Court order details sexual and physical abuse of North Texas child under state care

One staff member at a grand prairie group home broke a 14-year-old girl’s jaw in two places with his fist, requiring her hospitalization. Another cavorted with women he brought to the house at night while children were in their rooms.

There were also reports of male employees sexually assaulting girls at C3 Christian Academy, which was certified by the state to operate several dallas-area group homes for foster children and adults with developmental disabilities.

A Texas federal judge last week cited those allegations and findings — among others — in her 427-page order holding Texas’ health agency in contempt of court for failing to fix major problems with the state’s foster care system.

U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack in the Southern District of Texas singled out C3 Christian Academy in Grand Prairie in her order as one of several case studies in abuse and neglect. The judge said foster care system officials failed to address prior court orders requiring adequate and prompt investigations into allegations of abuse and neglect involving children in state custody. Multiple attempts to reach C3 Christian Academy and its owner by phone and email were unsuccessful.

Jack ordered the state Health and Human Services Commission to pay fines of $100,000 a day until the problems are corrected — the third time she’s held the state in contempt since ruling in 2015 that children in state custody faced an unconstitutional risk of harm. The state has appealed the order to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which temporarily halted the fines.

U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack (2008 File Photo/Corpus Christi Caller-Times)

The state revoked C3 Christian Academy’s certification last year due to repeated abuses, court records show. The judge noted, however, that C3 remained open for more than a year after the 14-year-old with limited speech and comprehension was removed from the home over safety concerns.

Jack also documented in great detail how state investigators repeatedly failed the girl, known in the order as “Child C,” by botching 12 different investigations into her mistreatment at the group home.

Jack held a contempt hearing over three days in December as part of a long-running lawsuit filed by lawyers for foster children against Gov. Greg Abbott and the state’s Health and Human Services Commission and the Department of Family and Protective Services.

An HHSC spokesperson declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.

Local police were called to the C3 Christian Academy group homes multiple times and said at one point they were trying to get them shut down, according to the court order.

Trisha Evans, 69, the owner of C3 Christian Academy, testified at the contempt hearing that she rehired some employees she’d fired for “inappropriate conduct.” That included the staffer who reportedly brought his love interests to one group home, court records show. That employee also was accused of molesting some of his female wards yet was allowed to continue bathing and dressing females at the home, the court order said.

Evans described the man and some of her other workers as “unsavory employees” during her testimony. And she said the child and adult care industry “kind of reeks of scamsters and schemers,” court records show.

The judge had harsh words for Evans’ hiring practices in her order, saying it contributed to the unsafe conditions at her group homes.

“Ms. Evans repeatedly rehired a man who conducted extramarital affairs instead of doing his job — caring for the children and adults with disabilities who were present in the residence. Apparently, ‘bringing women in at night and having sex with them’ was acceptable at C3 Academy,” Jack wrote.

The company’s employees included a registered sex offender; someone wearing an ankle monitor while free on bond for a felony stalking charge; and a person found to have sexually assaulted his underage stepdaughter, court records show.

Upon learning this, one state investigator merely noted concern that “the agency is employing registered sex offenders.”

A child welfare expert testified she found it “incomprehensible” that Texas allowed C3 Christian Academy to operate for nine years.

‘Child C’

The North Texas girl known as Child C who factored heavily in Jack’s recent order entered the state’s foster care system at age 3 after being removed from her mother due to physical and mental abuse, court records show.

She was adopted at age 5 and lived for a time with her adoptive mother, grandmother and cousin.

When she arrived at C3 Christian Academy at age 14, the girl had an IQ of 55 and the mental function of a preschooler, according to court records.

She suffered from numerous disabilities including a speech impairment, intellectual disability, depression, severe psychotic symptoms, delusions and hallucinations, and post-traumatic stress disorder, court records said. She took about 12 pills daily.

The girl was placed in one of Evans’ homes in April 2021 under the legal custody of the state Department of Family and Protective Services, records say.

During her year at the home, the girl was punched, sexually molested, shocked with tasers and locked in a bedroom and left alone without supervision, according to court records. Several of the investigations were opened after police were called to handle incidents involving the girl, who was sometimes found walking the streets alone.

In September 2021, for example, the girl and another resident were locked in a bedroom at night and left unsupervised. They broke out of the bedroom and went to a neighbor’s home to call 911 at 3:30 a.m. A single caregiver was assigned to residents in each home for the night shift.

