Drake Pardo (age four) was illegally taken from his family by Child Protective Services (CPS) on June 20. The Pardos are a homeschool THSC member family. THSC attorney Chris Branson is now representing the Pardos and is attempting to return Drake, a medically fragile child, back to his family.
The Pardo case has gained media attention due to egregious and repeated violations of the law committed by CPS. After refusing to inform the family of allegations against them, the agency fabricated an emergency to remove the child, ultimately pressuring a judge to grant them temporary conservatorship of Drake at a hearing on July 2. The events have put the homeschool community, the family’s State Senator, and the media in an uproar.
CPS first made contact with the family on June 7, leaving a business card on the family’s door. Two weeks later, after repeated and unsuccessful attempts by the family and their attorney to obtain any information about the case, CPS suddenly declared an “emergency” and forcibly removed Drake from his home.Watch the video of CPS illegally taking Drake:
At the time of the removal, advocates from Family Rights Advocacy and the Parent Guidance Center were live on the phone, attempting to de-escalate the situation.
In a rough cell phone video captured by the family, the Pardos remained calm but can be seen challenging the caseworker’s claim to a two-week delayed “emergency” and the decision to suddenly remove Drake. Drake’s father, Daniel, can be heard for several minutes attempting to keep Drake calm as he is placed into the police car and as he asks repeatedly why his father is not coming with him.
The CPS caseworkers allowed the family to take photos of a signed affidavit which they claimed as justification for the immediate removal of Drake. However, the caseworkers would not provide the family with an actual copy. The affidavit was signed by a doctor from the Dallas Children’s Medical Center, where the family had periodically taken Drake for treatment.
On April 22, nearly two months prior to this horrific incident, the Pardos had filed an official complaint against Children’s Medical Center because of the refusal of one of Drake’s doctors to visit him while he was admitted to the hospital. Children’s informed the family that they would review the matter and resolve it within 45 days. On day 46, with the family still having heard nothing from the Children’s Medical Center, CPS showed up at the family’s door with an affidavit signed by one of the hospital’s doctors and removed Drake.
At a hearing on July 2, approximately 100 homeschoolers arrived to support the Pardos and their attorney as they argued that Drake should be returned home. During the hearing, testimony from CPS and Dr. Dakil of Children’s Medical Center left the audience in shock.
Dr. Dakil admitted on the stand that:
- She had never seen or met with Drake or his parents;
- She had no first-hand knowledge of Drake’s medical conditions;
- The concerns listed in her affidavit were all speculative and she could not confirm them or rule them out without speaking to the parents, a step she had not yet taken;
- Her concerns were not an emergency;
- She had not requested that Drake be removed from his home and only wanted CPS to facilitate a meeting with the family on June 10 to help address her concerns;
- She was surprised when CPS chose to remove Drake from his home;
- Going forward, her concerns could all be alleviated by having a sit-down conversation with the parents to create a treatment plan and having both parents attend future medical visits;
- She was not sure how that would be possible as long as Drake remained in CPS custody as CPS had been given conservatorship of Drake;
The CPS caseworker and her supervisor admitted in testimony that prior to the removal CPS had:
- never seen or talked to
- the child;
- the parents;
- family members;
- any doctors who had first-hand knowledge of Drake’s condition;
- not conducted a background investigation;
- not pursued multiple opportunities to resolve the issue without removal;
- refused to disclose the allegations to the parents or to their lawyer;
- had no firsthand knowledge of any wrongdoing by the parents;
- had intentionally not informed the family of the June 10 meeting requested by Children’s Medical Center.
- decided there was an “emergency” because the family failed to attend the June 10 meeting they were never informed of.
- decided there was an emergency based on the concerns provided by Dr. Dakil, despite Dr. Dakil’s testimony that her concerns were not an emergency.
State Senator Bob Hall, who attended the July 2 hearing, recently recounted his observations and his disbelief at the “egregious miscarriage of justice” that is taking place in the case.
