HOUSTON - Civil rights activists are calling for an independent investigation after a disturbing video surfaced that shows a Child Protective Services (CPS) worker standing by idly as a teen is getting brutally beaten by another, while under their custody.
A CPS spokesperson says the department is searching for an incident report to confirm the ages of the kids.
Cell phone video captures what appears to be a teenage boy relentlessly beating down and cursing out a teenage girl, screaming for help. The video also shows a CPS worker watching from the side, making hardly any effort to intervene or deescalate the situation.
A spokesperson with the Texas Department of Family & Protective Services confirms the attack took place on April 2021, at Royalwood Church in northeast Houston. The church is one of DFPS' last resort facilities for ‘children without placement’.
"CPS workers with no training, it’s a blaring example of a system running amuck," said Dr. Candice Matthews, a civil rights activist.
In a news conference Wednesday, Dr. Matthews, who released the video, joined other civil rights activists to call for additional intervention from the state to hold those responsible, accountable.
"The horrific video is the end result of a failed system that is undeniably broken," Dr. Matthews said. "We, the rainbow push coalition demand an independent investigation by the Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton."
"There’s almost a circular pipeline where parents find themselves in their custody and their children find themselves in foster care," added attorney Lee Merritt. "Children are neglected and abused in foster care then they find themselves in custody."
"That's why we will call on systems from outside the state of Texas to come in and review this to make sure that inequities and inequalities for service providers which leads to lack of services and support for kids, don’t happen," said Quincy Dunlap with the Austin Area Urban League.
In a statement, a spokesperson for DFPS said:
"Our CPS caseworkers are not caregivers who are formally trained in de-escalation techniques or restraints. Rather, pursuant to statute, caseworkers must provide temporary emergency care for youth when no suitable placement is available (CWOP). CWOP is not a placement and staff continuously work around the clock to locate a suitable placement for each child experiencing CWOP as soon as possible. All DFPS employees working CWOP are instructed to immediately call 911 in an emergency. Further, DFPS has hired on-site security for the protection of the children and staff where a need has been indicated by staff."
"Child safety is DFPS’ top concern for Children Without Placement (CWOP), as well as the security of DFPS staff. The number of CWOP who are staying in alternate locations is declining, down from 416 in July to 236 in November. Work continues non-stop to find solution for CWOP and the number one message for DFPS staff from Commissioner Masters is, "I HEAR YOU and CWOP is and has been my number one priority. We have to fix this for the children and youth in care, obviously, but also for our employees who are literally working 24 hours a day to staff CWOP."
- As of Friday Dec. 3, there were only 10 foster youth in CPS offices across the state, along with 92 others in alternative locations including with foster care providers, in foster homes, and in hotels.
- Since June 1, we have developed 46 new "sub-acute" beds – these are for foster children and young people coming out of psychiatric hospitals, who usually will end up in CWOP because of the lack of capacity for kids with their specific needs.
- On Sept. 30, CPS completed a detailed history and summary of every child that is currently in CWOP. Each region will hold a "drill down" meeting with the youth and everyone involved in his/her care, caseworkers, placement team members, and other stakeholders in the case, such as CASA and the child’s attorney ad litem. During these focused meetings, placement options will be discussed with the youth to determine goals, find family members, and identify connections with other adults.
- During the second Special Session, the Texas Legislature appropriated $90 million to provide rate increases and flexible funding to increase capacity; this is in addition to the $55 million appropriated by the Legislature in the regular session.
- One of Commissioner Masters’ priorities has been to ensure that all children in Texas are protected - but DFPS must use more caution and common sense when deciding if a child is removed into state custody due to extreme abuse or neglect. To support that effort, if investigators want to remove a child at least 12 or older, the director of that geographical region must approve.
- Since June, we have developed 138 new licensed, permanent capacity beds, all of them for children and young people in foster care who have high needs.