Child Protective Services Division Chief Resigns After Texas Capitol ‘Political’ Hearing on Bastrop Shelter

Justin Lewis, director of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) Child Custody Investigations Division, tendered his letter of resignation after a hearing in the state capitol into allegations of misconduct at a Bastrop shelter for victims of sex trafficking.

Citing an overly political response to the incident, Lewis said the hearing and subsequent media coverage scapegoated his staff and ignored other responsible parties.

“I can’t acquiesce to the political nature of the work”, Lewis wrote.

“We talked about the different levels of supervision in different divisions who had knowledge several times in the investigation without raising the alarm. There were also many obligatory reporters who failed to report alleged offenses against children. Despite this, two of my staff have been exposed publicly to the legislature, and therefore to the media, while other divisions (with many more people involved) have not been mentioned.

Earlier this month, allegations of sex trafficking and sexual abuse at a shelter for trafficked girls called The Refuge surfaced in a court document. Texas Rangers noted they found no evidence of abuse or trafficking, but acknowledged that criminal investigations would continue against several employees for selling nude photos of shelter residents and helping some residents flee.

Folders show that the DFPS left these accusations unanswered for weeks.

Testimony before a Texas Senate Special Committee on the 17th of MarchDFPS Commissioner Jaime Masters blamed a particular DFPS office for the lack of communication.

However, Lewis said other parts of the foster care system also share the blame.

The DFPS handles child abuse investigations and oversees foster care throughout most of the state. Lewis said other DFPS divisions were also aware of the charges against The Refuge.

Texas is phasing in a new model called community care, which is currently active in four regions of the state. In these regions, the obligation to place children falls on the Single Continuum Providers (SSCC) instead of the DFPS. Lewis specifically named SSCC personnel among other groups responsible for the “lack of upward flow of information”, although the region that includes Bastrop is still under the “legacy” DFPS model and has no SSCC to the moment.

Lewis also said the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) shares some of the blame. HHSC is responsible for licensing staff who operate foster homes.

The letter first came into the public light in a pair of documents submitted to the judge overseeing a class action lawsuit against the state over dangers facing children in the foster care system.

A former DFPS employee submitted the documents, which also include images of text messages from Lewis denouncing the political nature of The Refuge investigations.

“Politics makes me sick,” he wrote.

Lewis also insulted the judge handling the case, prompting the former DFPS employee to submit the documents to the court. However, she vouched for his character and added in her second letter that Lewis was intoxicated during their conversation.

“He spoke to me, a confidential friend, about the frustrations of the litigation and his frustrations with the Department’s inadequate responses, and never made a derogatory comment about the judge. [Janis] Jack as a person,” the court document read.

“I did not respond to his disrespectful comment because it was completely irrelevant to him; it was truly a lack of respect that I would never have anticipated from him towards anyone.

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