AUSTIN (KXAN)– The Refuge, a center for victims of sex trafficking in Bastrop County, can now reopen and have its license restored after being “exonerated” from allegations of sexual abuse with children, according to a statement from the nonprofit.

The series of events first began in January 2022 when the nonprofit alerted the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services and the Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office to an outcry made by two girls in its care, accusing a caregiver of persuading them into creating Child Sexual Exploitation Material (CSEM) with a cellphone, the statement said.

The employee was fired, and four weeks later, the non-profit reported another incident with two other girls who ran away. Eventually, multiple simultaneous investigations ensued, and all girls staying at the nonprofit were removed, the statement said.

However, in September 2022, the Bastrop County Grand Jury did not find sufficient evidence to support an indictment on any criminal offense.

“Organizations like ours that are entrusted with the care of our state’s most vulnerable children should be held to high standards and we are grateful that the investigations and hearings of the past year have revealed our adherence to them in regard to the allegations that were made. We hope that our experience has shed light on the challenges of working with victims of complex trauma and the unique nuances of managing the multi-agency collaboration needed to bring about meaningful change.”

-Brooke Crowder, founder and CEO of The Refuge

Last year, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called for the Texas Rangers to investigate, and the agency initially said there was “no evidence” of sexual abuse or trafficking. However, in subsequent hearings on the issue in front of lawmakers at the Capitol, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Colonel Steven McCraw said he was expecting to see the Bastrop County district attorney prosecute someone for sexual exploitation of a minor and even child pornography.

Then, in December 2022, the Texas Senate Special Committee on Child Protective Services (CPS) published a report stating the findings of DPS and McCraw revealed no evidence of wrongdoing, the statement said.

The nonprofit received notification in late January of its license reinstatement and is now in the process of rebuilding its care team in anticipation of welcoming a new population of trafficking survivors later in the spring, the statement said.