Ear pulling, spanking, withholding food, and taking inappropriate photos of children are among the reports the state has written for child care licensing facilities in the Rio Grande Valley.
Texas Health and Human Services oversees all child-care operations and child-placing agencies in the state.
“Once every two years we’ll review everyone at the minimum standards that we have supplied to the operation,” said Willie Salas, District Director of Residential Child Care Licensing with Health and Human Service Commission.
Those reviews are available on the department’s website, News Center 23 looked at all reports available from Cameron and Hidalgo County, and some of the child-care and placing agencies had shocking high-risk deficiencies.
“Deficiencies for us are when somebody is not in compliance with the minimum standards,” Salas said. “A deficiency could range from a signature on a service plan not being complete, to the use of inappropriate discipline.”
A World for Children, a nonprofit placing agency in Hidalgo and Cameron County, had high risk deficiencies ranging from ear pulling, spanking and hitting.
On February 10, 2017 a foster parent admitted to taking inappropriate photographs of a child with the intent of using the photographs as a means of discipline.
A World for Children did not give News Center 23 an interview or statement.
At Sunny Glen, a staff member used inappropriate discipline on children, including pulling arms, pushing their head down, pushing a child against a wall and shaking another child.
On May 9, 2017, video surveillance footage showed a caregiver using his body to get on top of a youth’s torso, placed his hand over the youth’s face and applied pressure to keep the youth down.
Sunny Glen sent a statement to News Center 23, saying they dealt with the situations as soon as they were aware of them, and have re-examined their procedures and have a 75% decrease in citations since 2017.
“There’s a variety of inspections every year based on an operation’s compliance history, we’ll go out to the operation and do an unannounced inspection,” Salas said.
Lutheran Social Services of the South, now known as Upbring, had children in care voice that a child was put in a shower with his clothing as a form of discipline.
There were also concerns that children were hit with hand and remote controller if they misbehaved at a foster home, put in timeout outside as a form of discipline.
Food was withheld if they misbehaved or didn’t follow rules in the foster home.
“We also do monitoring of agent homes. We actually go to the foster homes that is verified by a child-placing agency and look at the home for compliance,” he said.
Upbring also provided a statement to News Center, saying they work with the foster family to make the corrections, if the family does not comply, Upbring may re-evaluate their appropriateness as a foster family and take additional action.
Besides the three facilities mentioned, a half dozen other facilities had less serious violations.
Ultimately, advocates for children just want to look out for them.
News Center 23 spoke to the Court Appointed Special Advocates in the Rio Grande Valley, about abuse.
“There are some long-term abuse consequences that can come from abuse or neglect,” said Joe Medrano, Public Relations Officer for CASA.
“There are obviously different degrees of both of those types of situations and of course CASA is asked to participate and support the needs of that child if there is a serious situation involving child abuse or neglect,” Medrano said.
“Our focus is not to break a family up or tear families apart,” Medrano said.
“Our ultimate goal for licensing is to make sure that kids are safe,” Salas said.