Thirty-seven “high needs” foster children from the Fort Worth area are being housed at a former juvenile detention center in East Texas, according to local officials and a report by the Houston Chronicle.
The children, ranging in age from 10 to 17, have been placed there due to “psychiatric and behavioral issues … that would make it difficult to place them in a home setting,” Marissa Gonzales, a North Texas spokeswoman for the Department of Family and Protective Services, told the Star-Telegam.
The Crockett facility, formerly the Crockett State School, is operated by Serenity Place and is a licensed residential treatment center, Gonzales said. It was remodeled to meet state standards for foster care.
But the decision to place children there has caused one state senator to speak out.
In an interview with the Chronicle, Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire, D-Houston, described the facility’s use as the “warehousing of troubled youth.”
“It’s just creating a new problem,” Whitmire told the Houston newspaper. “When they turn 18 and get out, they stand a high likelihood of becoming homeless or getting into more trouble and ending up in an adult prison.”
Texas’ Child Protective Services has come under intense scrutiny from state lawmakers in the past year. In April, a local CPS caseworker and a supervisor were fired for their handling of a case involving 4-year-old Leiliana Wright, who was fatally beaten.
The Grand Prairie girl’s death also prompted several state leadership changes, including the appointment of a new DFPS commissioner by Gov. Greg Abbott.