(CN) — Randa Mulanax worked at Texas Child Protective Services for six years, ultimately leading a small unit of investigators in Austin. But when a new policy required her to investigate families of transgender children, Mulanax decided she couldn’t be part of a mission that “didn’t feel right.”
In March, just weeks after the new rules went into effect, Mulanax resigned. In a letter to supervisors, she expressed concern these investigations would “cause trauma” and harm families “that are only trying to support their child and make them feel loved.”
“We are an agency that is here to protect the unprotected,” Mulanax wrote, but these new rules were “politically motivated" and “unethical.” She accused state officials of “actively discriminating against a specific sect of people” and warned they might cause “irreparable damage” to Texas’ protective services department.
The directives that have outraged Mulanax and others started with a February legal opinion by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Matt Krause, a Republican state lawmaker, had asked Paxton whether gender-affirming treatments for transgender children were a form of child abuse. Paxton said yes.
Attorney general opinions are advisory, not binding legal precedent. But Governor Greg Abbott followed up days later, ordering the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to “investigate” what he called “abusive gender-transitioning procedures.”
Both Paxton’s and Abbott’s letters conflated sex-change surgeries with treatments like hormone therapy, which are non-permanent and recognized by doctors as a safe and appropriate treatment for gender dysphoria. Sex change operations are rarely, if ever, performed on people under 18. They’re a last-ditch procedure that even most transgender adults opt against.
“I don’t know a doctor who would perform a sex-change operation on a 12-year-old,” said Lane Strickland, a spokesperson for the Texas advocacy group Out Youth. “It’s just not a thing.”
Numerous medical groups, including the Texas Pediatric Society, have denounced the new Texas rules. Still, as a court battle over Abbott’s directive plays out at the Texas Supreme Court, healthcare providers across the state have stopped offering gender-affirming therapies for children. At least nine Texas families remain under investigation, The Texas Tribune reported in March.
The new rules, Mulanax said in an interview with Courthouse News, are “a betrayal of our career and our goals and what we felt like we were there to do.” Her job was already “hard enough." Opening investigations into caring families was “soul-crushing.”
Mulanax isn’t alone in that feeling. Since the new rules went into effect, she personally knows at least six other CPS workers in the Austin area who have left the agency. Estimates from other workers are even higher. That’s out of an Austin workforce of just around 70 people focused on investigations.
“We are severely understaffed,” Mulanax said — and that was true even before these new rules went into effect.
Courthouse News has requested data from the agency on how many people have resigned since Abbott’s Feb. 22 letter, as well as information on the total number of transgender-related abuse reports and allegations by region. At press time, DFPS has not yet provided these records.
Morgan Davis, a trans man and former CPS investigator, is also leaving the agency after submitting his resignation on Monday.
Out of a team that originally included six people, four have already left either because of the directives, high overall caseloads or both. Once Davis leaves, there will be only one person in his former investigative unit.
Another unit employee, who would only interview anonymously, said it was “untenable” to remain in CPS under the new rules.
Prior to resigning, Davis had to investigate a transgender family. He called the experience “surreal.”