On June 7, the Pardo family, residents of Kaufman County, received a business card on their front door from a caseworker with Child Protective Services (CPS) regarding their four-year-old autistic son, Drake.
Ashley Pardo, Drake’s mother, called the caseworker, but was told that she would need to wait until June 10 to meet and that Daniel, Drake’s father, was not to be present.
Stunned, Ashley reached out to Krista McIntire, Director of Family Rights Advocacy, for assistance in the situation. Ashley and McIntire requested the caseworker disclose the case number and allegations, but their request was refused.
McIntire claims that this is not the first problem she has had, saying, “Family Rights Advocacy’s experience with Kaufman County’s Department of Family Protective Services did not begin with the Pardo family. Unfortunately, every family we helped through their investigation were rife with policy violations and coercive behavior.”
However, when McIntire found out that the Pardo’s were members of the Texas Home School Coalition (THSC), she knew that the family was entitled to legal assistance in CPS-related matters and sought a lawyer.
Chris Branson, the lawyer acting on THSC’s behalf, says he also went to the caseworker to ask about the allegations made against Drake’s parents. However, Branson says that the caseworker refused to disclose the allegations to him as well.
CPS is legally required to disclose information to families or their lawyers concerning such allegations. There are some select guidelines instructed to caseworkers in the CPS Handbook under section 2246.1, but these guidelines are part of an internal document and not statute.
After Branson was unable to gain the caseworker’s cooperation, he tried taking the matter to those higher up in CPS, but to no avail.
Then on June 20, CPS arrived at the Pardo’s front door with a court order for the emergency removal of Drake and an affidavit apparently signed by a doctor at the Dallas Children’s Hospital.
During the removal, the Pardos were finally shown the affidavit, but they were apparently not given a copy of the charges being levied against them: that of medical child abuse.
Drake’s parents had taken him to see doctors at the children’s hospital on several occasions. However, the Pardos were concerned that the doctors at the hospital had mistreated Drake and filed a complaint with the hospital in late April, almost two months prior to the removal by CPS.
The hospital said they would investigate the Pardo’s complaints and have it resolved in 45 days, but they did not hear from the hospital again.
Then on day 46, CPS arrived at their door with police officers to remove Drake from the home.
A fifteen-minute video that the family recorded during the removal can be found here.
According to the THSC, CPS did not inform the family of the allegation, failed to avoid the need for removal, and claimed that the removal was an emergency even though they delayed action for two weeks.
Branson remarked, “This is the United States of America, not Soviet Russia—parents are entitled to know the allegations charged against them.”
Since the incident, the Pardo family has continued to receive help from THSC, which has taken steps to support the family by raising funds to cover legal expenses and petition CPS to return Drake to his family. To raise awareness of the situation, they have started a social media campaign, #BringDrakeHome.
Family Rights Advocacy is also standing by the Pardo family. “We want to see Drake brought home, and will continue to support the Pardo family until he’s brought home safely,” said McIntire.
The Texan reached out to CPS for comment.
Shari Pulliam, a media specialist for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), confirmed that while CPS investigations are confidential, Drake was indeed removed from his family’s house and will be going to a licensed foster home until the investigation is finished.
Pulliam stated, “Our removal was conducted legally and signed by a Judge.”
The Pardo family will go to court for a scheduled hearing on July 2, where the family hopes the presiding judge will rule to have Drake returned home.
Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. While recently finishing his degree in Political Science from Azusa Pacific University, he also interned in the U.S. Senate and co-authored a book on C. S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy. In his spare time, he might be reading up on Dostoevsky or attempting to write a novel.