Texas Judge Sanctions CPS $127K for Wrongfully Taking Couple’s Children and Lying to the Court
Commentary by Terri LaPoint
Health Impact News
There are elements that are common almost to the point of being universal in cases involving children taken from their families by Child Protective Services, including false allegations, lying by social workers, falsified medical records, failure of social workers to follow their own policies, laws broken by CPS, and the failure to consider evidence that refutes CPS allegations.
However, there is one thing that remains rare in CPS cases – that is, for anyone within the system to be held accountable. Repercussions for social workers, the CPS agency, or doctors involved in taking children from innocent parents are very rare.
On Thursday, November 8, 2018, a judge in Houston, Texas, called CPS on the carpet, issuing what the Houston Chronicle says:
may be the largest-ever sanctions against Child Protective Services, forcing the state to come up with new training for its workers and pay more than $127,000 for wrongfully removing a couple’s children and allegedly lying to the court about it.
This follows a decision that Judge Mike Schneider issued last month involving parents Melissa and Dillon Bright, the same family whose children were medically kidnapped by CPS and Texas Children’s Hospital.
In Unprecedented Move Texas Judge Orders CPS to Have No Contact with 2 Children Removed without Warrant – Social Worker Pleads 5th in Court
Houston Chronicle reporter Keri Blakinger writes:
It’s an unusual case that offers repeated examples of CPS missteps, but the Brights’ attorneys say it’s also a sign of a “broken system” and the need for more accountability from the agency tasked with making decisions as to whether parents are fit to keep their own children.
While we would agree that more accountability is certainly needed, we at Health Impact News have found after years of in-depth investigation of hundreds of similar cases that the Bright family case is anything but “an unusual case.” On the contrary, their story is typical of what we see on a regular basis.
The details of the story are in the Houston Chronicle piece. The essence of the story is this:
There was an accidental injury when their 5 month old baby fell off of a chair. Melissa Bright called 911, and the baby was taken to Texas Children’s Hospital.
Like most children’s hospitals, Texas Children’s has a Child Abuse team. They deemed the baby’s injuries to be “consistent with child abuse,” which ultimately led to CPS seizing custody of the Brights’ two children.
The children were taken without a warrant in an “emergency removal,” and the social worker lied in his reports to the court about the facts of the situation.
Other doctors discovered that the baby had an underlying medical condition, a blood-clotting disorder, but that information was ignored by CPS.
The parents were not told about the emergency removal hearing or given any opportunity to defend themselves when their children were taken.
Again, there is nothing in this account that is any different from any other story that we have covered over several years.
The difference lies in the conclusions by Judge Mike Schneider, who is to be commended for standing up for what is right, in both last month’s hearing and yesterday’s hearing.
“It is not possible,” Schneider said in court last month, “to look at the facts and imagine that the agency actually felt there was any sort of urgent need for protection to remove the children.” (Source).
Attorneys for the Brights requested, and got, sanctions placed on the CPS department for their blatant failures in medically kidnapping children from innocent parents.
In the sanctions hearing which concluded yesterday, attorneys Dennis Slate and Stephanie Proffitt:
argued that the agency’s efforts to take the kids were based on such groundless arguments that they should be forced to pay the family for legal fees and other costs – a total of more than $127,000.
Now, attorneys for parents Melissa and Dillon Bright are calling for the firing of the CPS workers involved and asking for prosecutors to investigate and consider criminal charges.
Unqualified Social Worker
The Houston Chronicle reports:
Over the course of five days, the court heard testimony from the Brights, a program director and supervisor Edwards who drew incredulous looks in the courtroom when she so frequently claimed that she didn’t know, couldn’t answer or didn’t understand the questions that Slate eventually asked whether she had any knowledge that made her qualified to make decisions.
Lies by Social Workers Are Not Acceptable
The family’s attorneys presented evidence that the social workers lied repeatedly to the court:
“They lied in their affidavit, they lied in their sworn removal testimony and they have – when questioned about those lies – taken the Fifth,” said family lawyer Dennis Slate.
