Strayhorn sued by director of camp for troubled teens

Comptroller Strayhorn has been sued by the director of a camp for troubled teens:

However, in August 2004 the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services closed [Woodside Trails Therapeutic Camp for troubled teens] by revoking its license. They did so after state Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn's "Forgotten Children" report was released. The report targeted abuse at foster care facilities and accused Woodside Trails of sexual abuse and neglect.

Gaines said the report was misleading, inaccurate and resulted in the camps' closure. The false facts could not be ignored, she said.

"I took this step with great reluctance and lots of thought. I feel it's necessary for the future of the children who are in the care of the state of Texas to make sure this never happens again," Gaines said.

The lawsuit states two judges found the Department of Family and Protective services had no evidence of sexual abuse and claims Strayhorn targeted the camp and used her political power to pressure state agencies to act.

According to the lawsuit, Strayhorn and other state officials "knowingly and intentionally distorted the facts about Woodside Trails and Plaintiff for Strayhorn's political advantage."

Austinist prints the story of a counselor who worked at a camp. Here's the counselor, describing the day the camp closed:

She said that she was a grandmother who cared about the children of Texas. Apparently she had decided that there was no therapeutic value in being outside. She was on a mission to shut down every wilderness camp in the state. It all seemed so ridiculous to us. For months she had been sending her people out to camp to "investigate." Really they were just carrying out her agenda. They took pictures of muddy tennis shoes after it rained, and claimed that we were abusing the children by making them live in horrible conditions. Everyone who works with "troubled" and abused children knows that from time to time false accusations are made. Woodside Trails, like most, if not all, residential treatment centers, had a list of false accusations that the kids had made throughout the years. Strayhorn had this list printed in some report, but neglected to provide the results of the investigations.

On that Friday, we got a call from Child Protective Services. They said that they were coming to get the boys who were in our care because they were not safe with us. Within an hour, a line of black, rented suburbans pulled onto the property. Officials got out of their cars with a list of the names of the children that they would be taking. It was the craziest scene I had ever witnessed. The boys were running around crying, begging us not to let them go. I was told by several that they did not feel complete with their treatment, that they wanted to stay with us because they were afraid they would get back into drugs or gangs again. We tried our best to calm the boys down. We told them to act maturely, to show these people that they were learning with us. The boys were encouraged to cooperate and not cause problems.

This definitely undermines a Strayhorn political strength. Much like attacks on John Kerry's strength caused him to wither, this seems to have the ability to do the same. We'll see how this plays out.

Posted by Evan @ 08/31/06 04:05 PM

 
 

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