Justin Cook was relentlessly abused while living in a foster care home in 2013. Graphic pictures showed numerous black and blue bruises covering his body. His case will be decided upon by a grand jury.
The 14-year-old was abused by a fellow 18-year-old living in the home. He accused the older boy of choking him, sexually assaulting him, and beating him. The abuse took place at the Waxahachie foster home run by the Texas Baptist Home for Children.
When the boy tried to report the incidents, his pleas were ignored.
“They called me a liar and I was punished,” Cook said. “When I tried to report it, they wouldn’t believe me.”
Cook and his mother are working hard to hold someone accountable for this case of blatant child abuse. On Wednesday, the family was sent an email from the Waxahachie Police Department, telling them that a grand jury would be deciding the case for aggravated sexual abuse of a child and injury to a child.
“He’s had nightmares and he told me yesterday […] he can sleep without having to worry,” said his mother, Angel Cook, who slammed Child Protective Services for letting her child down while he was in their care.
The entire ordeal began in March 2013. Justin was originally put in a foster home after the Cook’s 4-year-old son Buddy died suddenly. The family was charged with injury to a child, but a medical examiner later determined that the boy died of natural causes.
It was too late for their seven children who had been placed in four different foster homes run by Texas Baptist.
According to Angel, all of her children suffered abuse, neglect, or both, while staying in their foster homes.
“They would hit me on a daily basis,” said Justin Cook, who speaks with a slight stutter. “I was tired of them touching me and doing stuff to me.”
CPS documents revealed that Justin told his foster mother, Sandi St. Clair, that he was being abused in 2013. His complaint was ignored.
“He also makes statements like he wants to be tortured and wants people to abuse him,” the records say. “He is constantly asking kids in the cottage to ‘hit him in the stomach…’ Ms. St. Clair stated she thinks he is trying to build up his pain tolerance.
When his mother visited him, Justin told her about the abuse. He told her that the older boy was “forcing him down on the ground and punching him in the back.”
The next time she returned, a few weeks later, she noticed massive bruises on his arms and legs. He was afraid to talk about it out of fear of being abused more.
In October, things got worse for Justin. He was frequently being abused and he felt hopeless. His mother begged his caseworker to remove him from the home.
“They basically made us feel like liars,” Angel Cook said.
Angel continued her campaign against CPS, and eventually, her son was removed and placed back in her care. Social services issued an investigation, but it didn’t result in anything of substance.
“They talked to the Cook children who told them what happened,” said the family’s attorney, Patrick Barkman. “They talked to the caseworker and the foster placement and they both said nothing happened there so CPS reaction here was ‘Well, we’re done.'”
“Somebody is finally listening to these kids and somebody is finally listening especially to Justin who I think is the real hero in this,” Barkman said. “Not a lot of adults could do or would do what he has done let alone young people. He’s a really big young man so we tend to forget he’s still a kid. But he was willing to step up and talk about things that aren’t pleasant because he wanted to protect other kids in his situation.”
The mother vows to fight for her son’s rights and to stop other children from facing similar abuse.
“I feel completely failed by this agency. Enough is enough,” Angel Cook said. “Child abuse is wrong no matter who has custody, even the state of Texas.”
Photo credit: WFAA.