Local Child Protective Services director ripped own department, state in lengthy resignation letter

Brenda Watkins cited emotional and mental exhaustion among reasons for stepping down after 10 months on the job

Child Protective Services offices on SE Military Drive. (KSAT, KSAT)

SAN ANTONIO – The director of Child Protective Services for the San Antonio area cited emotional and mental exhaustion and was sharply critical of the state’s foster care agency when stepping down from her position this summer, according to a copy of her resignation letter obtained by the KSAT 12 Defenders.

Brenda Watkins, director of the Department of Family and Protective Services for Region 8, resigned in early June.

DFPS officials attempted to block the release of her June 9 resignation letter in July, claiming in an appeal to the state attorney general’s office that the letter included information that would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.

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DFPS officials released the letter this week with minimal redactions.

Watkins claimed in her resignation letter to the associate commissioner of Child Protective Services that she could no longer remain in her role as Region 8 director “due to undue stress, emotional and mental exhaustion, unreasonable demands and expectations, and workload and burden.”

Watkins also revealed that she was the subject of an anonymous complaint that led to a management review of her conduct at work.

“I felt targeted to be subject to such a formal process within my first 10 months of tenure, based on my current stress level, and one anonymous complaint,” wrote Watkins, who denied that she had demonstrated any “unethical or less than prudent professional conduct.”

Watkins also included 29 concerns she had with how the agency was operating.

Among the issues listed by Watkins were an informal hiring process, a lack of training for her to properly take on a regional director role, and being unfairly blamed for forcing staff to return to work in person after previously working remotely.

After Family Tapestry, the wing of The Children’s Shelter responsible for the region’s community-based care initiative, terminated its foster care contract with DFPS in May, Watkins wrote that her staff first heard of the development from the media because she was not authorized to share the information with them.

The lack of permission to regionally communicate caused staff to distrust me and deny my genuineness to be transparent,” wrote Watkins.

“I have struggled with a punitive, toxic and at times hostile work environment during my tenure,” added Watkins.

Watkins also took issue with a local television station that reported her resignation in its 6 p.m. newscast, claiming the report ran before she had provided formal, written notification of her resignation.

“This sounds like resignation in lieu of termination and is more public character defamation. Based on the public’s perception of the coverage, this could impede future job opportunities in the Texas child welfare system as well as other opportunities in my professional field. The misreported information has damaged my reputation with the local community and staff,” wrote Watkins.

A CPS spokeswoman told the Defenders this week that a new director for Region 8 has still not been named.

Watkins’ exit came in the middle of a tumultuous year for foster care in San Antonio.

The state put a placement hold on The Children’s Shelter in late April, citing ongoing issues with the care of foster care children.

Shelter leadership submitted an action plan to the state days later in an effort to keep its contract from being terminated by DFPS but then canceled its contract less than two weeks after that.

Watkins noted that the canceling of the contract created a “stressful process” for CPS, as it rushed to transition staff back to the region while preparing to take over managing the placements of foster care children.


About the Author:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined the KSAT 12 Defenders in 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat. He provides restaurant health reports for KSAT's "Behind the Kitchen Door." Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.