Citing an over-political response to the incident, Lewis said the hearing and subsequent media coverage made scapegoats of his staff and ignored other responsible parties.
“I cannot acquiesce to the political nature of the job,” Lewis wrote.
“We spoke about the different levels of supervision in different divisions that had knowledge at multiple times in the investigation without elevating the alarm. There were also numerous mandatory reporters that failed to report alleged offenses against children. Despite this, two of my staff were put on public display to the legislature, and consequently the media, while other divisions (with far more folks involved) were not 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. The Texas Rangers said they found no evidence of abuse or trafficking but acknowledged that criminal investigations would still continue against several employees for selling nude pictures of the shelter residents and helping some residents run away.
Records show the DFPS let these accusations go unaddressed for weeks.
Testifying before a special committee of the Texas Senate on March 17, DFPS Commissioner Jaime Masters blamed a particular office in the DFPS for the lack of communication.
However, Lewis said other parties in the foster care system share the blame as well.
The DFPS manages child abuse investigations and oversees foster care in most of the state. Lewis said other DFPS divisions also knew about the accusations at The Refuge.
Texas is phasing in a new model called community-based care, currently active in four regions of the state. In these regions, the duty of placing children falls to single-source continuum contractors (SSCC) instead of the DFPS. Lewis specifically named SSCC staff among other groups responsible for the “lack of upward movement of information,” although the region that includes Bastrop is still under the “legacy” DFPS model and does not have a SSCC at this time.
Lewis also said the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) shares some of the blame. HHSC is responsible for licensing the staff that run foster care facilities.
The letter first entered the public light in a pair of documents submitted to the judge overseeing a class-action lawsuit against the state over dangers threatening children in the foster care system.
A former DFPS worker submitted the documents, which also include pictures of text messages from Lewis decrying the political nature of the investigations into The Refuge.
“Politics make me sick,” he wrote.
Lewis also insulted the judge overseeing the litigation, which prompted the former DFPS worker 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 has spoken to me, a friend in confidence, previously on the frustrations around the litigation and his frustrations with the Department’s inadequate responses, and never made a derogatory comment regarding Judge [Janis] Jack as a person,” the court document reads.
“I didn’t respond to his disrespectful comment because this was wildly out of character for him; it was truly a level of disrespect that I would never have anticipated from him about anyone.”
Disclosure: Unlike almost every other media outlet, The Texan is not beholden to any special interests, does not apply for any type of state or federal funding, and relies exclusively on its readers for financial support. If you’d like to become one of the people we’re financially accountable to, click here to subscribe.