Activist state

State Editorial: Protecting Children? CPS social workers say that is not Abbott’s goal. | Opinion

The following editorial published in the Houston Chronicle September 2nd :

While walking on the sidewalk, imagine that you come across two children. One is alone, skinny as a bone, her worn dress bloody, her eyes thin and fearful. The other is giggling and chubby, bouncing around in a ridiculously frilly dress, holding hands with a mom who looks pretty responsible, wearing a rainbow-colored T-shirt that says “I ( heart) my trans child.”

Which child would you run to help? Which child needs your protection? Which suffers? Who really needs you, or more specifically the hand of the Texas government, to step in and save her from a situation that threatens her health or even her life?

Logically, we all know the answer. But politics leaves no room for logic, or even common sense. It often dictates responses that have little to do with real-world circumstances or even the heart, and everything to do with polling numbers, ideological messages and manipulated public perceptions.

If we Texans are honest, if we put aside, just for a moment, any partisan affiliation or even frustration and skepticism we might understandably feel about the seemingly growing number of children who identify as trans these days we will admit which child is truly at risk of abuse and demand that the State of Texas do everything possible to help.

We would demand that Governor Greg Abbott give Child Protective Services social workers, the underpaid foot soldiers of child protection in this state, the resources they need to do their job.

But too many of us are not honest. Many Texans are watching the other side as Texas children continue to languish, endure abuse and even die in state custody – even as they nod as Republican leaders in the The state describes gender-affirming care as the real evil and loving parents following the advice of a pediatrician as the real abusers.

Any anti-trans activist who tries to argue that both children can be helped is missing the tragic truth. Every day, the workers of the CPS are obliged to sort out the children whose files accumulate on their desks.

Every day, they are acutely aware of the political pressures that creep into the agency’s decision-making process. Every day they have to live with the toll it takes. But this week, 16 current and former DFPS employees finally spoke up.

“DFPS professionals do not enter the child welfare profession to remove children from loving homes with parents or guardians simply because they are following medical advice and the care of a physician, solely to place them in a foster care system that is riddled with actual abuse, sexual assault, and even sex trafficking,” reads an amicus brief filed on behalf of an employee who was fired for providing care for her own transgender child.

Few of us can imagine the horrors, the heartbreaks, the hesitant, arduous and endless struggle that CPS social workers face in their mission to protect children. Adding political considerations to the list of burdens is inadmissible – and, according to the employees, it endangers their mission and brings a crisis situation at the DFPS to the brink of collapse.

It’s no surprise that, this year alone, some 2,300 employees have left – or rather fled – the agency, citing long hours, pressure to rush an average daily caseload of around 17 cases. .

Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton insist they are the protectors of Texas children. The spiraling state of child protective services reveals what a depraved lie this is.

“The focus has been taken so far away from the safety of the children that I don’t want to do this job anymore,” a current Houston-area social worker told reporter Cayla Harris.

The agency had struggled for years. Instead of reforming it and giving it the support it needs, the Governor has decided to use his overworked child welfare foot soldiers as his own personal foot soldiers in a culture war. Abbott’s February directive to staff to investigate families who provide gender-affirming care to their transgender children has endangered children and demoralized employees.

Instead of investigating actual abuse, the brief argues that employees were “put in the position, for the first time, of being required to investigate a family simply because of an allegation that a child receives care from a recommended physician,” forcing them to second-guess “decisions made by physicians and accepted by parents and child.” Most major medical associations support gender-affirming care, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

And no matter what you’ve heard, current standards of care do not recommend genital surgeries in children. These rare stages, if taken at all, take place in adulthood. Hormone-blocking treatments remain controversial. While doctors say they can prove life-saving interventions, experts urge caution as their long-term effects on things like bone density and fertility are not yet well known.

Medical decisions about trans children are not only complex, they are deeply personal, and families deserve the privacy and freedom to make them without government interference. Unlike, for example, immunization decisions, those that involve gender-affirming care do not affect or threaten to harm other children. Even so, Texas gives parents more leeway to avoid life-saving vaccinations against dangerous infectious diseases, with exemptions in public schools every year for the past decade, than it offers parents of children trans.

While it’s no surprise that Texas leaders think they know better than doctors, the consequences continue to be detrimental to an agency that was already struggling.

“From dangerous overtime watching kids in hotels to political drama to troubles with their supervisors, workers say the agency has lost its mission — and ultimately, it’s the kids of Texas who get it.” are suffering,” Harris wrote of the employee exodus that has largely affected the CPS division. The losses are in addition to the 3,000 employees lost in fiscal year 2021 and contribute to an overall turnover rate that is one of the highest among state agencies with more than 1,000 employees.

The overworked system is failing the children – badly. A recent report by a judicial monitor found that nearly a quarter of children in foster care who had previously been sexually abused were abused again while in state custody. For children without placement, as they are called, employees described chaotic, poorly supervised scenes and children missing school.

The message from judges, court overseers, staff and families has been consistent and dire for months. Yet Abbott seems indifferent to all of this.

The directive was particularly insulting, according to the brief, because it “was not motivated by any concern for the welfare of vulnerable children in Texas, but by a desire to create a political ‘corner issue’ for electoral purposes.”

Following his orders would “irreparably damage the morale and effectiveness of the DFPS,” the amicus authors wrote.

For many, it already is. The only question is how many more vulnerable children – and how many exhausted and demoralized CPS social workers – we are willing to lose to political ploy.

Only voters can answer that one. And we pray that they only think of children when they do.