2019 has been an amazing and eventful year. As with every odd-numbered year in Texas, the Texas legislature was in session this year and that, of course, means that “no man’s freedom or property is safe.” It also means that THSC’s policy team was in Austin working overtime to protect the God-given fundamental right of parents to raise their children as they see fit.
That was carried out by killing bills that were threats to the families and children of Texas and also trying to pass legislation to protect families by reforming Child Protective Services (CPS), opening equal opportunities for homeschool families, and seeking to codify into the family code the rights of parents that should be respected in Texas courts.
We were disappointed that these issues did not gain traction due to the lack of support from legislative leaders. We warned that because these changes were not made, more children and families would suffer and in June the Pardo case attested to that.
What happened next?
THSC shifted from our legislative/lobbying mode into legal action and public relations as we sought to defend the Pardo family from the most egregious CPS abuse that we have ever witnessed.
CPS removed a four-year-old special needs child from his family without any evidence of abuse or neglect. So began the #BringDrakeHome effort that galvanized an entire state to the defense of this innocent family, finally resulting in the dismissal of the case on December 3.
Others joining the fight?
In September, NBC News and The Houston Chronicle launched a series of articles called “Do No Harm” which highlight the very issue of CPS abuse that took place in the Pardo case. These reports demonstrated that the problem in the Pardo case is not a rare occurrence; it’s systemic.
In fact, recently the Texas House Committee on Human Services (which oversees CPS) began hearings on CPS removals to gather facts on the problem in order to prepare for legislation to address the issue in the next legislative session. The Houston Chronicle issued an editorial responding to this issue by calling on the state to protect families and children CPS falsely accuses of abuse.
It is safe to say that, by God’s grace, this issue has been elevated in the public eye to the point that the state of Texas must address this problem. Thankfully, we have been able to play a critical role in that process by exposing what has been happening to families in secret.
Why does this matter?
Because Texas families and children are too important to simply ignore their safety.
In addition to the CPS reform, we worked this past spring to obtain an official legal opinion from the Texas attorney general’s office. The attorney general’s office released the opinion in February, giving an eight-page defense of the God-given, fundamental right of parents to raise their children. We used that opinion during the legislative session to support pro-family legislation.
Another tragic case!
However, in an amazing case from Denton, this issue has been raised to public notice as well. A judge in Denton has given joint custody of a four-year old child to a man who is not related to her by blood or marriage. This was done in spite of heavy objections from the little girl’s biological father.
The case is now before the Supreme Court of Texas. THSC filed a brief in support of the father and the court has issued a stay and asked for full briefing from both sides. The father’s legal counsel quoted extensively in their presentation to the court from the opinion from the Texas attorney general that THSC worked on in the spring.
What does this mean?
This case highlights the need for either a legal remedy from the courts or legislative action by the state to defend children and families in these kinds of cases.
Finally, we are also following another family law case that has garnered national attention in which a mother of seven-year old twin boys is seeking to transition one of these young boys to become a girl. This has resulted in a custody battle between the divorced parents.
A Dallas jury blew this case up online when they issued a decision in the James Younger case to give the mother full custody, allowing her to pursue the transition of her young son over the objections of his father. The governor responded by asking the attorney general to review the case.
The attorney general responded with a letter calling on CPS to investigate the mother for abuse, citing how CPS removed Drake Pardo for “medical abuse” with no evidence and in the case of James Younger the mother was actually seeking unnecessary treatment for her son, which would actually be medical abuse.
How will we respond?
For many years, we have been defending the God-given, fundamental right of parents to direct the care, control and upbringing of their children, which is the basis of our right to homeschool.
Today it has become more and more clear that this right which protects children and families is under attack as never before.
We are so pleased that God has used us to defend individual families in the courts and to work for legislative changes that will protect all the families and children of Texas. It is truly amazing to see what God has done this year in spite of our limited success during the legislative session to raise these very issues to public prominence and set the stage for legal and legislative victories.
Thank you, friends, for being part of this team that God is using in such amazing ways to do the work of His Kingdom. I am humbled and honored to work with you as partners in this critical work. God bless you!
Yesterday morning the Kaufman County Courtroom of Judge Tracy Gray was filled with supporters of the Pardo family as well as attorneys for the family and CPS. Initially scheduled as a hearing on “permanency” (a hearing regarding the long-term placement of the child), was instead a hearing on a request by attorneys for CPS and the family to sign an order to dismiss the case based only on the parents’ agreeing to make joint medical decisions for Drake.
Unlike most cases in which if parties agree on terms to end the case it happens automatically, in CPS cases the order can only go into effect if the judge agrees to sign it. The attorney ad litem, the court-appointed attorney representing the child, vigorously argued against allowing the case to be dismissed.
She argued that the parents had not been cooperative and had not proven that Drake would be safe with them. When the judge asked what she wanted she replied that she wanted the family to be accountable and she was still concerned for the safety of the child.
CASA argued that Ashley and Daniel’s attorneys had been “blocking” access to Drake since the time he was returned home. However, under questioning the same caseworker acknowledged that she had never contacted the family’s attorneys to try and schedule a meeting. Furthermore, a CASA advocate had been present at a meeting with Drake the day before.
The Attorney At Litem also acknowledged that the family’s attorneys had accommodated her schedule by making the drive from the Dallas area the previous day in the middle of the afternoon to allow her to see Drake.
While it initially appeared to be in question whether the judge would sign the order for dismissal, she ultimately signed the order after making an emotional speech to the family that she was only doing so because CPS legal counsel agreed.
While we rejoice with the Pardos that this more than five-month battle is over, we recognize that thousands of families all over Texas deal with CPS abuse on a daily basis. The legislature must act to protect Texas families from abuse at the hands of CPS. We will be working hard in the months ahead to make sure this happens.
Thank you for standing with THSC as we have fought for the Pardo family and for all the families of Texas!