Abbott order to investigate trans youth elicited anger, confusion

More than 800 pages of emails obtained via open records show Texas Department of Family and Protective Services employees’ response to gender-affirming care investigations

Dallas – According to Hundred, the non-binding legal opinion of Attorney General Ken Paxton who argued that gender-affirming care for children could be considered child abuse sent shockwaves through the state agency responsible for investigating abuse. Texas Department of Family and Protective Services E-mail.

The emails, obtained by the WFAA via an open records request, highlight the agency’s scramble to understand the February 21 opinion and subsequent February 22 directive by Governor Greg Abbott, in which the DFPS was asked to provide access to gender-affirming care. There is a need to initiate investigation into child abuse among transgender children.

Furthermore, they reveal a disquiet among some staff members when it comes to implementing Abbott’s directives.

Stephen Black, the DFPS associate commissioner for statewide intake, sent an email two days after Abbott’s directive, which provided two attachments, “guidance and direction on how the department handles gender-related intakes.”

DFPS managers forwarded Black’s email to employees as they worked to understand the implications of Paxton’s opinion and how Abbott’s instructions were handled internally.

“I know there’s a lot of emotion around this and there are more questions than answers right now,” a DFPS manager wrote in an email to employees. “This email is not a forum for opinion or discussion on this topic.”

Marina Yazaguire, regional director of Child Protective Investigation in Edinburgh, Texas, ordered that in a February 23 email “any intake,” or cases of children in DFPS custody who are transgender, “for further guidance and direction.” should rise”. ,

“We should treat these as normal investigations,” emailed a regional director on February 24.

In a March 1 email to employees, a regional management attorney warned: “With regard to AG’s opinion regarding gender rescheduling, if the program contacts you with any questions or wants employees to have a case with this issue, you must notify me immediately and any Don’t give advice.”

Abbott’s order directed the DFPS to “immediately and thoroughly investigate any reports of Texas children being subjected to abusive gender-transition procedures.”

“We will need to discuss handling a designated caseworker when these special cases arise,” an investigative program director wrote on February 24. It is being asked that these cases work well without text message/email to the family. ,

The American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics support gender-affirming care and consider it a medically necessary treatment.

And, despite being told not to do so, several employees expressed frustration and anger upon receiving Black’s email on February 21 about Paxton’s legal opinion.

“I will resign,” one employee wrote in a February 24 email.

Less than an hour later, that employee sent another employee an email saying, “I’ve told my boss that I will resign before (reporting) on ​​the family whose child is transitioning.” ”

It is not clear whether the employee still works for DFPS.

In a February 28 email, another employee spoke candidly about his feelings over the investigation order.

“An attempt at bull poop,” she wrote to a supervisor.

according to a New report from the Houston Chronicle“Almost 2,300 employees have left the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services since the beginning of the year.”

Several people told the Chronicle that they left because of the directive to investigate transgender youth.

In April, more than half a dozen child abuse investigators reported Texas Tribune That they have either resigned or are actively looking for a job because of the directive.

Currently, the DFPS’s investigation is in legal limbo as the agency is facing several legal challenges related to the order.

The agency’s communications director Patrick Crimins said in a phone call with the WFAA on Monday that the DFPS had investigated at least nine parents of trans youth.

“We’ve only released nine numbers so far, and I haven’t seen any others,” Crimmins said.

In May, the Texas Supreme Court allowed the investigation to continue, but halted at least one investigation into a family suing the state.

Over the summer, three more child abuse investigations into gender-affirming care in Travis County were blocked.

The WFAA has requested a formal update from the DFPS on the status of child abuse investigations for transgender children.

Crimmins said he would look into it.

Either way, the emails shed light on the agency’s internal effort to understand the implications of the government’s Abbott order and Attorney General Paxton’s opinion.

“Not entirely sure what this means for us [Statewide Intake]But our policy changed during the most recent legislative session because the Texas law to add [physical abuse] For ‘sexual reassignment surgery for non-medical purposes,’ read an email from JR Uribe-Woods, a statewide intake supervisor, which was written on February 23.

The state legislature failed to pass bills restricting gender-affirming care during its 2021 session.

But last August, Government Abbott, in response to a request from the DFPS Deemed gender reassignment surgery It is “medically necessary” as a form of child abuse except surgery to correct “medically verifiable genetic disorders of sexual development”.

Equality Texas, a statewide LGBTQ+ advocacy group, has criticized Abbott’s request.

“This is nothing more than another political attempt to stigmatize transgender people, their loving families and healthcare providers,” CEO Ricardo Martinez said.

Medical experts widely agree Gender-affirming care rarely includes surgery.

When necessary, most treatments include puberty or hormone inhibitors, which delay puberty, but this can be reversed.

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