State Failed Travis County Youth Killed in Juvenile Probation

For Immediate Release

CONTACT: Peter Clark, pclark@txchildren.org, 512.417.9262

State Failed Travis County Youth Killed in Juvenile Probation

AUSTIN – Following the news that teenager Christian Cuellar-Gonzales was killed in a fight at the private Brookhaven Youth Ranch, where he was placed by Travis County Juvenile Probation, Texans Care for Children’s Juvenile Justice Policy Associate, Lauren Rose, released the following statement:

"We are deeply saddened by the news that this teenager, with his whole life ahead of him, was killed at Brookhaven. The facility, which serves vulnerable foster children and juvenile justice youths, should be a place where youth feel safe and recover from past trauma rather than facing more trauma or violence.

"But this was more than a tragic fight and more than a single dangerous facility. This was a case of the state of Texas failing to protect this teenager and failing to institute a system to keep vulnerable young Texans safe in these kinds of facilities.

"The Department of Family and Protective Services, which licenses Brookhaven and other residential treatment centers, has documented a history of problems at the facility, including staff assaulting residents and filing a false report of assault by a resident to justify physical restraint. DFPS must crack down on facilities that are entrusted with our tax dollars and the lives of Texas youth but demonstrate a pattern of disregard for youth’s safety.

"The legislature established the Office of the Independent Ombudsman for the Texas Juvenile Justice Department as a critical and trusted safety measure for youth in the state’s juvenile justice system after a pattern of abuse came to light in 2007. But over the last two years the Ombudsman was unable to investigate problems at Brookhaven and advocate for the youth there because the office does not have jurisdiction over youth placed in or by county juvenile probation departments, such as Christian. The legislature needs to give the Ombudsman the authority to protect all youth in the juvenile justice system to help prevent tragedies such as this one from occurring in the future.”

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Texans Care for Children has led policy advances for Texas children for nearly 30 years. The nonpartisan nonprofit organization serves as a voice for children, a source on children and a network for people who put kids first. Through policy analysis, statewide coalitions, grassroots campaigns and research, Texans Care for Children improves conditions for children in the areas of health, mental health, early opportunities, child protection and juvenile justice.