Texas Raids Prompt Renewed Calls for CPS Reform

Sacramento, CA – The Texas Supreme Court declared last week that the state’s Department of Family Protective Services (CPS) acted illegally in rounding up hundreds of mothers and children from a suspected polygamist sect. Meanwhile, the anonymous phone call that led to the raid has been traced to a troubled woman in Colorado with multiple personalities and a history of making false calls. That woman has since been arrested.

But while national attention has focused on the bizarre events in Texas, attorneys across the nation insist that abuses of power by many states’ child protective services – referred to collectively as CPS – are all too common, and little has been done by legislators to address them.

“The reality is that, in California and many other states, parents under investigation by CPS have fewer due process protections than suspected rapists or murderers,” said Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute. “Children can be forcibly removed from their families based on pure suspicion with little or no evidence. There is an institutional mindset that parents are guilty until proven innocent.”

PJI receives calls and e-mails almost daily from parents who have suddenly found themselves being investigated by CPS. Oftentimes, as in the Texas case, the investigation is based on one anonymous phone call. Even when CPS closes a file and no criminal charges are filed, parents in California can be listed on the state’s Child Abuse Central Index, destroying their reputations and in some cases, their livelihoods.

PJI has drafted model legislation for all states and the federal government which would restore basic protections to families torn apart by anonymous, unfounded calls to CPS. To date, however, most states have been slow to respond. Two years ago, Mr. Dacus traveled to Texas and addressed a gathering of legislators from thirty-four states, urging them to push for common-sense CPS reforms. Had such safeguards been enacted in Texas, the ill-advised raid which is now a black eye for that state could have been avoided.