COURT WATCH REPORT OCTOBER 15, 2014Associate District Court 325th in Tarrant County, Texas
CPS fights in court to do the right thing, but child’s ad litem fighting against reunification with mother
Two court watchers observed CPS argue to Judge Terri White, the biological mother is fit to care for her two children removed from her home 15 months ago and placed in a foster home. CPS attorney, Melissa Paschall, called witnesses and reiterated CPS’ purpose is to reunify parents with their children. The mother has completed all of her services, is not accepting any welfare or government aid, is currently raising a 5 month old baby and is living with her parents in a nice four bedroom home.
Last year, the father of the two children committed family violence and injured one of the children. Luckily the child’s injury is not permanent, however the father was booked, charged, did time in jail and currently is on probation. Court watchers did not hear any testimony supporting why CPS took the children from the mother in the first place. Court watchers have observed other victims of domestic violence lose their children in other cases too.
The children have been in foster care since June 2013. The mother has taken many classes including:
1. A drug program through CPS because she admitted to CPS that she had done drugs as one time in the past.
2. Individual counseling sessions.
3. Parenting classes.
4. 10 week FOCUS classes with NewDay Services.
5. Attended drug and alcohol classes with Safe Haven because she tested positive for marijuana.
6. Has assessments at the Recovery Resource Council in Fort Worth.
The mother’s drug test results are negative, she has a job, a stable home with the support of her parents, no longer in a relationship with the abusive father of her children; so, what’s the problem? The problem is the court appointed ad litem attorney representing the two children is objecting to the reunification. Attorney Laurie Robinson objected constantly to any information offered to the court suggesting the mother was a positive role model. The children are under the age of 5 and they have an attorney actively working to keep them in the foster care program. Robinson’s focus to the court was who the father was of the 5 month old baby the mother has had since her children were removed last year. The baby is not included in this suit, nor is Robinson representing the baby as the ad litem attorney.
The mother, who resides in Arlington, is only allowed a visit every 2 weeks in the Dallas CPS office. This arrangement seems to be very inconvenient for the mother and her attorney, Sonya Carillo argued this point as well. Arlington does not have public transportation and on a couple of occasions the mother has missed visits with her kids due to problems with her vehicle.
Robinson did not find this excusable and doggedly wanted the CPS caseworker to testify to the court that the mother was lying about her transportation problems. Instead, the CPS caseworker testified that CPS seeks to reunify children with their parents but this case has taken longer because the department wanted to be satisfied with the care the mother would give her new baby and the foster parents of her 2 children didn’t agree with the return of the children. CPS also said under oath, the 5 month old was not removed because their were no grounds, there are no services left for the mother to complete, the mother has done an excellent job with services and her new baby, she has never committed domestic violence on her kids, and the children’s therapist has only worked with the foster parents and has never worked with the mother.
This case will be dismissed in two months and the foster parents hired attorney Greg Housewirth to intervene in this case two days ago. Housewirth filed a Petition to Intervene for Termination and Adoption of Child on behalf of his clients. Interestingly, Mr. Housewirth appeared at this hearing when his clients were not part of the motion. The judge allowed him to sit with counsel and he attempted to ask questions and make objections. The mother’s court appointed attorney, Carillo, continuously reminded the court the inappropriateness for his behavior and presence, but the judge only made exceptions for him. Judge White allowed him to cross examine witnesses on the stand through the ad litem attorney. Attorneys Paschall and Carrillo throughout the hearing were visibly irritated with the many exceptions the judge was allowing.
Even worse, Judge White and attorney Robinson would interrupt attorney Carrillo’s line of questioning of the CPS caseworker. CPS was answering questions related to findings and investigations of the mother by their department. Judge White and Robinson both interrupted and discussed together what they remembered was different than what was being offered in testimony. CPS attorney Paschall was able to validate the caseworker’s testimony.
The therapist, Andrea M. Davis LPC., in this case was clearly biased. She had never met the mother, but was able to make recommendations and opinions of the mother’s ability to parent based on other therapist’s progress notes and CPS’s records. The mother’s attorney obviously objected and asked how she could offer an opinion based on someone else’s opinion. The therapist has weekly counseling sessions at the foster parent’s home or in her office (total of 24 times) but is not willing to hold any sessions in the mother’s home. I believe at one time while the therapist was testifying, the ad litem offered to the court the older child has PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). CPS and the mother’s attorney kept objecting, but the judge would side with the ad litem. Attorney Robinson may be a nurse, but she not licensed as a psychiatrist or psychologist who can diagnose mental illnesses.
The judge was to rule on CPS’ motion to allow the mother to have 4 hour unsupervised visitations with her boys to start a process of a rapid return of permanency in their mother’s home. CPS reiterated in the hearing their desire to reunite the children with their mother as this is always their goal. The judge’s ruling is unknown at this time, however, she did rule the mother is court ordered to take a paternity DNA test to determine who the father of her 5 month old baby is, who is not a part of this suit.
On this day, PPC Court Watcher’s witnessed CPS fighting to do what is in the child’s best interest of the children, while the court appointed attorney fought to keep the children from their mother.
In this case, there are 4 court appointed attorneys paid by Tarrant County. So far a total of $4683.54 has been spent on the case just in attorney fees. In CPS cases, attorneys are paid $100 an hour. According to invoices submitted to the court, the ad litem attorney, Laurie Robinson, has been paid a disproportionate amount in this case. Robinson has made $3600 (76%) and the mother’s attorney, Sonya Carrillo, has been paid $613.54 (13%) of the total fees expenditures. The percentages actually represent the number of hours the attorneys have worked on the case and according to the invoices. Robinson has worked 36 hours representing the two toddler children versus Carrillo who was just as prepared for court, has worked 6 hours representing the mother.
This case begs the question, whose interests is the court protecting?