August 9 Hearing:
On Friday, August 9, a status hearing was held in the Pardo case where the court considered what action steps would have to be taken before Drake could be sent home. Judge Tracy Gray, the same judge who signed the original emergency removal order on June 20, presided over the case. The tone of the hearing was strikingly different than the post-removal July 2 hearing presided over by Judge Michael Chitty, which Senator Bob Hall described as an “egregious injustice.”
While the scope of topics that may be considered at a status hearing is extremely narrow, several startling revelations were still made. Most strikingly, CPS brazenly asked that the court order Ashley and Daniel Pardo to admit to medical child abuse and to having “severe” mental health problems before they could have their son returned to them.
Nearly as incredible was when CPS was asked on the stand whether they had followed the required legal process in the construction of their recommendations for how the family could have their son returned home. When asked if they had followed CPS rules, along with state and federal law, the CPS caseworker responded “no.” The law requires that CPS develop the recommendations collaboratively with the family. Instead, CPS brought their pre-printed plan (which included a required admission of guilt) to the July 23 meeting with the family and then accused the family of “not cooperating” when they rejected the plan.
The attorney ad litem also asked the court to prohibit THSC from posting any updates about the case on social media, something the court has no jurisdiction to do because THSC is not a party to the case.
Judge Tracy Gray chastised CPS for the ridiculous list of requests included in their report to the court. Judge Gray threw out every item challenged by the family’s attorneys, ordered CPS to “expedite” their efforts to place Drake with family or friends and to start allowing the family to bring a third party witness to visits with Drake, something CPS has prohibited thus far.
While the hearing was a great success for the family, there is still a long way to go. Judge Gray clearly appeared frustrated by CPS’ brazenly unconstitutional requests (like a court-ordered admission of guilt). This offers a ray of hope that CPS may not be able to continue getting away with their illegal actions.
Intervention from the Texas Supreme Court:
On August 2, Ashley and Daniel Pardo requested emergency intervention by the Fifth Court of Appeals in Dallas after their son, Drake Pardo (age four), was illegally taken from his family by Child Protective Services (CPS) on June 20.
The family filed two motions asking the Court of Appeals to intervene on an emergency basis to stop the abuse being allowed by district Judge Michael Chitty. The family’s first motion was a petition for mandamus, asking the appellate court to return Drake home and detailing how Judge Chitty abused his discretion by removing Drake from Ashely and Daniel without any evidence against them.
In their second motion, the family filed an emergency motion to suspend, asking the court to immediately dismiss Judge Chitty’s latest order on the basis that it was illegally issued and it harms the rights of Ashley, Daniel, and Drake.
According to the family’s mandamus petition, “The trial court is supposed to be the gatekeeper to ensure that actions taken by CPS conform to Texas Constitutional and statutory law, and the trial court utterly failed to perform that vital function.”
On August 5, CPS filed a response to the family’s second emergency motion. In their response, CPS argued that Ashley and Daniel have nothing to complain about because Drake is receiving the same medical care which Ashley and Daniel would have given him. The response detailed repeatedly how the family has agreed to every medical recommendation being suggested for Drake and how the parents stated to the court that they plan to follow all recommendations from Drake’s doctors. CPS argued that because CPS and the parents plan to give Drake identical medical care, no harm is done by Drake remaining in state custody.
In essence, CPS claims that because the state is handling Drake’s medical needs the same way Drake’s actual parents had planned to, he might as well remain in state custody. It’s hard to imagine a more calloused view of family rights than this.
Apparently, the state does not believe that removing a child from his home or his family has any negative effect that the courts should consider.
CPS and the Pardos each filed additional briefs on the Writ of Mandamus. CPS’ response and the Pardo’s reply to that response are both available on the Court of Appeals website. The Texas Home School Coalition and the Texas Public Policy Foundation both filed amicus briefs with the appellate court in support of the Pardos. Texas Home School Coalition’s brief was joined by a coalition of 14 legislators and organizations including:
- Texas Eagle Forum
- Texas Pastor Counsel
- Concerned Women of America
- Texas Right to Life
- Texas Values
- Senator Bob Hall
- Senator Donna Campbell
- House Judiciary Chairman Jeff Leach
- Representative Matt Schaefer
- Representative Scott Sanford
- Representative Steve Toth
- Representative Mayes Middleton
- Representative Jonathan Stickland
- Representative Valoree Swanson
The Texas Public Policy Foundation also filed an amicus brief in defense of the Pardos and was joined by Senator Bob Hall and Representatives Valoree Swanson, Matt Krause, Mayes Middleton, Scott Sanford, and Matt Schaefer.
Despite this background, the Fifth Court of Appeals responded on July 21 and rejected the family’s request for mandamus without offering any explanation. Given the makeup of the court, this was a disappointment but not a surprise. The family has now filed their request for emergency relief with the Texas Supreme Court. THSC and other organizations will be filing amicus briefs on the family’s behalf.
CPS first made contact with the family on June 7, leaving a business card on the family’s door. Two weeks later, after repeated and unsuccessful attempts by the family and their attorney to obtain any information about the case, CPS suddenly declared an “emergency” and forcibly removed Drake from his home.Watch the video of CPS illegally taking Drake:
At the time of the removal, advocates from Family Rights Advocacy and the Parent Guidance Center were live on the phone, attempting to de-escalate the situation.
