Thirteen-year-old Kim — we'll give her a pseudonym — had trouble with her foster mom. Laura Davis, she said, threatened to have the other girls whip her ass if she got out of line. So it didn't take much when another girl came to Kim a few weeks after New Year's with a plan to run away. The girl, Tanya (also a pseudonym), had done it before.
Another girl who used to live in the Davis home says Kim and Tanya split when Davis was shepherding the girls into the van for Bible study. Kim and Tanya just booked it. She says Davis told the other girls to go after them and bring them back, but the absconders were too fast.
According to the lawsuit, which wouldn't be filed for another year and a half, Mr. D — tall, dark, bald — found the girls. They got into his car and drove to a Scottish Inn off Highway 6, where Mr. D "sequentially" raped them. But it was all a preamble. The suit claims that the man "took the girls to meet with 4 or 5 other gentlemen who proceeded to rape both girls, sodomizing them and throwing them out of the vehicle in the late hours of the evening." They were allegedly "rescued by residents in the community."
After two weeks in the Harris County Psychiatric Center, where, her lawyer says, she got no help, Kim was returned to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services/Children's Protective Services. The department impeded police access to Kim, according to the suit, filed in early September by Kim's aunt and uncle on Kim's behalf against Davis and a company called America's Angels, which placed foster children with Davis. No response to the lawsuit has yet been filed.
"There was so much that wasn't done in this case it is pitiful," the lawyer, Troy Wilson, told the Houston Press in an e-mail. "As long as she was in CPS care they saw no sense of urgency for doing anything for this child. During the entire time she was with them, she saw a therapist for 15 minutes total about this situation."
A CPS investigator subsequently cleared Davis, who did not return numerous voice mails from the Press left for her and her adult daughter, who also lived with her mother.
America's Angels' executive director, Uneeda Newsome-Talley, told the Press that on the night of the alleged gang rape, Kim was no longer her company's responsibility. America's Angels looks at it this way: At the time Kim was allegedly being sodomized by a group of men, who then discarded her like a spent cigarette, she had been "properly discharged." Someone may have been in charge of Kim, but it sure wasn't America's Angels.
Kim's allegations highlight a concern that the Department of Family and Protective Services doesn't exert enough oversight of licensed child-placement agencies and that there's a lack of consequences for violating state requirements.
The majority of children in the state's foster care system — about 90 percent — are placed in homes via child-placement agencies. These agencies are responsible for recruiting, vetting and training foster parents, as well as for monitoring foster homes every 30 days. The agencies are regulated through the department's residential child-care licensing division. According to the Texas Family Code, employees of child-placement agencies who suspect a child is being abused by "a person responsible for the care, custody, or welfare" of the child must report the suspected abuse directly to the Department of Family and Protective Services. The department must then notify the appropriate law enforcement agency. However, the employee may also report the suspected abuse directly to law enforcement, in addition to notifying the department.
A former America's Angels employee told the Press that case managers at a child-placement agency should expect their director to take their concerns seriously and notify state investigators or otherwise deal with foster parents accordingly. When that system fails, case managers are in an uncomfortable position: "Who can we tell?" she said. "All we can do is call in an investigation and report the concerns, but it's like we're calling the investigation on ourselves."
If you ask America's Angels' attorney, Anthony Goodall, what kind of operation 38-year-old Newsome-Talley runs, he'll tell you it's a good one. In fact, you don't even have to ask him. All you need to do is start asking employees about a lawsuit, and he'll emerge from the shadows.
"We do not intend to stand idly by [while you] bully" the employees, Goodall scolded in an e-mail. He then kindly suggested that the real story is about a couple of gold diggers and a shyster ganging up on a reputable organization. After all, the plaintiffs are seeking no less than $6 million in damages.