Fed judge finds Texas state-funded shelter was revictimizing child-victims of sex trafficking they were supposed to be helping

Nine employees charged with caring for female foster children who had fallen victim to sex traffickers at a Texas state-funded facility have allegedly been trafficking the very same children themselves, according to U.S. District Judge Janis Jack.

Following claims in January that an employee of The Refuge Ranch in Bastrop had sold inappropriate photos of two children and used the proceeds to purchase alcohol and illegal drugs, which he then fed back to the kids, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) launched an investigation into allegations that other Refuge employees were involved in the abuse.

Eight victims at the ranch have come forward since the initial accused employee was fired and law enforcement was notified, according to the Texas Tribune.


In a Thursday emergency court hearing, it was revealed that seven children, ranging from 11 to 17 years in age, were revictimized by nine perpetrators.

“The children remained in the facility for over a month after the abuse was first reported before they were removed,” the Tribune reports, adding that the children endured both sexual and physical abuse, medical neglect, and “neglectful supervision” while under the facility’s care.

Though state authorities were notified of the abuse on Jan. 24, the “court and the court monitors — watchdogs of the foster care system appointed by the judge — were not notified until Thursday.”

DFPS associate commissioner for child protective investigation Rich Richman claimed the children were left at the facility because investigators were under the impression the perpetrator had been fired, but, as the Tribune points out, several employees have been accused of abuse and not all of them were immediately dismissed.

One arrest has been made in the horrific case, and DFPS reportedly expects more arrests will follow.

In its letter to the court, DFPS claimed the facility’s residential care director is believed to have been aware of the abuse. While investigating, DFPS “discovered several additional staff members still employed at the operation appeared to be involved, and that many of them were related to one another by blood or marriage and/or were cohabiting,” the letter states.

Five weeks after the first claim of sexual abuse was documented, DFPS finally removed all of the children on Wednesday.

“Eight of the nine children who were in The Refuge at the time have been placed with other facilities that specialize in serving victims of commercial sex trafficking,” the letter states.

In a statement issued Thursday evening, Gov. Greg Abbott vowed that the Texas Rangers would investigate the Refuge allegations and would arrest any involved suspects.

“The reports of child sex trafficking at The Refuge in Bastrop are abhorrent,” the governor stated. “Child abuse of any kind won’t be tolerated in the state of Texas, and we are committed to ensuring these despicable perpetrators are brought to justice and punished to the fullest extent of the law.”


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