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The Texas Child Welfare Agency has taken down a webpage that offered resources to LGBTQ youth following complaints by one of Republican Governor Greg Abbott’s top GOP challengers, according to internal communications from the ‘agency.
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services’ webpage, which provides information to children placed in the foster care system, includes information about a suicide prevention hotline, LGBTQ legal services, and questions about defining gender and gender identity.
On August 31, former Republican Senator Don Huffines posted a video on Twitter claiming that DFPS “promotes transgender sex policies to young people in Texas” via a web page titled “Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation.”
“These are not the values ââof Texas, these are not the values ââof the Republican Party, but obviously these are the values ââof Greg Abbott, which is why we need a change, this is the subject of my campaign “Huffines said.
The Houston Chronicle first reported on the agency’s internal correspondence. According to communications obtained by The Texas Tribune, within hours of the Huffines video being released, DFPS employees discussed whether to remove the web page or edit its content.
Huffins, a staunch conservative, challenges right-wing Abbott in next year’s GOP primary. Abbott’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the matter. The governor has the power to appoint the DFPS commissioner and the nine-member board of the agency.
In an email to DFPS spokesperson Patrick Crimmins on August 31, DFPS media specialist Marissa Gonzales wrote that the Huffines video “was starting to explode on Twitter,” referring to her video and the web page in question. The page was filled with information from the Texas Youth Connection, a division of DFPS that provides “local and national resources to help young people transition to adulthood.”
Crimmins then emailed Darrell Azar, the agency’s director of web and creative services.
“Darrell – please note that we may need to remove this page or revise the content in some way,” Crimmins wrote.
In response, Azar said the Texas Youth Connection has content for LGBTQ youth “as far back as I can remember” and that this content is provided by staff in the agency’s adult life preparation program. Azar alerted another colleague that maybe something should be done on “short notice”.
The next day, September 1, agency staff discussed the language of the webpage, indicating that its content was under review. The page is currently deactivated and includes a message indicating that it is undergoing a “full content review”. Last week, Crimmins said the website review was “still ongoing.” He did not answer questions about what prompted the website to be taken down and how long the review will last.
In a statement, Huffines said it has kept its commitment to remove the webpage.
“We are not surprised that government employees loyal to Greg Abbott have had to scramble after exposing their evil actions,” Huffines said in a statement. “I promised Texans that I would get rid of this website, and I kept that promise.”
Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas, an organization that promotes equality for LGBTQ Texans, condemned the decision to withdraw the information.
âState agencies know that LGBTQ + children are overrepresented in foster care and they know they face truly staggering discrimination and abuse,â Martinez said in a statement. âThe state is responsible for the lives of these children, but it has actively taken a resource away from them when they are in crisis. Worse yet, it was done at the start of Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month. “
According to a 2021 poll by the Trevor Project, a national organization that focuses on suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth and crisis intervention, about 42% of LGBTQ youth “have seriously considered attempting suicide. in the past year â.
The 13 Democratic Senators of the State of Texas on Tuesday sent a letter to Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Speaker of the House Dade Phelan and DFPS Commissioner Jamie Masters, urging them to re-establish the Texas Youth Connection web page “to ensure that all young people, especially those in the LGBTQ + community “have access to important resources.
“As leaders of our state, we must do more to protect our most vulnerable populations, including ensuring that vital resources such as hotlines and legal aid are readily available,” said writes the senators.
In early August, Abbott asked the DFPS to determine whether providing gender confirming surgeries to transgender children would constitute child abuse. Much of this care for children does not consist of surgeries such as orchiectomies, hysterectomies and mastectomies, according to medical experts. The DFPS responded to Abbott’s requests by stating that such surgeries could qualify as abuse, although it is not clear what weight and impact the decision carries.
In each of this year’s four legislative sessions, legislation targeting transgender youth has been a top priority for Republican lawmakers. During the third extraordinary session, a law prohibiting transgender youth from playing on sports teams that match their gender identity was passed by the Senate and was rejected by the House committee. Lawmakers also introduced legislation in this special session that would prevent doctors from providing gender-affirming care to children.
Disclosure: Equality Texas has financially supported The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, non-partisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial support plays no role in the journalism of the Tribune. Find a full list of them here.