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support, presumably to his grandmother. That detail is among the many facts DHR officials say they cannot disclose. And despite the fact that for the previous nine years David and his brother and sister had been wards of the state, the court ruled against David’s father and in favor of the welfare agency. “The right hand didn’t know what the left was doing,” said Travis County public defender Frank Foerster, who represented David. David’s father was ordered to make the payments, the boy’s grandmother was named his legal guardian and the DHR’s child welfare unit terminated his case on the ground that it no longer had legal responsibility for him. No One Cared An evaluation done at that time by Dr. William Porcher, director of the adolescent unit at Austin State Hospital, found that David “appeared reserved and shy but not unfriendly.” Yet, sadly, the report noted that when asked who cared about him most, David could think of no one, even after prompting by the doctor. Porcher recommended David be assigned to Big Brothers or some other group where he could acquire a positive male role model and that he be allowed to live in a residential group living environment. Information on David between the spring of 1977 and this past January, when he first appeared in juvenile court, is scant, but apparently he went back to live with his parents. His condition did not improve. A welfare investigation report dated February 1978 states that David had threatened his parents. The following year, his father reported him as a runaway and he was picked up by Bexar County authorities in June 1979. A Bexar County report stated that “the father is an alcoholic and the mother carries a gun. The children are fed on water and no food.” The report went on to warn that the older children in David’s family were also in danger, but there is no record of the Travis County child welfare unit taking any action on the Bexar County report. David’s appearance in juvenile court in Austin in January 1980 was for paintsniffing and trespassing. The juvenile court judge released David to the custody of an aunt, even though during the hearing on his case he became so agitated he had to be restrained and sent temporarily to Austin State Hospital. David left his aunt’s home several days later to live with a friend. A month later, he showed up at Gardner House, a juvenile detention center in Austin, asking for shelter. He was admitted to a Mental Health/Mental Retardation for using inhalants and aggressive behavior and returned to his aunt. In March, David was picked up by police for public intoxication and possession of a knife and was again sent “home.” In April, the DHR recommended David be sent to the Vernon Drug Treatment Center. The juvenile court disagreed and released David to DHR caseworkers. Two weeks later, David was again picked up by police, this time for burglary, aggravated assault on a police officer and escape from custody. According to Foerster, David had stolen some items from a store but returned them after the owner said if he did so he wouldn’t call the police. When David returned the items, the owner called the police. “He felt bitter betrayed,” Foerster said. David was admitted to the Vernon Drug Treatment Center for a 30-day program. After 10 days, he was released. Foerster said David was doing “well” at Vernon, but after he was involved in a few fights, “they gave him a medical discharge to get rid of him.” The DHR child welfare unit’s Hibbert says David’s case is now all but hopeless. “David has multiple problems,” she says. “He is very aggressive and is harmful to himself and harmful to others. He is a drug addict, a paint-sniffer and has organic brain damage from it. “I don’t think treatment would help him. It doesn’t really make that much difference anymore. There’s not that much that can be done for him. “David works hard at alienating the people who try to help him. He is built like a big bull, is very aggressive and very threatening. “If David sees something he wants, he takes it.” But two psychiatrists at Austin State Hospital’s adolescent unit who have examined David disagree. Dr. Porcher said in his latest examination, last June, that he detected “no significant organic damage or impairment.” “I think we can say he has normal intelligence,” says Porcher in his report. “A lot of people raised in similar circumstances have similar behavior.” Dr. Gary Matthews, chief psychiatrist at the adolescent unit, said David has learning disabilities and lacks social skills, but he also found no evident organic damage. “David has developed his own style of coping with stress and social situations,” says Matthews, on the “street scene.” The end of the custody roller-coaster for youths such as David usually comes when they are declared juvenile delinquents and sent to a Texas Youth Council facility. The DHR’s code stipulates, however, that no delinquent can be sent to a youth council facility who is “mentally ill or retarded or is an epileptic.” Such children must be remanded to the court, the code says. But Mart Hoffman, TYC assistant director, says the code is interpreted so as to assist as many children as possible, as long as they are capable of learning. “It’s unfair to put an emotionally disturbed child in with delinquents to be abused,” he says. “We accept whoever we can work with.” * * * There are many Davids. Just last June, for example, the Travis County child welfare unit had to deal with seven children who had run the gamut and could not be placed in institutions. Three were placed with relatives, one was sent to jail, one was a runaway, one was placed in a foster home and one was adjudicated a delinquent and sent to a Texas Youth Council facility. With David’s case as an example, the Travis County juvenile defender’s office is researching a possible civil rights suit against the DHR for failing to provide adequate protection for their troublesome wards. The suit would also focus on Foerster’s hunch that a look at statistics would reveal “very few attempts to place Mexican-American children at the time they take them away from their parents.” Meanwhile, David had been sent to Austin’s Gardner House, a county juvenile detention center, after yet another run-in with police. While at Gardner House, David hit a counselor with a cleaning bucket. That was in May. In July, David was pronounced a juvenile delinquent and sent to the Brownwood Reception Center, a facility run by the TYC. He received no special treatment there, and although he seemed to be doing well, in early December his violent temper erupted once more and he hit a counselor. TYC immediately transferred David to the Giddings State School, a maximum security facility reserved for juveniles who have committed serious crimes, such as murder. He will remain there . until his 18th birthday, when the state will have to decide what to do with him next. Kim McCormick is an Austin writer. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 25