A former Texas Ranger has been named as the new commissioner of the troubled Department of Family and Protective Services.
Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Chris Traylor announced his pick of Henry "Hank" Whitman Monday, stating in a press release that he "can't think of anyone better than a Texas Ranger to protect our most vulnerable Texans."
Whitman will be the department's eighth commissioner since 2004. He replaces John Specia, who resigned in the wake of a judge's scathing ruling stating that kids in foster care are deprived of their Constitutional rights.
According to the release, Whitman became the Texas Rangers' chief in 2011. Also:
"During his tenure with the Rangers, Whitman created and supervised the elite Texas Ranger Reconnaissance Team and led border security operations. Whitman is also a military veteran having served in the United States Marine Corps. He currently is President of Whitman Consulting, a professional service company that provides security consulting and private investigations. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Law Enforcement from Southwest Texas State University and a Master of Public Administration in Criminal Justice from Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi."
Traylor also tapped Kristene Blackstone for Child Protective Services' assistant commissioner. A former CPS caseworker, Blacsktone also served as a CPS supervisor and regional program director. She was most recently with the Attorney General's Child Support Division. She "received her Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from the University of North Texas and a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin."
In his own press release, Governor Greg Abbott stated "The status quo at CPS is unacceptable. Our children are too important to suffer through the challenges they’ve faced. I’ve insisted on overhauling a broken system, and I applaud the leadership changes that will provide a new direction and focus that puts protecting children first."
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As we've noted, there's just no evidence for that; in fact, Abbott's actions have shown just the opposite. As attorney general, he fought for the status quo, and, as governor, supports Attorney General Ken Paxton's plan to appeal reforms ordered last December by U.S. District Judge Janis Jack. These officials have argued that children in state custody are actually entitled to less care than Jack called for.
Abbott and Paxton also want to do away with the court-appointed special masters tasked with designing and implementing changes to the foster care system, such as maximum caseloads.
Ultimately, it's too soon to tell what impact, if any, the new appointees will have on the foster care system. We asked a department spokesperson if Whitman and Blackstone agree that the lawsuit should be appealed. We also asked what, if anything, they plan to do in addressing the department's alarming 75 percent failure rate in investigating abuse claims. We'll update if we hear back.
Whitman and Blackstone have the opportunity to give specifics; they have the chance to speak about the problems outlined in Judge Jack's 260-page ruling. We hope they're allowed to take it, because the last thing kids stuck in the system need right now is another empty platitude.