To add to the list of offenses, when the July 2 hearing began it was discovered that CPS and the Attorney Ad. Litem had failed to respond to the valid discovery requests from the Pardo’s attorney.
Observers in the courtroom were left searching for anything that CPS had done correctly during their gross mishandling of the case.
The removal of Drake was in clear violation of state law because, as was admitted at the July 2 hearing, CPS:
- Refused for nearly two weeks to provide the family with any information about the accusations against them. This was a violation of TAC 700.508 and the Federal CATPA act Section 5106(b)(2)(B)(xviii) .
- Claimed that there was an immediate danger to Drake which required an emergency removal, despite CPS having already delayed for two weeks and the doctor stating that there was no emergency. This was a violation of Family Code 262.102.
- Failed to make any reasonable efforts to avoid the need for removal, such as by failing to obtain a single report of first-hand knowledge about the situation and failing to pursue any of their available alternatives to the removal of Drake. This was a violation of Family Code 262.102.
Despite the lack of any evidence against the family and the admissions by CPS of their gross and repeated mishandling of the case, Judge Michael Chitty granted every single request made by CPS’s attorney, including leaving Drake in CPS custody, and issued a gag order preventing the family from discussing the case publicly.
THSC Policy Director Jeremy Newman outlined the chronological history of the case and the unbelievable results of the July 2 hearing in a recent video update.
CPS saves thousands of children from legitimate situations of abuse. Their incredibly difficult job and the considerable weight of their responsibility is something that none of us should envy. However, when laws are broken without a second thought, CPS can quickly become the source of trauma in a child’s life.
When this happens, judges, lawmakers, and the public must be willing to stand up to defend innocent families.
The jaw-dropping events of the Pardo case follow a series of high profile and egregious errors committed by CPS overreach in Texas.
- In 2018, CPS was sanctioned $127,000 for lying to a Houston judge and fabricating an emergency in order to seize the 2 children of Melissa and Dillon Bright.
- Also in 2018, the two children of Lyndsay and Jason Grant were severely abused during a short stay in the foster care system when CPS wrongfully removed their children after having officially ruled out any abuse by the family.
- In 2017, the Tutt family came through a 3-year nightmare after a CPS caseworker perjured herself and the agency accused the family of having no “state approved homeschool curriculum,” something that does not exist.
- In 2016, CPS was ordered by a Houston judge to pay $27,000 in sanctions and to have agency staff read the U.S. and Texas Constitutions after the judge said CPS “knowingly mislead the court” in order to remove a child who they knew was not in any danger.
- In 2011, CPS was sanctioned $32,000 when the judge found that CPS had acted in “bad faith” to obtain an “illegal” emergency order for the removal of three children.
Since the removal of Drake, the Pardos’ two other children have been fearful of any strangers who enter the house and have asked repeatedly why their brother was taken.
Observers in the courtroom described the illegal removal of Drake Pardo as a “state-sanctioned kidnapping.”
We can’t let them get away with breaking the law and abusing the Pardo family. We need your help to #BringDrakeHome.
So, what can you do to help?
The homeschool community has often rallied to defend each other from state overreach. It’s time to do it again. THSC is raising money to cover the costs of what could be a very expensive legal defense for the Pardos. We need to raise $100,000 to bring Drake home.
Here is what you can do to help #BringDrakeHome:
- Donate and sign the petition to #BringDrakeHome.
- Call Governor Abbott and tell him that Drake Pardo was illegally removed from his family and that Texas needs Governor Abbott to make CPS reform a priority during the legislative interim and during the next legislative session in 2021 (check the action tool below for instructions).
- Pray for the family and for Drake’s safe return.
It is easy to invade one home at a time. If we let them get away with this, they will do it again.
Help us #BringDrakeHome by donating, signing the petition, and telling Governor Abbott to rein in CPS’s abuse of power.