“When the Harris County District Attorney [Kim Ogg] ran for office said that she would investigate perjury claims within the Harris County courts. She needs to live up to that campaign promise and look into this case and bring the appropriate action.”
Note: DA Kim Ogg may be reached at 713-274-5800. Her office is also on Twitter here.
In October 1016, Child Protective Services attorneys in Orange County California tried to argue to the 9th Circuit of Appeals that it was acceptable for social workers to lie about parents in order to take their children. Like Harris County Texas judge Mike Schneider, the 9th Circuit judicial panel didn’t buy that logic either.
CPS Has Immunity, or Do They?
The Houston Chronicle continues:
Stephen Dieu with the Harris County Attorney’s Office, which represented CPS in the hearing … argued repeatedly that the agency was protected by sovereign immunity.
“There are legal remedies but this is not the one,” he said. “The department cannot be sanctioned.”
But a look back at agency records would show that’s not true.
Seven years ago, Slate and Proffitt won a $32,000 sanction in another case involving a “groundless” removal where the agency didn’t tell the parents about the emergency hearing and waited hours to take the kids after courts closed.
“When we got the sanctions in 2011, we really thought that would open somebody’s eyes,” Proffitt said. “There are only a handful of cases in Harris County that have even filed for sanctions. There’s no repercussions.”
This time, there were. [Emphasis added by HIN].
Judge Slaps CPS with Fine, Orders New Training for Workers
The Houston Chronicle states:
In a scathing ruling from the bench on Thursday, Schneider dinged the agency for being “dishonest” and possibly “malicious,” saying the entire removal and subsequent legal battle never would have happened if the agency just told the Brights about the emergency removal hearing and gave them a chance to defend themselves at the start.
“We do need to deal with the issue of how we make sure this doesn’t happen again,” he said, before ordering the agency to pay $127,000 and giving them two weeks to create new training for its workers.
But, Schneider said, there was one thing the family requested that he could not order: an apology.
No Consequences for Child Abuse Doctors at Texas Children’s Hospital
For the Bright family, these sanctions of CPS are welcome news. However, there is no mention of any repercussions for Texas Children’s Hospital or the Child Abuse team of pediatricians that got the ball rolling to take the Bright children from their home.
The role of Child Abuse Pediatricians in these cases cannot be understated. CPS social workers are not doctors, and thus are not able to do the needed differential diagnoses to determine whether or not a child was abused or if they have a real medical condition that mimics abuse. They often simply take the word of the child abuse doctors without question. Attorneys and judges in turn often don’t question these doctors.
Thus, much of the blame for medical kidnapping of children from innocent parents lies squarely at the feet of these doctors, who are not experts in anything.
The head of the Texas Children’s Hospital Child Abuse team is Christopher Spencer Greeley, MD. He did his internship at Vanderbilt University, another hospital known for its role in many medical kidnap cases.
Dr. Greeley is a major player in the field of Child Abuse Pediatrics and is currently the president of the Ray E. Helfer Society, the International Society for Physicians in the Field of Child Abuse.
We first reported on the Helfer Society earlier this year. Another of their members, Dr. Carole Jenny, coauthored a book with her psychiatrist husband Dr. Medical Child Abuse: Beyond Munchausen by Proxy, which redefines Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy in order to make it possible to charge more parents. We reported:entitled,
The Helfer Award is given annually to the member of the Society who has made significant contributions to the field of Child Abuse Pediatrics.
The list of recipients contains several names that have come up repeatedly in our research of Medical Kidnap articles. It seems that a small group of people have acquired a great deal of power over the lives of American families as they impact policy, philosophy, and judicial decisions. See the list here.
California Christian Homeschool Family Torn Apart as Children are Medically Kidnapped, Forced into Public School, and Mother is Forced out of Family Home
The Brights are thankful for the sanctions against CPS.
However, the Child Abuse Pediatric Team at Texas Children’s Hospital has not been faced with any consequences for their role in the Bright children being taken.
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