AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services removed no children from homes after launching 11 abuse investigations so far into families who have transgender children, according to new information released by the state six months after the governor directed the agency to begin conducting these kinds of probes.
The department responded Tuesday to a records request submitted by KXAN, which revealed the state closed eight child abuse investigations launched because of a legal opinion issued earlier this year by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton related to transgender health care options. However, three investigations remain active at this time, according to the DFPS. The department noted, “None of them have resulted in the removal of a child.”
Paxton released a document on Feb. 18 arguing that 11 types of surgeries and certain medications like puberty-blocking drugs “can legally constitute child abuse” under Texas Family Code.
Four days later on Feb. 22, Gov. Greg Abbott sent a letter to the DFPS saying this reading of Texas law means families and medical professionals should now face abuse investigations for pursuing or providing these types of health care options intended for transgender children. His letter also stated doctors and nurses could face punishments for failing to report such care and mentioned that DFPS should look into parents who pursue it for their kids.
In the months since then, several families and legal organizations challenged the governor’s directive in court by filing multiple lawsuits to halt abuse investigations from proceeding, which led to temporary reprieves for some of them. However, as the recent records request showed, these types of investigations are still happening at the state level.
Advocates for the LGBTQ+ community in Texas said they’re worried state lawmakers will work during the legislative session next year to write the governor’s directive into law and enact further restrictions against transgender people. One measure that Abbott signed into law last year required Texas public school athletes to play sports based on their biological sex at birth.
Fears about the political environment and what could come next are leading some families to either move out of the state or plan out how they’ll do that soon. A Dallas-based realtor even launched an online tool called Flee Texas to help LGBTQ+ Texans list their homes and then connect them with a friendly agent in another state.
State legislators in California are now working to pass a bill before their session ends on Aug. 31 that would essentially create a refuge for families to seek and receive the transgender health care that could get them investigated for child abuse in Texas. State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, introduced the bill in January and said he crafted the protections included in it as a direct response to Abbott’s action.