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‘Vindictive Punishment’: Texas Parents Fight To Be Removed From Child Abuse Registry After Judge Dismisses CPS Case Against Them

"...shocks even the most rudimentary sense of justice."
Gavel and scales
Jantanee Phoolmas/Getty Images

A Texas family is fighting to be removed from the Child Abuse Registry even after a judge dismissed a case from Child Protective Services (CPS) alleging that they had medically abused their young son.

Legal counsel for Ashley and Daniel Pardo of Kaufman County, Texas, sent a letter late last month to Texas Department of Family Protective Services Commissioner Jaime Masters, urging her to remove them from the registry. The letter was endorsed by 26 signatories, including organizations and lawmakers.

A copy of the letter, written by Texas Home School Coalition (THSC) President Tim Lambert and provided to The Daily Wire, read in part:

Even though CPS dropped all accusations against the Pardo family and dismissed the case, CPS has placed the Pardo family on the Child Abuse Registry.

As you know, being on the registry stays on a family’s record, shows up on background checks, and can prevent the family from obtaining employment or even volunteering at their child’s school or church activities.

Being on the Child Abuse Registry also carries a naturally damaging cultural stigma because, as the average Texan would reasonably presume, such a registry is home to individuals who commit horrible crimes against their children, such as starving, beating, torturing, or killing them.

The fact that an entirely innocent family against whom CPS dropped all charges could be placed on such a registry and have their lives and professional futures forever marred by this stigma shocks even the most rudimentary sense of justice.

A recent article from THSC explaining the latest wrinkle in the case alleges that the Pardos’ placement on the registry was an act of “vindictive punishment,” after both the Texas Supreme Court and county judge found the CPS case against them lacking.

In December 2019, the Pardos reached the end of a long legal battle fraught with red tape when Judge Tracy Gray signed a dismissal agreement between them and CPS. The agreement came after the Texas Supreme Court ordered the Pardo’s 4-year-old son, Drake, to be reunited with family in October, who had first been taken away from them on June 20, 2019.

According to The Texan, which followed the complex case closely, the Pardos were alleged to be engaging in medical child abuse or Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, which “occurs when caretakers exaggerate or contrive medical conditions of the child under his or her care.” Drake, who has suffered from developmental issues, also struggled with feeding problems.

As The Texan reported:

They were told one potential solution was a G-tube, a surgically placed feeding tube.

During their consideration of the surgery, Drake’s doctor allegedly refused to visit him while he was in the hospital. After his refusal, the Pardos fired him and chose to see another doctor in the same hospital.

The doctor who was fired brought a concern to the hospital’s child abuse pediatrician that the Pardos were doctor-shopping to find someone who would approve of the G-tube surgery.

Subsequently, the child abuse pediatrician brought the complaints to CPS and said that she wanted Drake to be admitted to the hospital on Monday, June 10 to be evaluated so that they could determine if the parents were seeking unnecessary help or not.

Jeremy Newman, director of public policy for THSC, referenced court testimony to explain to The Daily Wire how the Pardos were never informed about the scheduled meeting with CPS, which he said first led to their problems.

“CPS used their failure to attend that meeting, which they didn’t know about, as a justification for declaring an emergency and running in and taking the child from the home,” Newman said. “So, if I can insert my perception, it seems to me that the place it went wrong was that nobody involved in the case ever spoke to any of the doctors who had actually treated Drake at the time that all of this happened. They kind of came in and did a theoretical assessment and never spoke to the family, never spoke to any of the doctors.”

Explaining how, according to court testimony, the doctor who originally notified CPS did not intend for Drake to be removed from his family, Newman speculated that what began as government incompetence snowballed. “It seems to me like it’s a face-saving issue; that by the time they realized they’d made a big mistake, they couldn’t reverse course without admitting liability.”

The Texas Department of Family Protective Services did not respond to The Daily Wire’s request for comment in time for publication.

In a video with the Pardos that he posted to Facebook immediately after their initial case was dismissed in December, Newman said, “This is the end of the Pardo case, officially. But it’s not the end of it for the families.” Noting that the CPS bureaucracy gets to walk away from such legal battles relatively unscathed, he said, “For the families in these situations, the trauma and the effect of that lasts. I know that Ashley and Daniel would tell you that, and every family that I’ve ever talked to would tell you that.”

“And so, as much as we’re celebrating the victory, you also have to kind of stop and pause and consider the cost, and realize that the team of advocates and the whole state kind of responded to support Ashley and Daniel in this. Not every family has that. You kind of have to wonder, ‘What about all the families you never hear from? The families whose stories don’t make the news?’ You don’t hear from them and you kind of have to wonder: ‘Do they just get eaten by the system?'”

The Pardo case is not an isolated one, according to a series of in-depth investigative reports done by NBC and The Houston Chronicle in 2019. Reporters spent nine months looking into 40 cases that explored how the “legal and medical system that sometimes struggles to differentiate accidental injuries from abuse.”

One report concluded, “Physicians intent on protecting the most vulnerable in some instances have overstated the reliability of their findings, using terms such as ‘100 percent’ and ‘certain’ to describe conclusions that usually cannot be proven with absolute confidence. Child welfare workers, overworked and untrained in complex medical issues, are not always sure how to proceed when the primary evidence against a caregiver comes in the form of a doctor’s note.”

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  ‘Vindictive Punishment’: Texas Parents Fight To Be Removed From Child Abuse Registry After Judge Dismisses CPS Case Against Them