In a rough cell phone video captured by the family, the Pardos remained calm but can be seen challenging the caseworker’s claim to a two-week delayed “emergency” and the decision to suddenly remove Drake. Drake’s father, Daniel, can be heard for several minutes attempting to keep Drake calm as he is placed into the police car and as he asks repeatedly why his father is not coming with him.
On April 22, nearly two months prior to this horrific incident, the Pardos had filed an official complaint against Children’s Medical Center Dallas because of the refusal of one of Drake’s doctors to visit him while he was admitted to the hospital.
Children’s informed the family that they would review the matter and resolve it within 45 days. On day 46, with the family still having heard nothing from Children’s Medical Center, CPS showed up at the family’s door with an affidavit signed by one of the hospital’s doctors and removed Drake.
At a hearing on July 2, approximately 100 homeschoolers arrived to support the Pardos and their attorney as they argued that Drake should be returned home. During the hearing, testimony from CPS and Dr. Dakil of Children’s Medical Center left the audience in shock.
Dr. Dakil admitted on the stand that:
- She had never seen or met with Drake or his parents;
- She had no firsthand knowledge of Drake’s medical conditions;
- The concerns listed in her affidavit were all speculative and she could not confirm them or rule them out without speaking to the parents, a step she had not yet taken;
- Her concerns were not an emergency;
- She had not requested that Drake be removed from his home and only wanted CPS to facilitate a meeting with the family on June 10 to help address her concerns;
- She was surprised when CPS chose to remove Drake from his home;
- Going forward, her concerns could all be alleviated by having a sit-down conversation with the parents to create a treatment plan and having both parents attend future medical visits;
- She was not sure how that would be possible as long as Drake remained in CPS custody as CPS had been given conservatorship of Drake.
The CPS caseworker and her supervisor admitted in testimony that prior to the removal CPS had:
- never seen or talked to the child, the parents, family members, neighbors or any doctors who had firsthand knowledge of Drake’s condition;
- not conducted a background investigation;
- not pursued multiple opportunities to resolve the issue without removal;
- refused to disclose the allegations to the parents or to their lawyer;
- had no firsthand knowledge of any wrongdoing by the parents;
- had intentionally not informed the family of the June 10 meeting requested by Children’s Medical Center.
- decided there was an “emergency” because the family failed to attend the June 10 meeting they were never informed of.
- decided there was an emergency based on the concerns provided by Dr. Dakil, despite Dr. Dakil’s testimony that her concerns were not an emergency.
State Sen.Bob Hall, who attended the July 2 hearing, recently recounted his observations and his disbelief at the “egregious miscarriage of justice” that is taking place in the case.
To add to the list of offenses, when the July 2 hearing began it was discovered that CPS and the attorney ad litem had failed to respond to the valid discovery requests from the Pardo’s attorney.
Observers in the courtroom were left searching for anything that CPS had done correctly during their gross mishandling of the case.
Despite the lack of any evidence against the family and the admissions by CPS of their gross and repeated mishandling of the case, Judge Michael Chitty granted every single request made by CPS’s attorney (including leaving Drake in CPS custody) and issued a gag order preventing the family from discussing the case publicly.
CPS saves thousands of children from legitimate situations of abuse. Their incredibly difficult job and the considerable weight of their responsibility is something that none of us should envy. However, when laws are broken without a second thought, CPS can quickly become the source of trauma in a child’s life.
When this happens, judges, lawmakers and the public must be willing to stand up to defend innocent families.
The jaw-dropping events of the Pardo case follow a series of high profile and egregious errors committed by CPS overreach in Texas.
- In 2018, CPS was sanctioned $127,000 for lying to a Houston judge and fabricating an emergency in order to seize the two children of Melissa and Dillon Bright.
- Also in 2018, the two children of Lyndsay and Jason Grant were severely abused during a short stay in the foster care system when CPS wrongfully removed their children after having officially ruled out any abuse by the family.
- In 2017, the Tutt family came through a three-year nightmare after a CPS caseworker perjured herself and the agency accused the family of having no “state-approved homeschool curriculum,” something that does not exist.
- In 2016, CPS was ordered by a Houston judge to pay $27,000 in sanctions and to have agency staff read the U.S. and Texas Constitutions after the judge said CPS “knowingly mislead the court” in order to remove a child who they knew was not in any danger.
- In 2011, CPS was sanctioned $32,000 when the judge found that CPS had acted in “bad faith” to obtain an “illegal” emergency order for the removal of three children.
Since the removal of Drake, the Pardo’s two other children have been fearful of any strangers who enter the house and have asked repeatedly why their brother was taken.
Observers in the courtroom described the illegal removal of Drake Pardo as a “state-sanctioned kidnapping.”
We can’t let them get away with breaking the law and abusing the Pardo family. We need your help to #BringDrakeHome.
So, what can you do to help?
The homeschool community has often rallied to defend each other from state overreach. It’s time to do it again. THSC is raising money to cover the costs of what could be a very expensive legal defense for the Pardos. We need to raise $100,000 to bring Drake home.
Here is what you can do to help #BringDrakeHome:
- Donate and sign the petition to #BringDrakeHome.
- Call Governor Abbott and tell him that Drake Pardo was illegally removed from his family and that Texas needs Governor Abbott to make CPS reform a priority during the legislative interim and during the next legislative session in 2021 (check the action tool below for instructions).
- Pray for the family and for Drake’s safe return.
It is easy to invade one home at a time. If we let them get away with this, they will do it again.
Help us #BringDrakeHome by donating, signing the petition and telling Governor Abbott to rein in CPS’s abuse of power.