Houston News & Search
The teen girl who was struck and killed by a van early Sunday after escaping CPS care has been identified as a child who was listed as missing last year and, according to Houston police, was a repeated runaway.
Daphne Jackson, 15, had been included last August on local and national missing child alerts after disappearing.
Over the weekend, she was hit while walking with another girl who left Child Protective Services custody along a northwest Harris County road.
The incident marked the first time a child has died while staying in a CPS office because of the lack of available foster care placements.
According to state CPS spokesman Patrick Crimmins, almost all children who die in CPS custody succumb to natural deaths, injuries inflicted before the agency removed them or fatal accidents.
Daphne Jackson’s death highlights the severe capacity shortage for foster children, particularly older ones with serious medical, emotional, psychological or behavioral challenges. According to Crimmins, 24 children statewide in January spent at least two consecutive nights in CPS offices.
At the time, Daphne and the other teen were considered “children without placement” – which meant that they could not be assigned immediately to a foster home or residential treatment center and ended up supervised overnight by caseworkers. The girls had been staying in the CPS office for “several days,” Crimmins said.
Legislators this week blasted Texas CPS officials upon learning about overnight stays in offices because they believed the practice had been stopped months ago. In the draft state budget, the House and Senate have proposed adding more than $400 million to the Department of Family and Protective Services’ allocation for the agency to hire more caseworkers and staff as well as increase payments to foster care organizations and families to expand available placements.
A federal judge in Corpus Christi continues to closely monitor the state CPS system after ordering sweeping reforms in late 2015.
Last year’s missing alert said Daphne was last seen on Aug. 19 in Houston. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received the case on Aug. 31 and the child was listed as “recovered” on Oct. 10, organization spokeswoman Rebecca Kovar said Wednesday.
In a March news conference, an organization called Queendom Come Inc. called for Houston’s grassroots community to examine the local issue of missing girls in connection with runaways and sex trafficking. The group launched the campaign with the social media hashtag #protectourdaughters and hosted a town hall this week to organize advocates to work on solutions.
Sadiyah Evangelista, a Houston lawyer and Queendom Come co-founder, learned about Daphne’s case on Wednesday.
“It saddens me that she had to die as a broken little girl. We have to sound the alarm. We are in a state of emergency,” she said. “Whatever the hurt was, we can’t restore her. It’s a tragedy.”
CPS spokeswoman Tiffani Butler said the girl’s runaway history was confidential. No information has been released about the teen’s relatives or her state custody history.
Daphne, whose smile beams beneath her cascade of thick braids in the photo used on the missing person alerts, took off again this weekend.
She and another girl left a CPS facility on Northpoint Drive where they were bunking overnight and eventually met up with other teens.
The young adults were walking in an area without sidewalks in the 11200 block of Veterans Memorial Drive – about three miles away from the child welfare office – when the driver of a beige Chevrolet van traveling southbound slammed into the 15-year-old as she edged into the road, according to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.
Daphne was flung into a ditch. She received medical care in a nearby parking lot, where she was pronounced dead. The other girl, an older teen whose name has not been released, sustained an arm injury. She was treated at a nearby hospital and returned to CPS care.
The van driver was questioned, then released without charges. The case remains under investigation by the sheriff’s traffic enforcement division.
Houston News & Search