The employee had left the home to “be with a woman on a love rendezvous,” Evans testified. No one from C3 was there when police officers arrived in the middle of the night, and it took police two hours to contact someone from the company, according to court records.

A 7-year-old resident reads a book in March 2016 at a Garland emergency children's shelter that also offers foster care, adoption services and a residential treatment program for girls.(File / Staff)

State investigators closed the girl’s various complaints, finding after significant delays in some cases that the allegations were either “unconfirmed” or “inconclusive” in 11 of the 12 cases, according to the judge’s order.

Court monitors disagreed with those findings, saying improper delays and shoddy investigative work made a determination impossible. In two cases, the monitors said sufficient evidence existed to support the allegations, such as police reports.

The monitors said all of the abuse and neglect investigations involving the girl had “extensive, unexplained delays.” Jack’s court order noted that one investigation lasted 17 months.

After her 2022 hospitalization for a broken jaw, the girl did not return to the C3 home. She is now 15 and residing at a “State Supported Living Center,” according to the order.

Evans said she fired the employee who punched the girl and that he was taken into police custody. Nevertheless, the investigation concluded with a finding of “inconclusive”, court records show.

‘Staff 3′

The judge’s order detailed the exploits of one C3 Christian Academy employee named Rodney McCuin, referred to as “Staff 3,” who was among those assigned to care for the girl.

McCuin, 53, a felon with a string of Tarrant County arrests and convictions dating back to 1990, was deemed by state prosecutors in court records to be a habitual offender. The crimes for which he was arrested over the years include aggravated sexual assault of a child, drug and firearms offenses, and family violence, according to court records.

At one point he was deemed incompetent to stand trial in a family violence case and was sent to a state mental hospital for treatment, court records show. A doctor said he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and had a history of “chronic abuse of crack cocaine,” according to court records.

McCuin currently has a pending assault charge for hitting his girlfriend in May 2023, court records show. He and his attorney could not be reached for comment.

McCuin also was the husband of Evans’ administrative assistant at C3 Christian Academy, according to the court order.

Related:No ‘quick fix’ for Texas foster kids in secret housing but help is focus, CPS leader says

Evans hired, fired and rehired McCuin more than once to care for children and adults at her state-certified homes. He was rehired “after promising to mend his ways regarding bringing lady friends to stay with him on his overnight shifts,” the court order said.

“Unless Mr. McCuin was using one of the common areas to conduct his extramarital affairs, it seems likely that two residents were placed together in one room while Mr. McCuin and his paramours commandeered one of the resident’s bedrooms,” the order said.

Included in the court order was a lawyer’s questioning of Evans’ handling of McCuin’s case during a hearing. Evans agreed she fired him more than once.

“But then you hired him back two or three times because he promised to do better?”

“He promised not to bring women in at night,” she said.

‘Just incredible’

Evans, a registered nurse, testified that she’d worked part-time as a nurse at two psychiatric hospitals with pediatric patients and that she began operating certified care facilities in 2006.

Her C3 Christian Academy in 2014 opened its first government-funded group home.

By 2023, the company operated seven homes in Grand Prairie and one in Dallas, housing children and adults with developmental and learning disabilities, court records show.

Evans’ group homes frequently mixed children and adults, as well as males and females, the court order said.

“Ms. Evans was unfazed when she said that naked females were supplied with towels and supervised by men,” Jack wrote.

Evans investigated some of the allegations herself at her facilities, sometimes without reporting them to the state because she said “every allegation doesn’t make for an investigation,” the court order said. Often, the children were not believed.

Some of the residents, Evans testified, “manipulate the system because they want a change of scenery, they just want to go into the hospital, or they’re getting better food or getting more food over there than they’re getting here,” according to court records.

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is a defendant in a class-action lawsuit over foster care.

Evans could not be reached for comment. But she told The Dallas Morning News in September during a telephone interview that the state placed the children in her homes after other companies refused to accept them.

“These clients had nowhere else to go,” she said in the interview.

“They were aggressive. They were belligerent. They caused havoc, and we took care of them at our company. Unfortunately, there were some employees that were afraid of these clients at times, and these clients just were out of control,” Evans said.

The plaintiffs’ child welfare expert, Viola Miller, didn’t think the company should have been allowed to continue caring for vulnerable children and adults in North Texas.

“That’s just incredible. It’s impossible to understand that,” she said during a hearing.

Related:Legal skirmish underscores high stakes in Texas foster care lawsuit Related:Former foster child, ex-CPS worker describe ‘broken’ Texas foster care


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