AUSTIN — “I keep asking myself: Why do we have to work this hard to get our elected officials to protect children in this state?”

Jeff Younger, a Dallas-area father who’s been trying to protect his son in a nationally known child abuse case, recently summarized the current situation in Texas: Despite a years-long fight, state officials still won’t take action to stop medical professionals from disfiguring minors across the state.

On Friday, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services finally responded to a letter from State Rep. Bryan Slaton about child mutilation operations—by avoiding the issue and punting responsibility to yet another official.

The overall issue is that currently in Texas, medical professionals are allowed to cut off children’s healthy body parts as part of gender surgeries, or chemically castrate them by giving them sterilizing cross-sex hormones and puberty blocker drugs.

The issue largely surfaced because of the high-profile case of James Younger, a 9-year-old whose mother wanted to force him—against Jeff’s wishes—to take sterilizing drugs and eventually be castrated.

Since the national coverage of the case two years ago, the issue became a Republican Party of Texas priority, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office even wrote the Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate the matter (though with no apparent results). Earlier this year, the Republican-controlled state Legislature chose to reject proposed laws that would have outlawed the operations, and Gov. Abbott remained nearly silent on the issue the whole time. In their recently concluded special session, the Texas Legislature again refused to approve protections.

Finally, in early August, Abbott made an “announcement” on the matter—by sending a public letter to DFPS, asking them to decide if cutting off a child’s healthy body parts in such surgeries classifies as child abuse.

The agency replied that such operations are indeed child abuse, and afterward, State Rep. Bryan Slaton (R–Royse City) sent them a follow-up letter asking if that definition of abuse includes the far more common methods of disfiguring children: puberty blocking drugs and psychological counseling that teaches children they’re the opposite sex.

“While reassignment surgery through altering genitalia is a key part in early transitioning of children, it is not the only method utilized,” Slaton wrote.

“I think most Texans would be concerned if DFPS decided that only ‘some’ genital mutilation was wrong, while condoning other mutilation.”

More than three weeks later, DFPS finally replied.

“I have reviewed your letter carefully,” wrote Commissioner Jaime Masters. “As you may know, Representative [Matt] Krause recently sent a letter to [Texas Attorney General] Ken Paxton seeking an official opinion on the issues discussed in your letter. I will await the opinion issued by the Attorney General’s office before I reach any final decisions on the matters you raise.”

“After waiting over three weeks to hear back from DFPS about my letter, we have finally received a so-called response,” Slaton wrote in a social media post on Friday. “Their answer?… Just wait longer.”

“Apparently, to the Department of Family and Protective Services, it is not self-evident that chemically castrating little boys or giving massive doses of testosterone to little girls is child abuse.”

Texas Scorecard will continue to update this story if Attorney General Paxton releases an opinion. In the meantime, concerned citizens may contact their elected officials or DFPS.