HOUSTON — A Texas judge has ordered Child Protective Services to pay a family more than $127,000 for wrongfully removing their children and allegedly lying to the court about the removal.
Harris County Judge Mike Schneider on Thursday announced sanctions against Child Protective Services after calling the agency “dishonest” and possibly “malicious” for removing Melissa and Dillon Bright’s two young children from their care in September, the Houston Chronicle reported. Schneider ordered the agency to pay the Bright family’s legal fees and to create new training for CPS workers.
“We do need to deal with the issue of how we make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Schneider said.
Following the ruling this week, the family’s attorneys are calling for the firing of the CPS workers involved in wrongfully removing 2-year-old Charlotte and 5-month-old Mason.
The trouble started in July, when Mason fell from a lawn chair onto their cement driveway in Tomball. Melissa Bright immediately took Mason to the hospital for his head injury, but an MRI revealed that Mason had a second, smaller fracture and bleeding in his brain.
Melissa Bright couldn’t explain her child’s second fracture, which resulted in a child abuse prevention team determining that Mason’s injuries were “consistent with child abuse.” CPS workers decided that the children would need to be placed in the care of other family members.
But the Texas Children’s Hospital later found that Mason likely had a blood clotting disorder, which explained his additional health issues. Mason’s head injury also didn’t heal as planned and required the baby to have a hole drilled in his brain to relieve pressure.
Melissa Bright needed to nurse Mason in order to prevent a second injury, but CPS wouldn’t let the mother live with her child.
The family tried to work with the agency to move the child closer to home but case workers delayed getting approval, leading the family to bring their children home on their own. The move resulted in a caseworker, Lavar Jones, seeking emergency custody of the children in September without telling the court about Mason’s diagnosed blood disorder and a medical opinion that explained his second injury.
Jones was questioned weeks later in court about the agency’s reasons for removing the kids, and the caseworker pleaded the Fifth Amendment, which allowed her to decline to answer questions that might incriminate her.
“They lied in their affidavit, they lied in their sworn removal testimony and they have — when questioned about those lies — taken the Fifth,” said Dennis Slate, the family’s attorney.
The case is a sign of a “broken system” and the need for more accountability, the family’s attorneys said.
CPS spokeswoman Tejal Patel said the agency is reviewing options, including an appeal.
Schneider gave CPS two weeks to develop new training for its workers.
Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com