Texas resuming abuse investigations into families of transgender children

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Story at a glance

  • The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) on Thursday suggested it would resume investigations into the families of transgender minors that receive gender-affirming medical care.

  • The agency’s statement comes less than a week after the Texas Supreme Court ruled that such investigations may continue, but that the governor or attorney general have no authority over them.

  • Gender-affirming medical care, particularly for minors, has been backed by most major medical organizations.

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) on Thursday suggested it would resume investigating families with transgender children for abuse. The move comes just a week after a multipart ruling struck down an injunction that had blocked the state from opening such investigations into parents that allow their children to receive gender-affirming medical care.

In a statement first reported by the Dallas Morning News, the agency said it “treats all reports of abuse, neglect, and exploitation seriously and will continue to investigate each to the full extent of the law.”

DFPS did not expressly mention gender-affirming medical care – like puberty blockers or hormone therapies – in its statement, but an agency spokesperson told Changing America that the statement was issued in response to inquiries about the status of pending investigations following last week’s ruling.

The Texas Supreme Court last week ruled that the state must stop an investigation into the family of one transgender child, but struck down a statewide injunction blocking investigations into the families of other transgender minors, clearing the way for further probes.

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But Justice Jimmy Blacklock in the opinion also wrote that both Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) – who have equated gender-affirming medical care to “child abuse” – do not have authority over such investigations.

“[T]he Legislature has granted to DFPS, not to the Governor or the Attorney General, the statutory responsibility to ‘make a prompt and thorough investigation of a report of child abuse or neglect,’” Blacklock wrote.

In February, Paxton in an opinion said he believed certain types of gender-affirming care for transgender children amounted to abuse under his interpretation of Texas law, prompting Abbott to order state agencies to open abuse investigations into the parents of transgender youth, warning of “criminal penalties.”

“The Governor and the Attorney General were certainly well within their rights to state their legal and policy views on this topic,” Blacklock wrote, “but DFPS was not compelled by law to follow them.”

Gender-affirming care for transgender and nonbinary minors is supported by most major medical organizations – including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association – who say restrictions on such care put the wellbeing of young people at risk.

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