Daniel and Ashley Pardo's legal nightmare is finally over and they have their son, Drake, securely back at home with them.
On Tuesday, Kaufman County family court Judge Tracy Gray signed a dismissal order agreement between the Texas Child Protective Services and the Pardos, ending a battle that had literally torn four-year-old Drake Pardo from his parents' arms and sent him to foster care for months. It's legally over, but the horror of their five-month ordeal with Texas Child Protective Services likely will linger with the Pardos for a very long time.
As previously reported by CBN News, the Pardos' battle with CPS began in June when CPS representatives, aided by uniformed police, entered the Pardo home and seized their four-year-old son, Drake, taking him into protective custody. The Pardos say authorities did this with no explanation, with no one telling them why or giving them any information about the allegations against them.
This video, showing the couple to be shaken but calm, was recorded by the Pardos on a cell phone as the seizure took place. Houston television station KIAH
reported, "In the video, you can hear the husband and wife question the circumstances behind the situation, claiming that CPS never contacted them nor their attorney to provide any information."
Mr. Pardo was also heard saying, "We have an attorney that has asked many questions, and he has not gotten any answers. We're willing to work and cooperate, but we are not getting anything. It's been two weeks."
It eventually was learned that CPS claimed the couple was guilty of medical child abuse, but not for depriving their fragile son of medical treatment. Instead, they were accused of seeking medical care the child did not need.
The Pardos' problems apparently stem from a hospital stay in the spring when their young Drake, who has had numerous health challenges, suffered from complications during a medical procedure. As a result, he had to remain in the hospital for several more days. During that time, the Pardos say their son's doctor, who had performed the procedure, did not come by to check on him at all. After he was released, the Pardos got a new doctor and filed a complaint against the doctor at Children's Medical Center in Dallas for not properly caring for their son.
That doctor later handed Drake's medical files over to the "Child Abuse" office of the hospital, setting in motion the process that culminated in that momentous knock on the door and with the state of Texas taking a child from his parents, even though there had never been a whiff of abuse in the family.
LifeSite News reported at the time that at issue was whether the child, who had suffered from serious eating problems, needed a feeding tube to help him get enough nutrition. The physician disagreed with the parents' desire to get a second opinion - not on the need for a feeding tube, but on which feeding tube would be better for Drake.
The Christian Post quoted from documents in the case that CPS accused Drake's mother, Ashley Pardo, of "exaggerating and lying about (her son's) symptoms and conditions" and "demanding an unnecessary surgical procedure to place a G-tube."
From there, as the Pardos went to court to fight for their son, "it became clear that all medical care Drake had ever received had been prescribed by his attending physicians, none of whom CPS had ever spoken to before deciding to remove him from his home," according to Texas Home School Coalition, who fought on behalf of the Pardos throughout this ordeal.
In fact, THSC reports, "At the subsequent hearing on July 2, CPS argued that the 'emergency' which justified the removal of Drake was their concern that the family might seek medical care in the future which CPS believed might be unnecessary." (Italics ours)
This was despite admissions in testimony," THSC states, "that the family had never done such a thing before, had not indicated that they intended to do so in this case, and that the medical procedure in question was actually one which had been recommended to the family by multiple specialists."
But facts, it seemed, never entered into the actions taken by Child Protective Services. The agency continued to doggedly pursue its case and kept Drake in foster care until the Texas Supreme Court ordered him released to his parents on October 24th. Even then, CPS refused to dismiss the case. That is until Tuesday, December 3rd, when Judge Gray signed the dismissal order.
"We're really happy for the family," Tim Lambert, president of the Texas Home School Coalition (THSC), told The Texan. "It's a total travesty that this case ever came to this point."
Now the concern by parents and some interested Texas legislators is that this kind of abusive action by CPS does not happen to other families. In an editorial during its coverage of the case, Texas Scorecard summarized the concerns of many:
"Unfortunately, from the testimony ... there appears to be little or no supervisory oversight to ensure that overzealous caseworkers are actually working in the best interest of the child."
The Scorecard went on to say:
"In this instance, the CPS caseworker had:
never seen or talked to the child;
not seen or talked to the parents;
not seen or talked to family members;
not seen or talked to neighbors;
not conducted a background investigation;
not attempted to resolve the issue without removal;
refused to disclose the allegations to the parents or to their lawyer;
misquoted and misrepresented a hospital doctor's affidavit to obtain the court order and;
had no firsthand knowledge of any wrongdoing by the parents;
...but was allowed to initiate an 'emergency' action to remove a child from his parents and to begin the process to permanently terminate parental rights."
For those who supported the Pardos throughout this agonizing process, these facts make CPS reform a must. But never to be forgotten is the toll this ordeal had on real people, a real family with a sick child, and parents, who by the way, happened to be innocent of harming their child.
Jeremy Newman, THSC's Director of Public Policy, told CBN News, "The fact that CPS has decided to simply walk away from the case after dragging the Pardo family through this trauma for more than 5 months shows that there was never a case against the family to begin with. The Pardo family is not able to walk away so easily. This trauma will follow them for years, possibly forever. The Texas legislature was aware of this problem long before the Pardo case became national news. We're grateful for the intervention of dozens of legislators to help the Pardo family and bring attention to this problem, but ultimately our state's commitment to Texas families will be measured by what reforms we pass to protect families in the next legislative session."