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Crockett PD, state agencies investigating reports of abuse, neglect at Serenity Place

Source: KTRE Staff Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff Source: KTRE Staff

From the Crockett Police Department

Crockett, Texas (News Release) - The Crockett Police Department being assisted by the Texas Department of Public Safety Texas Rangers Division, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, Child Care Licensing Division, Child Protection Division, and supported by the Houston County District Attorney and Houston County Attorney began an in-depth investigation into the repeated and ongoing alleged abuse and neglect of numerous foster children who have been placed at a local Residential Placement Facility in Crockett, Texas. 

The facility, identified as “Houston Serenity Place - Crockett Campus," is listed as a nonprofit private residential placement facility for foster children and has been in operation in Crockett, Texas since July 21st of this year. Thirty-seven children were placed at the facility and are currently housed at the Crockett Campus. Since July 21st, in an approximately three month time frame, the Crockett Police Department has received approximately 52 calls for service documenting reported alleged incidents at the facility. Some of the incidents or calls were minor in nature but a pattern of alleged serious abuse and neglect allegations began to surface in the reports.

The reports that were made by the youth, staff, prior staff, teachers, parents, DFPS case workers, and others focused primarily on allegations of physical assaults on youth by staff at the facility and improper restraints of youth by staff at the facility, which led to numerous documented injuries to the youth. One specific investigation included a student who was allegedly strangled by staff to the point where she began having multiple seizures, which are believed to have been triggered due to the lack of oxygen to her brain during the strangulation assault. 

There are currently other alleged assaults on students by staff that are being investigated by the team of investigators that had been organized and brought in to assist. There were also allegations that numerous staff possibly witnessed some of the abuse on the youth and failed to report this to DFPS and/or Law Enforcement as required by law.

Multiple lack of supervision cases by staff at the facility, leading to improper sexual and physical assaults from students on students, have been identified by the investigators thus far. The investigative team consisted of Texas Ranger Investigators, Crockett Police Department Investigators, and Child Care Licensing Investigators.

The Head Commissioner of The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) and Associate Commissioner for Child Care Licensing (CCL) who are headquartered in Austin came to Crockett on Friday, 10-14-16. They met with the investigative team and others and heard their concerns and investigative results of the cases that have been reported thus far in Crockett.  

The Commissioner and Associate Commissioner immediately went to Serenity Place-Crockett Campus and personally met with the managers in charge of the facility and conveyed their vast concerns. The managers and owners were advised that DFPS was calling for an immediate investigation into the multiple abuse allegations. The commissioner and his staff personally called in numerous CCL and CPS workers from the region and ordered them to stay at the facility around the clock to monitor the children until all the children have been interviewed and all investigations were conducted by the investigative team. This was done to ensure that all the children were safe and placed appropriately while the investigation continued. 

The joint investigation has been operating since the October 14th and will take some time to complete due to the large number of cases and large number of children that had to be interviewed by trained forensic interviewers at local Child Advocacy Centers. Those CAC centers supporting are identified as Kalin’s Center in Crockett and Harold’s House in Lufkin and have been instrumental in assisting in conducting forensic interviews of each child that was placed at the facility. As of this date, 10-27-16, all children that were housed at the facility have been interviewed and their statements to the forensic interviewers are being followed up by investigators. The investigation continues and all investigative criminal findings and results will be reviewed by the local Houston County District Attorney and County Attorney and will be presented to a local grand jury when complete and where warranted. We are confident that DFPS will take the appropriate action on the facility as soon as the final investigative findings are presented to the DFPS Commissioner. Anyone with direct knowledge or information about abuse at this facility is asked to contact the Crockett Police Department at (936) 544-2021. 

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