Texas CPS Illegally Seizes Children, Makes Them Ill

Texas Child Protective Services (CPS) illegally seized 465 children from parents in a religious sect based on an anonymous, fabricated allegation by a woman outside the sect pretending to be a member.  The state appeals court recently ruled against the seizure of many of those children.

As Jacob Sullum notes, while CPS justified its actions by citing the sect’s “pervasive belief system” (which favors early marriage and approves of polygamy), it seized even the children of adult, monogamous married couples, and even some adults mistakenly branded as minors.  Even by “the state’s current count, underage mothers represent no more than 3 percent of the children it seized.”

Many children suffered while in CPS custody:

“The first parents to be reunited with their children after the appeals court’s ruling, which CPS has asked the Texas Supreme Court to reverse, were Joseph and Lori Jessop, both EMTs in their 20s. The monogamous couple’s children—two boys and a girl, ages 1, 2, and 4—became ill during their state-imposed separation and had to be hospitalized.  When they were released, CPS caseworkers forcibly pulled the two older children from their mother. Until a judge intervened, CPS threatened to take the youngest child as well, saying nursing babies older than 12 months were not allowed to remain with their mothers.  Not surprisingly, the Jessops’ older children are anxious these days, waking up repeatedly during the night and displaying regressive behavior. There was never any evidence that their parents abused them, but there’s plenty that the state did.” 

In a case in another State (Doe v. Lebbos), Judge Andrew Kleinfeld described what happened to a little girl after she was seized by CPS from her father after false abuse allegations:

“After being bounced around in the agency and foster parent bureaucracy for over a year, Lacey . . . was ‘diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, hearing voices, and suicidal ideation.’ She was put on anti-psychotic medication. She had taken to smearing feces and to other abnormal and highly disruptive behavior. . . what the county did to her to “protect’ her apparently destroyed her. Something in this experience, perhaps being ripped away from her father for whom she consistently expressed love during the whole miserable period, perhaps having strangers strip her and search her heretofore private parts, perhaps being put with caretakers instead of her father, amounted to a trauma that was too much for her.”

In England, social workers seize children who have admittedly never been abused, based on mere speculation that they may be abused in the future — and are rewarded for doing so by receiving adoption bonuses.  In the U.S., temporary seizures can sometimes become permanent even when the abuse allegation used to justify the seizure turns out to be false.

Earlier, I and others explained how the Texas seizures violated constitutional principles barring seizures prior to a full, contested judicial hearing absent a showing of imminent harm.

Cato’s Timothy Lynch wrote about this travesty in National Review.