TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — A district court judge has granted an injunction and blocked child abuse investigations into the families of trans kids in Texas on Friday.
Judge Amy Clark Meachum listened to arguments Friday on whether to temporarily block child protective services’ investigations into parents of transgender children or allow them. After hours of arguments, Meachum granted the injunction, blocking the investigations into families providing care for their trans children.
In February, Gov. Greg Abbott directed the department to investigate any families whose children receive gender-transitioning treatments. His letter followed a non-binding legal opinion from Attorney General Ken Paxton describing the care as “child abuse.”
Paxton said shortly after the injunction was issued he plans to appeal.
“Democrat judge tries to halt legal and necessary investigations into those trying to abuse our kids through ‘trans’ surgeries and prescription drugs. I’m appealing. I’ll win this fight to protect our Texas children,” he wrote on social media.
The family of a 16-year-old trans child, along with Houston-based psychologist Megan Mooney, Ph.D, filed a lawsuit against the governor, DFPS Commissioner Jaime Masters and DFPS, after they were informed they were being investigated. According to the complaint, the family had an investigator arrive at their home.
Last week, the district court issued a temporary restraining order barring the DFPS from investigating the family of the transgender teenager. On Wednesday, the Texas 3rd Court of Appeals dismissed an appeal from Attorney General Ken Paxton, favoring the family and allowing Friday’s hearing to move forward. The family is represented by the ACLU of Texas and Lambda Legal.
“I have always felt that at the end of the day the department has children’s best interests at heart and the family’s best interests at heart,” said Randa Mulanax, Child Protective Services investigations supervisor. “I no longer feel that way with this order.”
Mulanax, who has recently resigned from CPS, said she’s not testifying on behalf of the department but as a concerned, public citizen.
“If they can’t be priority none, and they can’t go to alternative response then they have to go to investigations, which would mean that they would have to have a disposition to sign at the end of the case,” Mulanax said.
After a report is filed, cases are addressed based on the level of danger the child faces. Cases where a child is not found to be in an abusive or dangerous situation are categorized as “priority none.” This categorization results in an alternative response in place of an investigation. Mulanax said her team was told cases involving transgender children receiving gender-affirming could not be categorized as priority none and must be investigated.
During a hearing Friday, Meachum heard arguments from three different groups.
Someone told Nexstar this policy is directly impacting their mental health. Some said they have even considered suicide.
At a Family Protective Services hearing, some said transgender children and their families are being emotionally traumatized, hoping to appeal to the agency charged with directing these investigations.
Meanwhile, the governor and attorney general have said gender reassignment surgery could be considered as child abuse under Texas law, calling such procedures a “horror” resulting from “misguided ideology.”
The governor did not take media questions at an event touting the state as an attractive place for businesses and workers.
Mulanax said the new provisions mean DFPS is overreaching its responsibilities. She said the department isn’t qualified to intervene in medical decisions made between parents, their children and doctors.
“They’ve already recommended these treatments,” Mulanax said. “It is not our position to step in and say that they’re incorrect.”
Houston-based child clinical psychologist Mooney specializes in working with LGBTQ+ youth and transgender children, many which suffer from gender dysphoria.
“We know that gender affirming medical care has direct positive impacts on the health and wellbeing of children and adolescents,” Mooney said. “So seeing that there are closures or pauses on care makes me terribly concerned for the mental health of transgender children around the state.”
As one of the plaintiffs, Mooney has made it publicly known she will not be complying with the governor’s order but worries about the potential repercussions.
“I was very upset,” Mooney said. “Very concerned for myself as a mandated reporter and for the children and families across the state. It goes against my ethical standards. It concerns me for my practice and what that means as well for the families I serve.”
Mooney said the overall response from the community has been “outright panic.”
“Parents are terrified that CPS is going to come and question their children and take them away,” Mooney said. “Mental health professionals are scared that we’re in violation of the law.”
In court on Friday, one DFPS supervisor told the judge she believes this policy is “overreach” and putting the agency in a compromising situation, to which the state’s attorney said, “Your personal opinion of the law doesn’t change what the law is.”
This same judge previously took the side of parents of trans children when she granted a temporary restraining order for these investigations.