The death of a 15-year-old girl who ran away from a Houston Child Protective Services office on Sunday has advocates and legislators grappling with the worst-case scenario of the state's shortage of homes for abused and neglected children.
Laws the state uses to put sex traffickers behind bars can sweep up their prey, too. A few years in age can mean the difference between a chance at rehabilitation and a lengthy prison sentence, as Yvette learned.
No one wanted Lena behind bars. She was not a prostitute; she was a child who had been sexually exploited. But teenage sex-trafficking victims in Texas end up in jail for one simple reason: There's nowhere else for them to go.
After her father raped her, Jean became one of the roughly 12,000 Texas kids in long-term foster care, a system that often leaves children more damaged than when they arrive. For Jean, selling sex seemed like a safer bet.
Texas children facing abuse and neglect are going to be a major issue during the 85th Legislative Session as legislators grapple with less funding, a federal court case and troubling headlines about failings at the Department of Family and Protective Services.
In a wide-ranging interview, Hank Whitman, the new commissioner overseeing Child Protective Services, explains how he thinks he can turn around a child welfare agency crippled by low morale, high turnover and a spate of high-profile child deaths.