Judge orders state to pay over $100K after Child Protective Services wrongfully remove children from family home, reportedly lie about it

A Texas judge in Harris County declared on Thursday that not only will the state need to pay $127,000 for wrongfully removing children from their family home, but also start new training for Child Protective Services (CPS) workers.

Chron reports that parents Dillon and Melissa Bright’s lives became a nightmare when CPS caseworker Lavar Jones took out an emergency custody order earlier this year, claiming the couple’s two children were in “immediate and continuing danger.”

The ordeal first began in July 2018. On a sizzling summer day, Melissa let her two children, 2-year-old Charlotte and 5-month-old Mason, play outside in a sprinkler. Melissa said she put Mason in a lawn chair and while she changed Charlotte out of wet clothes, the little boy fell from the chair and hit his head on a cement driveway.

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Melissa called Dillon, then dialed 911. Mason was rushed to the hospital where she was met by a child abuse prevention team. The team later told CPS that the mom’s version of what happened was probably true. Initially, they did not suspect child abuse.

During a second MRI, physicians noticed a tiny hairline crack on the baby’s skull and brain bleeding. When Melissa had no explanation as to how and why the fracture happened, the abuse team decided the baby was being abused. The Brights took the baby to another doctor for a second opinion.

The Texas Children’s Hospital hematology department later determined that Mason had a blood clotting disorder which could have caused additional bleeding after the lawn chair fall. They also said it meant there would likely be additional medical problems for the boy. Regardless, CPS had already taken over the case and decided that the baby should go live with his maternal grandmother more than 100 miles from his parents.

Doctors had to drill a hole in Mason’s head to help the injury, but warned if the baby cried, he would have to have another surgery. The baby was sent to Baytown to live with Melissa’s mother after CPS refused to let Melissa “nurse” the baby.

Caring for the little boy posed too many problems for his grandmother, so Melissa decided to move Mason to his aunt and uncle’s home in Tomball, which was much closer to her own home.

According to court documents, Melissa said she contacted caseworker Jones numerous times to inform him of the family’s plans. She said Jones never called her back, but she needed CPS approval before making the move. Eventually, the Brights brought their son back to their home after CPS failed to get back with them.

Around 22 days later, Jones contacted the family and asked how the kids were doing. Melissa explained they were happy and doing great. She sent Jones photos of the kids smiling and playing.

The following day, Jones went to court and filed the emergency custody order without informing the Bright family.

Court documents indicate Jones failed to include information about Mason’s blood clotting disorder when filing for the order. He also failed to mention that the Brights consulted another physician and obtained a second medical opinion on the baby’s condition.

A judge approved Jones order on September 19. That night, both kids were taken from their home and placed in foster care.

Three weeks later, the Brights, armed with their lawyer, attended a court hearing to determine if there was enough evidence to keep their children from them. During the hearing, Jones decided to plead the Fifth when questioned about the emergency custody order.

Judge Mike Schneider sided with the Brights and questioned why the children were taken from the home with little to no evidence of abuse.

“It is not possible 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.”

The case moved to a November hearing, held on Thursday, where the family’s attorney, Dennis Slate, along with lawyer, Stephanie Proffitt, claimed that the state should be responsible for the family’s legal fees, along with any other costs associated with the case, which reached $127,000.

CPS  program director and supervisor Niesha Edwards couldn’t answer many valid questions when asked during the hearing. Slate asked the director if she was even qualified to make decisions in the case, while claiming CPS altered computer records, hid text messages, and didn’t divulge that they didn’t call the Brights back for over 20 days.

“We’re not here to get a pound of flesh from CPS,” Slate said. “I haven’t solved the riddle of why they would – knowing that were going to be caught in a perjury trap – continue going on with the case, except that they didn’t want to tell their program director. It’s baffling to me.”

Schneider agreed. He contended that the agency was “dishonest” and likely “malicious.”

“We do need to deal with the issue of how we make sure this doesn’t happen again,” the judge added.

CPS spokesperson Tejal Patel said the agency is currently reviewing whether they will appeal.

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[Feature Photo: Pixabay]