At a court hearing on Friday, Judge Tracy Gray ruled to have Drake Pardo moved out of the foster home that Child Protective Services (CPS) placed him in and place him instead with fictive kin.
Specifically, Drake will now be living with someone who served as his physical and occupational therapist for a little over a year.
Nearly two months ago at a status hearing on August 9, Judge Gray ruled that CPS needed to expedite a home study for a placement outside of foster care within two weeks.
No home study was filed with the court until late September on the morning after Chris Branson, the Pardo family’s lawyer, filed a motion to compel CPS to finally act on the order.
CPS’s lawyers claimed that they were not “dragging their feet” in conducting the home study, but that they were delayed by the bureaucratic process that they said often takes 30-60 days.
The CPS conservatorship program director on the case stated that the contractor who was conducting the home study had not been notified that the home study needed to be expedited.
She received the study back from the contractor on August 26 and said the process was further delayed because CPS needed to investigate some remaining concerns about the home.
In their findings from the study, CPS opposed the placement based primarily on a psychological evaluation of Drake that diagnosed him with somatic symptom disorder (SSD), implying that he has been trained to think of himself as sick.
After a request from CPS to be more specific in her recommendations, the psychologist said that Drake needed to be around “healthy children” to essentially unlearn his alleged training of thinking himself to be sick.
Since the therapist being considered for a placement also has a thirteen-year-old son with extreme special needs and developmental disorders, CPS argued against placing him in that home.
When probed by Branson, the psychologist stated that her recommendation was based on an interview with Drake’s foster mother who said that he was “taught to be sick,” echoing the allegations of medical child abuse CPS made against the Pardos.
The psychologist affirmed that she did not know why the foster mother made that claim and that it could have been made based on conversations she had with others.
Based on the hearing, the report also states that when the psychologist asked Drake why he was in CPS care, he mentioned the “tubes” and “wheelchair,” and that “the judge doesn’t like that,” even though he was not at any of the court hearings.
The psychologist claimed that the immediate mention of medical devices as part of the evidence that Drake demonstrated SSD. However, Branson pointed out that Drake’s corresponding claim that “the judge doesn’t like that” showed that someone had told him about the court hearings and why he was removed from his family.
CPS also expressed concern that it might not be best for Drake to be placed with the therapist since she is a single mother and currently lives in an RV with her disabled son.
Although a testifying caseworker argued that the space may not be large enough for a four-year-old boy to play in, she said that the living arrangements were satisfactory and that the location also had an outdoor playground.
Ultimately, Judge Gray decided that it was in Drake’s best interest to be placed with the therapist for the time being. She reasoned that it would be good for him to be under the watchful eye of nurses who help care for the therapist’s son.
The Pardo case is also still pending in the Texas Supreme Court, where lawyers have petitioned a writ of mandamus for Drake to be returned home to his family.
The scope of Friday’s hearing was limited to moving Drake out of foster care and into the therapist’s home, so although Drake is still not being returned to his family, it’s still seen a victory for the Pardos.
Drake’s move out of the foster home is planned for Tuesday, October 8.
This is a developing story. For more information, please see the other articles published by The Texan linked to in the timeline below.
- June 22: CPS removed the child from his family.
- July 2: District court issued a gag order on parties involved and ruled in favor of CPS, granting them temporary managing conservatorship.
- August 2: Pardo family brought case to an appellate court, petitioning for a writ of mandamus to have Drake released from CPS custody.
- Read also: a detailed analysis by The Texan on the accusations of medical child abuse against the family and accusations against CPS of conducting the removal illegally.
- August 9: A status hearing (separate from the case in the appellate court) was held at the district court. The court instructed CPS to rewrite the family service plan—the way in which Drake could be returned to the family apart from a mandamus—jointly with the family after the testifying caseworker admitted she had violated CPS policy by not including the family in the formation of the first plan.
- August 21: The appellate court denied the family’s petition for a writ of mandamus.
- August 28: The family’s lawyers brought the request for mandamus to the Texas State Supreme Court.
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.