The Texas Baptist Home for Children is being sued for $7 million following the alleged sexual abuse and neglect of seven children placed in its care by the state four years ago.
Five boys and two girls, all under the age of 14 at the time of the reported incidents in 2013, were “serially sexually abused, physically abused and subjected to serious medical and other neglect” while staying at the home in Waxahachie, according to a lawsuit filed in Tarrant County civil court.
Three of the boys were sexually abused by “other, older children” staying at the Baptist home, while the other two boys and two girls suffered neglect, said Hal Browne, a Plano attorney who filed the lawsuit.
The litigation uses psuedonyms to protect the identity of the minors and their parents. But the number of children put into foster care by the state and the facts contained in the lawsuit matches the well-known case involving Angel and David Cook, a Cleburne couple investigated and cleared in the death of their 4-year-old adoptive son in 2013.
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We don’t file lawsuits lightly. If we didn’t feel the abuse was severe and long term, we wouldn’t have filed the lawsuit.
attorney Hal Browne
In that case, Child Protective Services put their seven remaining children into foster care during the criminal investigation. They were returned to the Cooks in April 2014, but since then the family has publicly talked about the abuse and neglect their children suffered at the Baptist Home.
Browne would not confirm or deny that he and his legal partner, Lori Watson, have been hired by the Cook family, saying that they want to “protect the identity of the parents” and the minor children.
“We don’t file lawsuits lightly. If we didn’t feel the abuse was severe and long term, we wouldn’t have filed the lawsuit,” Browne said.
Randy Odom, interim president of the Texas Baptist Home for Children, declined to comment to the Star-Telegram about the lawsuit or confirm that it may involve the Cooks, citing client confidentiality. But he went on to say that his facility has been “investigated extensively and we’ve been cleared.”
The facility is still caring for foster children, Odom said.
Browne and Watson are seeking a minimum of $1 million in damages per child, the lawsuit states. Besides the child care facility, the lawsuit names the Southern Baptist of Texas Convention and the Baptist Missionary Association as defendants.
The lawsuit also names four separate couples who were acting as foster parents and living in the cottages on the campus with the children when the alleged abuse occurred between March 26, 2013, and Dec. 18, 2013.
The Baptist children’s home is accused of not exercising ordinary care of a prudent foster care provider, including failing to implement policies to detect and prevent abuse and to investigate allegations of improper behavior, among other things, the lawsuit states.
“Defendants owe a duty of care to those who might be harmed by criminal acts on their premises when the risk of criminal conduct was so great that it was both unreasonable and foreseeable,” the lawsuit states. The facility “had an actual custom of looking the other way and disregarding complaints made to them …”
In the Cook case, the parents were charged with injury to a child after 4-year-old Buddy Cook, their adoptive son, died in 2013. It appeared that he had suffered abuse and neglect, authorities said. But a subsequent investigation by Johnson County law enforcement found that Buddy had always been unhealthy.
A Tarrant County medical examiner said Buddy’s death was a homicide, but eventually he changed his mind and told Johnson County prosecutors that the cause of death was undetermined.
In the Cook case, the Department of Family and Protective Services found no deficiencies in its own inquiry of the Baptist home but recommended that foster parents who cared for two of the Cook’s sons increase supervision and not allow the children to have any unsupervised contact with one another.
A letter obtained by the Star-Telegram also said the foster parents may need additional training.
This story contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.