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Allegations of child sex assault at Catholic Charities shelter

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A shelter run by Catholic Charities is at the center of a sex assault investigation involving children living there. But that's not all -- there are also allegations of a cover-up.

A north Houston home is just one of several shelters run by Catholic Charities. Called Saint Michael's Home for Children, the Harris County Sheriff's Office is now investigating a case where on July 1, a boy was allegedly assaulted by other children living here.

"An 8-year-old had alleged that a 10-year-old male had sexual inappropriate with him, and in a subsequent forensic interview, it came to light that an 11-year-old also had sexual inappropriate with the victim," said Deputy Thomas Gilliland with the Harris Co. Sheriff's Office.

But what's making the investigation challenging for sheriff's investigators is they weren't notified of the incident until August, a month after it allegedly occurred.

"We commend them for bringing it forward to us, but we would have liked to have inherited it a little quicker," said Dep. Gilliland. "Going back and having to reinterview people -- especially dealing with children -- that's the harder cases where children's memories are shorter and details might become a little less."

The time lapse is just one reason that SNAP, a national support group for survivors of clergy abuse, held a small protest in front of The Chancery of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston on Thursday.

"In our view, this is way beyond tragic; this is self-serving, deceitful, reckless and callous action by Catholic Charities staff," said David Clohessy with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

Some of their concerns were echoed by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, which conducted an investigation following the alleged assault. Among many violations, it found "staffers not aware of all children's whereabouts;" "two children upstairs alone acting inappropriately;" and "incomplete records of staff members."

It's something none of the neighbors say they ever expected.

"That's scary, it's really scary. I mean, it's really sad to hear that. I mean I think that's terrible news," said neighbor Jennifer Cross.

The investigation by the Sheriff's Office is ongoing. The federal government has gotten involved and most of the children living in the Catholic Charities shelters have been removed.

We reached out to Catholic Charities, but a spokesperson has not gotten back to us.

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