After having charges dropped against them, a Texas family still has its name on a child abuse registry.
"Texas Child Protective Services (CPS) is able to place a family on that list completely at their own discretion," says Jeremy Newman, director of public policy at the Texas Home School Coalition. "So, even if the family is declared totally innocent in court, after that case is over, CPS still has the authority to place them on the registry – and once they're on that registry, that will show up on background checks."
According to Newman, that can prevent individuals from getting employment or from certain types for volunteer opportunities. "And it can follow them forever," he emphasizes.
In December 2019, CPS dismissed a case against the Pardo family and dropped all allegations involving the family's four-year-old son, Drake. This was after CPS removed the boy from his home in June 2019. The attorney explains the reason for the child's removal.
"There was a doctor who the family filed an official complaint against because he had refused to visit Drake while he was in care," says Newman. "The doctor they complained against ended up asking a different doctor at the hospital – who is kind of a specialist in child abuse and neglect – to start investigating the family, and they removed him on the allegation that the family was seeking unnecessary medical care."
Texas Home School Coalition is involved in the case because the Pardo family is a member of Texas Home School Coalition, and membership includes representation in a CPS investigation.
Attorneys are now appealing to the Office of Consumer Relations (OCR), an office within CPS tasked with reviewing appeals; and THSC has launched a petition in defense of the Pardo family.
"This family kind of demonstrates how you don't have to have done anything wrong to have your life completely destroyed by a state agency that goes rogue," says Newman. "CPS does a lot of good thing and protects a lot of children – but when a state agency tasked with work as important as they do makes a mistake, it devastates somebody, and we can't treat that like an acceptable loss.
"So, for the average family there's a possibility this could happen to anyone because you don't have to have done something guilty to end up in this position – and even if it doesn't happen to you, the fact that we know it's happening to other innocent families requires us to do something."
After CPS removed Drake from his home – THSC says he was "kidnapped" – a petition for his return was signed by 43,000 people. Meanwhile, a video of the case received more than 2.4 million views, $130,000 was raised for his defense, and the Texas Supreme Court ordered Drake be returned home.