centers. The teens are not on lock down, this is a shelter - they experience very normal adolescent behaviors where they start to test the limits, take risks, break rules. Regardless, under our supervision, we provide proper care, supervision and protection to each child or youth entrusted to us.
In the past three years we have had seven youth leave the facility without permission.