Texas child welfare agency told staff to stay quiet about investigations of families with trans kids

Officials told employees not to communicate about cases via email or text — even with families under investigation, according to records obtained by two news organizations.

click to enlarge LGBTQ+ advocates speak out against bills targeting transgender children at a rally last spring at the Texas Capitol. - Facebook / Equality Texas
Facebook / Equality Texas
LGBTQ+ advocates speak out against bills targeting transgender children at a rally last spring at the Texas Capitol.
Texas' child welfare agency took extraordinary efforts to ensure the secrecy of child abuse investigations it's conducting into families who obtain gender-affirming care for their kids, according to agency records reviewed by two media outlets.

Emails and other documents from the Department of Family and Protective Services obtained through open records requests show how the agency tried to shield details of the controversial investigations from the public, both the Dallas Morning News and Texas Tribune report.

Those secrecy efforts came as workers inside the agency raised concerns about the effect of the investigations on targeted families and threatened to resign, according to the reports. Some have questioned the political motivations behind the probes, which were ordered by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in February.

The Dallas Morning News, which reported the news first, based its investigation on its own open records request, while the Tribune based its reporting on 900 pages of documents obtained by watchdog group American Oversight.

The records obtained by both news organizations reveal that DFPS officials told employees not to communicate about cases via email or text — even with families under investigation. Agency officials informed workers they would receive case assignments pertaining to the directive over the phone, according to the Tribune.

“Everyone you need to stay off social media with any opinions based on the following,” one supervisor said in an email cited by the Morning News. “We will be investigating these cases. This will get messy.”

Abbott's order and DFPS's subsequent investigations have drawn national condemnation from medical experts, including U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, who accused the state of interfering with decisions made between physicians and patients.

What's more, an analysis by seven top legal and medical experts blasted the non-binding legal opinion by Texas' Republican Attorney General on which Abbott based his order, saying it "warped" reality by citing debunked research and falsehoods.

In July, District Judge Amy Clark Meachum permanently blocked Texas from investigating two families who obtained gender-affirming care for their children. She's expected to decide during a Dec. 5 trial whether to halt all such investigations by the state, the Tribune reports.

With the November election looming, Abbott has seized on punitive measures against transgender Texans to shore up support from the GOP base. In March, the governor's top election strategist, Dave Carney, bragged to reporters that investigating the families of trans kids is a "winning issue."

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Sanford Nowlin

Sanford Nowlin is editor-in-chief of the San Antonio Current.

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