Today, a family court in Kaufman County put an end to the ongoing Child Protective Services (CPS) case regarding four-year-old Drake Pardo.
Judge Tracy Gray signed a dismissal agreement between CPS and Drake’s parents, Ashley and Daniel, effectively bringing a close to the controversial case that has captured the attention of many in Texas.
In June, CPS removed the Pardos’ son while refusing to disclose what allegations had been made against them.
After the removal, the Pardos discovered that the allegation made against them was of medical child abuse, a rare psychological condition where a parent — usually the mother — will exaggerate or fabricate illnesses to have a child medically treated.
Since Drake, who has had developmental problems his whole life, had some feeding issues, the Pardos consulted their doctors to see what could be done to help him keep up his weight.
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.
The CPS caseworker assigned to the case attempted to visit the family at their home on Friday, June 7, but missed them while they were out and left a business card on the door.
Later that day, Ashley called the caseworker, who arranged to meet with them on the following Monday, but did not tell them what accusations were being made against them or that the child abuse pediatrician wanted to evaluate Drake.
Ashley reached out to Krista McIntire, the director of Family Rights Advocacy, for help in the situation.
When McIntire found out that the Pardos were members of the Texas Home School Coalition (THSC), she knew that the organization could help provide legal assistance.
Chris Branson began representing the family on June 11, and his requests to CPS for the disclosure of the allegations against the Pardos were repeatedly denied.
The child abuse pediatrician, who had been out of the office, contacted the caseworker about a week later to ask why Drake never showed up to be admitted.
On June 20, the caseworker arrived at the Pardos’ front door with a police escort and a court order for the emergency removal of Drake signed by Judge Tracy Gray.
A few weeks later on July 2, Judge Michael Chitty ruled in favor of CPS.
While the CPS case continued operating under the assumption that medical child abuse had occurred, the Pardos appealed the case by filing a petition for a writ of mandamus.
The appellate court denied the request, though, so the Pardos brought it to the Texas State Supreme Court.
Many elected officials and several organizations, including THSC and the Texas Public Policy Foundation, showed their support for the Pardos by filing amicus briefs with the court arguing against the actions taken by CPS in the case.
While the case was left pending with the state supreme court, CPS continued working on it.
A status hearing was held at the district court in Kaufman on August 9.
At that hearing, Judge Gray 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.
Gray also instructed CPS to expedite the process of evaluating a home of a relative or family friend to move Drake to so that he would not need to remain in a foster home.
The move was not expedited, though, so at a hearing on October 4, Gray ruled for Drake to be moved into the home of a family friend — despite the objection from CPS.
A few weeks later, on October 24, the Texas Supreme Court ordered Drake to be returned home with his family, though they did not rule on the request for mandamus.
Before today’s hearing, CPS and the Pardos’ attorneys reached an agreement for a dismissal.
Concerned that Ashley had been the parent who pushed for the G-tube, CPS emphasized the need for the parents to promise that they would make joint medical decisions — something the parents said they had done all along, so they did not hesitate to agree to that.
Courtney Wortham, the attorney ad litem in the case who also facilitates adoptions, objected to the agreement, but Judge Gray still signed the dismissal.
Before signing it, Gray said that she was “only signing it because [the CPS attorney] says she’s good with it.”
She also emphasized to the parents her original concern that she doesn’t “want a child to have a hole in his stomach who doesn’t need it,” which is why she says she signed the removal order in the first place.
“We’re really happy for the [Pardo] family,” said Tim Lambert, the president of THSC. “It’s a total travesty that this case ever came to this point. I think it is indicative of where this case was that the Texas Supreme Court ordered the child to be sent home and CPS decided to dismiss the case.”
State Senator Bob Hall (R-Edgewood), who was at the hearing today and has been supporting the Pardos since the first hearing, rejoiced at the case being put to an end for Drake, but said that CPS only agreed to the dismissal to avoid a potentially harsh ruling from the Texas Supreme Court on the mandamus.
Now that the dismissal has been signed, the request at the state supreme court is moot.
The hope from those who supported the Pardos is that the Texas legislature will act on CPS reform in the next session.
“This happens to thousands of families and families don’t always have the kind of advocates and resources that the Pardos had,” said Lambert. “So we’re looking forward to the next legislative session. CPS reform has to happen. We’ve got to protect children and families from this kind of state abuse.”
For more information on the Pardo case, 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.
- October 4: A status hearing at the district court resulted in Drake being allowed to be moved out of foster care and into the home of a friend of the family.
- October 24: The Texas Supreme Court issued an order to have Drake returned home to live with his family as the case continued. The petition for a writ of mandamus was left pending with the court.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.