WILLIS — WILLIS – Armed with a search warrant, a team of investigators led by the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office seized boxes of evidence Wednesday from two facilities in Willis that care for at-risk youth.
The raids at The Care Cottage residential treatment programs were prompted by numerous outcries of abuse made by young girls living there.
“It’s big, we’ve had numerous allegations of sexual abuse, or sexual contact of kids by staff members,” said prosecutor Tyler Dunman, chief of the Special Crimes Bureau.
“We’ve also had even more with physical abuse by the staff members on kids,” Dunman said.
According to a search warrant, the alleged abuse includes choke marks on a seventh grade girl’s neck, a ninth grader who was hog-tied as punishment, and a 14-year-old autistic girl who suffered a broken arm after being aggressively restrained.
In that incident, a Care Cottage employee allegedly said the girl had “an accident on the trampoline” according to the search warrant.
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services places youth at Care Cottage to be treated for the scars of their troubled past.
“They come from the most tragic of circumstances that you can ever imagine,” Dunman said.
“They’ve probably been physically or sexually abused in the past, so it’s a tragic situation for them,” he said.
Care Cottage also is accused of trying to cover up a sexual assault allegation against a staff member. A staff member allegedly logged it as an “alleged inappropriate staff relationship” to minimize the incident.
Several young residents repeatedly tried to escape the facility, according to the search warrant. One girl reported breaking her ankle after jumping from a second-floor window. Others refused to be picked up at school by a Care Cottage bus.
Other girls told the Willis High School principal that Care Cottage staff members were drunk at the facility on at least one occasion.
While authorities made no arrests in Wednesday’s raid, they said that could be coming soon.
“It’s a full court press from a criminal prosecution standpoint,” Dunman said.
Care Cottage’s website says its mission is to provide a “safe and stable environment” for the kids.
An unnamed employee at the company headquarters in north Harris County said the owner was not available to answer any questions.
“I’m not sure exactly what’s going on, but I’ll definitely try to get a hold of him so he can try and reach you guys,” the employee said,
Despite all of the allegations and police activity, the girls at the Care Cottage facilities will continue living there for the time being.
A spokesperson for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services provided the following written statement to KHOU 11 News:
“It is crucial that we do not disrupt the lives of these children and youth unless absolutely necessary. We are in contact with law enforcement, we are in the facility regularly, and are confident it is a safe placement. If that changes we will act accordingly.”