Serenity COO speaks out against abuse allegations at Crockett facility

Serenity COO speaks out against abuse allegations at Crockett facility
Sen. John Whitmire (Source: Texas Senate video Archive)
Sen. John Whitmire (Source: Texas Senate video Archive)
Chris Brown (Source: KTRE Staff)
Chris Brown (Source: KTRE Staff)

CROCKETT, TX (KTRE) - Serenity Place COO Chris Brown is defending his facility just days after Crockett Police Chief David Cross went public on an investigation into ongoing abuse inside the Crockett facility.

Brown believes the reports against him have been taken out of proportion and are not being properly handled.

"To paint a picture that is so inaccurate, so misleading, it's just disheartening," Brown said.

On Friday, Cross release a statement that said reports 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.

Cross continued and stated 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.

In regards to to the restraining that lead to a seizure, Brown said his staff has no records of a seizure.

"This person in question is currently on probation for an assault," Brown said. "She was put in a basket hold to prevent her from hitting another young lady. that is all that happened."

Brown said the child in question has no previous history of seizures and according to documents given to him from the Houston County Medical Center, the child did not test for any.

"The struggle is the police department does not fully understand mental health issues,"Brown said. "Typically when these kids get in trouble, there is a consequence for what they have done. They go and say things and become the victims. She was told by another child here that she had a seizure, so since then we have been dealing with this."

Brown also alleged that neither him nor his staff was allowed at a community meeting held two weeks ago. Cross said it was not a community meeting but an inter-agency meeting between law enforcement on how to handle the allegations.

Brown and his facility is also getting heat from state law makers. At a recent senate finance committee hearing, State Senator John Whitmire accused the facility of being unfit and referred to it as a brothel.

"I told you then it was unfit," Whitmire said. "I don't care if they painted it. It is not designed ... they do not have the professional help who is coming out of Houston where this guy is from. The guy has a facility in my district; always getting complaints about the kids running away."

Whitmire said the cases he sees at the facility are some of the worst he has seen.

"We have a kid in the Travis County Jail that a week ago was in a Crockett school," Whitmire said. "These are violent offenders. Some of the most disturbed conditions that I have ever seen."

Brown dismissed the senator and believed that he is not aware of what his facility is doing.

"There's saber rattling, there's yelling, there's screaming because people want to draw attention to things or to their cause, but the facts don't line up with what is being said," Brown said.

Brown also did not agree with Whitmire calling the facility a brothel.

"We had one incident," Brown said. "Boy likes girl. Girl likes boy. They planned it. They AWOLed. We found them. That's it."

Brown said he has always had an open door policy to his facility and will keep it that way.

"We are dealing with tough cases here," Brown said. "We have kids that have been moved up to eight times a year, but they have been at this facility the longest. I invite anyone to come in and take a tour, with or without me and talk to the kids. They will tell you they love it here."

Brown is currently working with CPS and continues to look at ways to improve.

"I fully expect that going forward those calls are going to be miniscule," Brown said.

CPS Spokesperson Shari Pulliam said that CPS is working with law enforcement to ensure that the youth living at the facility  are safe from any allegations of abuse or neglect.

"As a newly-licensed facility, our Residential Child Care Licensing inspectors as well as Child Protective Services caseworkers are also making regular visits to ensure that the youth are getting the appropriate services and treatment," Pulliam said.

Cross declined to give any more comments until after the case is presented to grand jury.

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