Demonstrators hold a rally to support trans kids in Minnesota, Texas, and around the country. (Photo by: Michael Siluk / UCG / Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Texas is apparently wasting little time in resuming its investigations into families of transgender youth receiving gender-affirming care. The state’s Department of Family and Protective Services, which oversees child abuse investigations, told VICE News in an email Friday that “DFPS treats all reports of abuse, neglect, and exploitation seriously and will continue to investigate each to the full extent of the law,” in response to a question about whether the agency was resuming the investigations following a state Supreme Court ruling last week.
A source described as “familiar with internal discussions” between the department and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s and Attorney General Ken Paxton’s offices said the state was moving forward with investigating families, Time reported Thursday. Abbott issued an order in February directing state agencies to “conduct a prompt and thorough investigation of any reported instances of these abusive procedures.” Though Republican politicians and the states they run have targeted transgender kids for years, the last two years have seen a dramatic escalation of targeting healthcare and community for transgender youth. Some Texas CPS caseworkers, like Morgan Davis, quit the agency after Abbott’s order. “There's not a single person that I know of and is an investigator that is not looking for other employment,” Davis, a transgender man who resigned over Abbott’s order month, told VICE News in April. “These are good people who are being asked to do something that they believe to be wrong.
An Austin-based court issued a statewide injunction against the order, but the Texas state Supreme Court struck down the injunction in a ruling last week while maintaining that the department “was not compelled by law to follow” the orders, according to the Texas Tribune. Regardless, the Department of Family and Protective Services issued a statement to the Texas Tribune after the ruling saying it would “follow Texas law…[i]n accordance with Gov. Abbott’s directive.” The department’s apparent decision to restart the investigations came during a week where the state was once again scrutinized for failures in the state’s child welfare system long before Abbott’s order. John Stephen, the managing partner of a consulting group hired by the state to evaluate DFPS in 2014, told a state Senate panel Monday that the state still hasn’t adequately reformed an agency plagued by problems. More than 100 children have died in the care of Texas DFPS since 2020, including 22 in 2022 as of March 21, according to a department report first reported by the Texas Tribune. Stephen, a Republican former candidate for governor in New Hampshire, particularly blasted the state’s foster care system. “Those kids are languishing in your system where the time spent in foster care in this state is so much higher in other states,” Stephen told the state Senate committee. The state was investigating nine families as of March 11, a Department of Family and Protective Services spokesperson said at the time. One family was Amber Briggle’s, who invited Paxton and his wife to their home for dinner six years ago “to help him think about these issues differently,” she wrote in a Washington Post op-ed in February. Briggle told the Dallas Morning News Thursday that Abbott and Paxton are targeting transgender kids in a ploy for votes; both are up for re-election in the fall, and Paxton will face George P. Bush in a primary runoff Tuesday. “This has been political since day one,” Briggle told the Dallas Morning News Thursday. “They’re not going to close [our case] unless they’re forced to by the courts.”