Seven months after The Texas Tribune and the Houston Chronicle revealed staff at a Manvel residential treatment center had forced young girls with disabilities to fight each other, the state has shuttered Daystar Residential Inc. The move follows the Harris County medical examiner's determination that a 16-year-old foster child's death at the facility — one that occurred in November following a physical restraint — was a homicide.
“Today, we have revoked Daystar’s license to operate, effective immediately," Department of Family and Protective Services Commissioner Anne Heiligenstein said in a statement. "This facility is just not safe for children."
The Tribune and the Chronicle teamed up this summer on an investigation into conditions at Daystar, finding that workers there in 2008 had provoked seven developmentally disabled girls into fights, laughing, cheering and promising the winners after-school snacks. The collaborative report also revealed more than 250 incidents of confirmed abuse and mistreatment in residential treatment centers over the last two years.
Following publication, DFPS halted new admissions to Daystar and brought in a monitor to oversee conditions at the facility. But that monitor stayed for just 90 days, leaving in September after issuing a report that staff frequently used emergency physical restraints to control youth. In November, four days after Daystar was put on probation by the state, the Tribune and the Chronicle reported that a troubled 16-year-old living at the facility died of asphyxiation after a staffer applied a physical restraint in a closet.
Daystar's attorneys have refused repeatedly to answer Tribune or Chronicle reporters' questions about the facility.
In an e-mail Friday evening, DFPS said all foster children have been removed from Daystar and that it has "found more suitable placements for them." All other children at the facility have also left.