Texas Family Services Employee Placed on Leave, Investigated Over Her Trans Daughter's Medical Care, Suit Says
Under Gov. Gregg Abbott's directive announced last week, parents who provide their trans children with puberty-suppressing drugs or other medically accepted treatments, often described as gender-affirming care, could be investigated for child abuse.
A Texas Department of Family and Protective Services employee has been placed on administrative leave as the agency investigates her own family for possible child abuse. The offense the woman and her husband may be guilty of? Providing their transgender teen daughter with gender-affirming health care, which under Gov. Gregg Abbott’s directive announced last week, could be considered a crime.
The woman, referred to as “Jane Doe” in a suit filed on behalf of her family against Abbott, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Commissioner Jaime Masters and the agency itself, is among the first to be investigated following Abbott’s order to the agency, the lawsuit says.
Abbott’s order followed Texas attorney general Ken Paxton’s nonbinding opinion that parents who provide their transgender children of pubescent age with puberty-suppressing drugs or other medically accepted treatments, often described by medical professionals as gender-affirming care, could be investigated for child abuse.
“After the Texas legislature failed to pass legislation criminalizing well-established and medically necessary treatment for adolescents with gender dysphoria, the Texas Governor, Attorney General, and Commissioner of the Department of Family and Protective Services have attempted to legislate by press release,” read the lawsuit.
The suit was filed Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and Lambda Legal to block the request for medical records in the case, challenge the legitimacy of the investigation as well as question the ability of the governor to change the definition of child abuse. No monetary relief is being sought through the lawsuit. According to the filing, other investigations have also begun.
“Governor Abbott’s letter instructing DFPS [the Department of Family and Protective Services] to investigate the families of transgender children is entirely without Constitutional or statutory authority; and despite this, the Commissioner nonetheless issued a statement directing DFPS to carry out the Governor’s wishes and agreeing to follow a nonbinding legal opinion that did not change Texas law,” the suit reads.
Neither the state protective agency nor Abbott’s office responded to Inside Edition Digital's requests for comment. The ACLU has also not responded to Inside Edition Digital’s request for comment.
According to the lawsuit, Jane Doe works on the review of reports of abuse and neglect. “Her track record as a DFPS employee has been exemplary and commended by her supervisors,” the suit says.
Last Wednesday, Jane spoke with her supervisor to get clarity around how Abbott’s directive would affect DFPS policy, the suit says. That same day, hours later, she was placed on administrative leave, and the following day, she and her family were visited by an investigator with the agency, according to the filing. The investigator interviewed her and her husband, her daughter’s father who is referred to in the suit as John Doe, as well as their daughter, who in court documents is referred to as Mary Doe.
The investigator told the couple they were being investigated to determine if they had committed abuse “by affirming their transgender daughter’s identity and obtaining the medically necessary health care that she needs,” the suit says. The investigator said that was “the sole allegation” levied against the couple, according to the lawsuit.
The agency is also seeking medical records related to the couple’s child, which the family has refused to voluntarily hand over.
Abbott’s order has not changed Texas law, and it is not clear if it will be upheld. Several district attorneys across the state have said that they will not prosecute families for child abuse as it relates to the directive. But those statements do little to quell the fear held by families of transgender children who may find themselves under investigation.
Should the DFPS find that Mary’s parents committed abuse based on Abbott’s and Paxton’s stances on gender-affirming care, the couple would automatically be placed on a child abuse registry and Jane could face termination from her position within the agency, which would also result in a loss of income for the family and a loss of health care coverage, the lawsuit says. Also hanging over the family’s head is the prospect that Mary could be separated from her parents and lose access to “the medical treatment that has enabled her to thrive,” the filing says.
In a declaration filed with the suit, Jane, Mary’s mother, noted: “We are terrified for Mary’s health and well-being, and for our family. I feel betrayed by my state and the agency for whom I work.
“Not providing Mary with the medically necessary health care that she needs is not an option for us,” she continued.
Abbott’s letter also notes that “all licensed professionals who have direct contact with children” would be required under such an order to report to state authorities those that they believe are receiving gender-affirming treatment. Professionals who refused to do so could face criminal penalties, Abbott wrote.
Dr. Megan Mooney, a Houston-based clinical psychologist and mandated reporter under Texas law who treats transgender patients, is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit. Many of Mooney’s patients who are transgender have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, the filing says.
“As someone who works closely with LGBTQ+ young people, she has seen first-hand the trauma and harm they face and the bullying and harassment they experience, especially in schools,” the lawsuit says. “From a clinical perspective, Dr. Mooney has also observed the tremendous health benefits that her patients experience as a result of medical treatment for gender dysphoria. These clinical observations have been supported by the most up-to-date data and scientific studies she reviews as part of her ongoing professional obligations.”
Abbott’s directive and the DFPS’s implementation has placed Mooney “in an untenable situation,” the filing says. Mooney could lose her license to practice as well as face civil and criminal penalties if she were not to report her clients who receive gender-affirming care, but in doing so, Mooney would face “even more damaging personal and professional consequences,” could leave her vulnerable to malpractice lawsuits from her clients for failing to adhere to ethical guidelines and for harming her clients, and ultimately would in effect violate her professional standards of ethics.
Mooney also noted that many of her clients have already experienced trauma, and that by having a licensed medical provider report them to DFPS for receiving gender-affirming care, their mental health could “dramatically worsen,” and “could worsen the already tragic rate of suicide among transgender youth.
By requiring Mooney to report her patients who receive gender-affirming care, “the issuance of the Governor’s letter and DFPS’ implementation has threatened and continues to threaten Dr. Mooney’s morality, liberty, and livelihood,” the suit says.
With Allie Weintraub
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