© 2024 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

San Antonio foster nonprofit was closed for being 'immediate risk' to child safety

Texas Foster Care and Adoption Services
Paul Flahive
Texas Foster Care and Adoption Services

The center of a TPR investigation was later found to have posed a ‘risk to health or safety of children,’ and the state closed it last month.

The state paid $2 million a year to Texas Foster Care and Adoption Services (TFCAS) for much of the last decade just to revoke its license last month, saying the organization posed a risk to children.

The foster nonprofit was one of many across the state tasked with vetting homes for foster placements and adoptions, subsequently monitoring families.

TPR conducted a months-long investigation into the organization and found it had kept an executive on staff who had been arrested for allegedly sexually abusing a family member.

The foster nonprofit denied it had kept the man on after it learned of the allegation. Those denials were ultimately refuted by a state investigation completed last year and obtained by TPR last month.

In a Valentine’s Day missive, the Texas Health And Human Service Commission said it was compelled to revoke the nonprofit’s license due to the sheer number of deficiencies TFCAS had incurred — as well as their severity — the past two years.

“The scope and severity of deficiencies cited, along with continued noncompliance with probation conditions and heightened monitoring tasks, demonstrates an overall inability or unwillingness to comply with minimum standards, rules, and law; for this reason, children in care are at immediate risk and your operation must cease operation,” said Ashland Spencer-Batiste, HHSC deputy associate commissioner of enforcement, in the revocation letter obtained by TPR.

Texas Foster Care and Adoption Services was on heightened monitoring for two years over its safety record. But rather than improve, the state said it continued to rack up violations. It was placed on a corrective action plan, but according to the state, that did not help — the agency collected 88 deficiencies since November 2020.

“TFCAS has never been a safety risk for children nor is any other agency that [HHSC] have chosen to pressure into closing,” said Karen Perez, CEO of Texas Foster Care and Adoption Services.

She said they were appealing the revocation decision. She claimed that many of the citations had been overturned but provided no documentation to back up the claim.

State investigators found violations that ranged from failing to do or document required medical screenings to three instances involving neglectful supervision or abuse in a single year.

In their report, investigators said two foster children witnessed the domestic abuse of their foster mother by their foster father. In another, the adult son of a foster parent sexually abused an 8-year-old, as well as another incident where a foster parent sexually abused a 13-year-old foster child, according to the revocation letter.

An HHSC investigation late last year said the foster nonprofit may have falsified several documents as well. It said an American Red Cross Card from Perez’s son Jose — who she employed — appeared fake, as did signatures on his subcontractor agreement. The investigator also noted a former employee claimed the nonprofit faked several employee training certificates.

The state revoked Texas Foster Care and Adoption Services’ license as the organization was preparing to close. In a letter to its foster families in late December, the organization said it could no longer operate with so many inspections.

“They should not be allowed to revoke our license one week before we were closing. I can only give my opinion that the retaliation was intentional,” Perez wrote in an email to TPR.

It was retaliation, she said, for TPR’s story, which highlighted the six month lag between when one department of the government said Monroe had likely raped his grand-niece and when the nonprofit fired him. Perez blamed the lag on the state and said that Texas Foster Care and Adoption Services were never notified of the abuse determination until after he was terminated.

Contrary to the state’s narrative of a continuous decline, CEO Karen Perez told families in December they were making progress when news coverage coincided with new investigations.

“We had just celebrated our best quarter with the fewest citations and saw the end of heightened monitoring in our sight when “The TPR Article” came out,” wrote Perez referring to TPR’s investigative story in her December email.

Despite a child sexual assault investigation, a San Antonio foster executive kept his job at Texas Foster Care & Adoption Services for months.

TPR reported in September that Gerald Monroe, the chief financial officer, was arrested in December 2020 for allegedly raping his grandniece Shawna Rogers. The story questioned why — despite a ruling by the Department of Family and Protective Services in June saying Monroe likely did abuse Rogers — did TFCAS wait until December, after his arrest.

The criminal case against Mornoe was ultimately dropped in May 2022, a few months after Rogers died in a car accident.

Perez pointed the finger at DFPS. She said the state never told them about their investigation months earlier.

