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Transgender

Texas Agency Aimed for Secrecy on Probes of Trans-Supportive Parents

Greg Abbott and Ken Paxton
From left: Greg Abbott and Ken Paxton

Among other things, supervisors with the Department of Family and Protective Services ordered workers to avoid written communications about the matter.

Employees of Texas's child welfare agency were told to avoid written communications and take other steps to maintain secrecy about investigations of parents who allow their transgender children to receive gender-affirming care.

The investigations began after Gov. Greg Abbott ordered them in February, based on a nonbinding legal opinion from Attorney General Ken Paxton that allowing kids access to such care is child abuse. Both are far-right, anti-LGBTQ+ Republicans. Scientists have said the opinion was based on faulty and biased information, and LGBTQ+ activists have condemned the "child abuse" characterization. The order is partially blocked while a lawsuit against it proceeds.

Supervisors with the Department of Family and Protective Services ordered workers not to send emails or text messages about the probes, an unusual move since the department usually documents everything carefully, The Texas Tribune reports. Employees were told to apply this policy when communicating with the parents under investigation as well as with colleagues. They were advised not to post any opinions about Abbott's order on social media either.

"Staff need to be clear that as state employees their public/social media opinions must be neutral to non-existent," reads a message from Martin Lopez, a supervisor at DFPS, according to the Tribune.

The publication was able to view the DFPS communications after 900 pages of documents were released because of an open records request by watchdog group American Oversight.

The documents also show that many DFPS employees objected to Abbott's order. One called it "Effing bull poop," and another threatened to quit if he had to investigate a trans-affirming family.

So far 11 families have been investigated, and no children have been removed from their parents' custody, the Tribune reports.

In one of at least two lawsuits against Abbott's directive, a judge ruled in June that PFLAG members could not be investigated. The judge is expected to rule on other probes in December.

The child welfare agency has been experiencing several crises. About 2,300 employees have quit this year, due to both unmanageable workloads and the Abbott order, the Houston Chronicle reports. Also, there "are dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of high-risk, high-needs foster children who do not have a permanent placement," the paper notes. "Instead, the state lodges them in hotels and churches, tasking caseworkers with supervising them."

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