Juvenile Home Bad for Brenham

Bill Neinast


What a coincidence.  The town hall meeting at the Washington County Fairgrounds Tuesday evening was on the establishment of Bluebonnet Haven, a juvenile home, in the county.  Then the Sunday edition of The Banner Press included an op-ed piece by Reighley Baugh with the headline “Foster care to prison pipeline continues.”

Brenham City Manager, James Fisher

The meeting Tuesday was just a rehash.  There was nothing but statements of opposition to the facility.  The unanimous opposition to Bluebonnet Haven by the city, county, and Brenham ISD and the prior record of the license holder were discussed over and over.

Representatives of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the licensing agency, were present and indicated that, with one exception, they had heard nothing new.

The exception was the information on the record and character of the license holder.  The state’s representative, however, stated that the facility would be monitored and evaluated on the actions of the facility manager and that the license holder, in the case of Bluebonnet Haven, is not the designated administrator.

That is an interesting observation.  If the Bluebonnet Haven Administrator is free to ignore and disregard the desires and direction of his boss, business history will be made in Washington County.

Then, just four days later, the mentioned article appeared in the local newspaper.   There, Baugh provides about one thousand words of support for law enforcement officials being concerned about Bluebonnet Haven.

This paragraph from her discussion of the pipeline summarizes the statistics of the problem:

“The Administration for Children and Families, a division of the U.S. Department f Health and Human Services, reports that 437,500 children are  in America’s foster care, and one-fourth of foster care alumni will be involved with the criminal justice system within two years of aging out of or leaving care.  While in foster care, kids are five times more likely to abuse drugs; 70 percent of youth in juvenile detention centers across the U.S. have spent time in the child welfare system.”

That is a snap shot of the festering discipline problem that Bluebonnet Haven could become for our law enforcement personnel.

An equally big concern is the problems the facility can cause for Brenham ISD.  The residents of the facility will be part of the student population of the district.  

If the facility does not employ a charter school of some type, and it looks today as though it will not, Brenham ISD will have to assume the load.  In addition to providing teachers and assistants, the educational  level or scores of the Haven’s residents will be included in Brenham ISD’s ratings.

So here’s the perspective.

There has been a surfeit of complaints and objections but little or no consideration of how a facility like Bluebonnet Haven can be kept out of Washington County.

The temporary license that has been issued can be challenged.  It will require lawyers and expense, but the concern and objections justify the cost.

The challenge would have to be on some basis of the license being issued in contravention of some law or regulation.

This might be in the category of “making new law.”

One possibility could be that the so called loop hole that allowed the Commission to issue the license without a hearing is unconstitutional.  Under the facts of this case, a strong argument could certainly be made on this point.

Assuming that the Commission will deny the challenge or protest, the case could then be appealed to the State Office of Administrative Hearings for review by an independent Administrative Law Judge.

Who knows.  Some new law might be made.

Public gatherings to complain will not accomplish a thing, but a formal legal challenge might.

Let’s try it. 



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