The state confirmed that it is standard procedure to send a placement agency like TFCAS notification when an employee abuses a child. It was not clear TFCAS was alerted by DFPS from records TPR obtained from the state.

Regardless, interviews and documents showed that Monroe may have continued working for TFCAS despite his arrest. Perez denied the allegations and explained that they terminated Monroe when they found out about the arrest in December 2020.

Multiple former employees told TPR that Monroe had continued with the organization even after his arrest. Tax documents dated 11 months after his dismissal seemed to confirm their account. They listed him as the custodian of the organization's records and his home as its headquarters.

Monroe had always been a remote worker, so many with the nonprofit had never met him. Despite this, tax documents often listed Monroe as the highest paid employee, taking home as much as $81,000 a year for a day’s work each week.

Perez told TPR and regulators that Monroe was terminated and given a severance, a salary that would continue until he was legally able to rejoin the nonprofit or for two years, which was until January 2023.

HSSC disagreed. It said that in fact Monroe was still employed by the organization and continued to do work for them until 2022.

“It was determined there is sufficient evidence to substantiate Mr. Monroe retained employment after his arrest and acted as a Controlling Person,” said the state’s investigation late last year.

Monroe was consulted by TFCAS staff and executives on more than one occasion for financial documents, according to the state. His seemingly unfettered access to these critical, financial documents was one reason the state said he was still considered in a controlling role.

One former employee reported he was referred to Monroe to obtain a W2, long after the CFO had been terminated.

A screenshot of the state's investigation into Gerald Monroe's Role at Texas Foster Care and Adoption Services wherein an employee says Monroe had to be contacted several ties to sort out his payroll.
A screenshot of the state's investigation into Gerald Monroe's Role at Texas Foster Care and Adoption Services wherein an employee says Monroe had to be contacted several ties to sort out his payroll.

The investigation into Monroe’s role at the foster nonprofit targeted an incident in February 2022 when emails with Texas Foster Care’s financial documents were created by Monroe then sent to Perez who forwarded them to state regulators, keeping Monroe’s email chain in tact.

Perez told a state investigator she did not know how he would still have access to the documents, but admitted she had asked him for the documents assuming he would know how to get them.

When Texas Foster Care co-founder Nagi Patibandla was asked by investigators about Monroe’s access to documents, he first said Monroe’s wife Laurie had generated them and Monroe had sent them in. The state investigator pushed back.

“This inspector pointed out the document was generated and sent within 3 minutes from Gerald Monroe’s personal email; Karen Perez has already stated he may have had access to these things…” read the investigation.

Patibandla admitted they made a mistake and Monroe may have generated the documents.

The state’s investigation also notes the odd timing of several hires by TFCAS, where Monroe tried to replace some of his job functions with family members or family friends shortly after he would have learned the state was investigating him for alleged sexual abuse but before he has said his employer knew of the allegations.

Laurie Monroe, Gerald’s wife, was brought onboard to do the nonprofit’s payroll in May of 2020, according to the state’s investigation. Two months later, it hired Devin Haines, a man with no accounting experience or degree to run payroll.

Documents from DFPS’ sexual abuse investigation said Haines was living with the Monroes and dating their granddaughter. Laurie Monroe later denied Haines ever living in her house.

According to state documents, the dates of Haines’s employment are in question as his employee file was missing many required documents. Perez told state investigators he was supposed to help Laurie Monroe with payroll.

An email from TFCAS to the state said both she and Gerald were no longer with the foster nonprofit shortly after the arrest. But after Gerald Monroe was allegedly terminated, Laurie Monroe took over for him doing the nonprofit’s payroll, according to the investigation.

Haines could not be located to comment for this story.

Perez said they decided to terminate Laurie Monroe after TPR published its first story and replace her with Haines, but later reversed itself due to his connection to the family.

Perez maintains that Gerald Monroe was fired in Dec. 2020. She said the state was wrong. She attacked the credibility of TPR and said the state should use their money to “better the lives of families” rather than “micromanage” organizations.

Currently the foster nonprofit is closed. Perez however did not rule out reopening completely, saying they didn’t plan to until state licensing had its “act together.” And, of course, after they regain their license.

TPR was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.

Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org