Monday, October 31, 2011

Texas - CPS removes kids after mysterious incident prompts investigation

By Anna Waugh

Almost three months after an 11-year-old Willis girl disappeared one evening and was discovered delirious and bleeding in a ditch hours later, she and her 13-year-old sister were removed by a Child Protective Services emergency order from their home because of possible neglect.

CPS officials arrived around 5 p.m. Tuesday at the family’s home in the Royal Forest subdivision when the girls’ parents were grocery shopping, mother Jade Polk said. Polk’s mother was watching the girls and refused to open the door, but agreed to do so after they allegedly threatened to kick the door down and have the grandmother arrested.

Without cell phone reception inside the store, Polk said listening to a voicemail in the parking lot left by her panicked mother “just killed her,”knowing she would go home to a house without her kids.

“It was a shock,” she said.

Polk’s youngest daughter went missing for a few hours July 31 after she was last seen playing with their family dog around 7:45 p.m. and later found around 9:50 p.m. in front of a home on Royal Sterling Drive, about 1-1/2 miles from her home. She was covered in bruises with blood splattered across her body from a nose bleed and did not recognize her parents.

She was rushed to Conroe Regional Medical Center, where she was diagnosed with a severe concussion. The possibility of a sexual assault was ruled out with a rape kit, and she was released a few days later on Aug. 2.

Since then, Polk said, numerous doctor visits later at three hospitals have made doctors conclude that her daughter has a neurological disorder, but a three-month waiting list to see a pediatric neurologist at Texas Children’s Hospital has delayed any more tests and answers.

“She still doesn’t know what happened to her,” Polk said. “She’s blank.”

According to the emergency order, CPS presented the case Tuesday before 410th state District Court Judge K. Michael Mayes and was granted an emergency removal based on an "immediate danger to the physical health or safety of the children or the children have been the victims of neglect or sexual abuse.”

CPS workers told Polk and her husband Wednesday that the reason for removing their children was because they did not continue to take their daughter to counseling or participate in family counseling, which was recommended by a CPS case worker after a home visit suggested the girl see a counselor at Children’s Safe Harbor in Conroe to help her try to remember what happened the night she disappeared.

But after one visit, Polk said, her daughter was uncomfortable with the constant questions by the counselor asking if her parents hurt her. Her parents then decided to have a family friend who attends a nearby church to counsel her so she would feel more comfortable, Polk said.

Instructions can be either verbal or written and in CPS cases where the safety is a concern, parents are asked to participate in services relevant to the case – like counseling – and the children are removed without warning by emergency removal if they do not comply, CPS spokeswoman Gwen Carter said.

“If a family doesn’t cooperate and abuse or neglect is a concern, we can go to the court to request to remove the children and put them in a safe environment,” Carter said, adding that both girls are together in a foster home.

Now knowing the lack of official counseling was viewed by CPS as a neglectful decision, Polk said she had no idea her decision would result in her daughters' removal because she was never given any written documentation about counseling, so did not think continuing to take her daughter to CSH or participate in family counseling was mandatory.

In such situations, CPS is "put into the position where it is more difficult to explain inaction as opposed to action," regardless of the validity of the accusation at the time it was made, Conroe attorney E. Tay Bond said.

“When you have a governmental agency that is tasked with performing a family function," he said, "there is no possible way for CPS to function as well as a caring family does.”

The family’s financial situation also leads Polk to believe that her family is being targeted because they are low-income. Polk has a job, she said, but her husband recently filed for disability.

Regardless of their income, Polk said, she always ensures her children have food to eat and clothes to wear every day, as well as proper medical care.

“I think we’ve been wrongly accused,” she said. “There’s been no neglect.”

She has lined up 10 character witnesses to speak on her behalf at a hearing Monday morning that will consist of neighbors, friends and the girls’ teachers, and plans to request that the girls be turned over to another family member for the time being so they will be around family.

“I’m there for my kids. I do not neglect my kids,” Polk said. “I would bleed for them.”

James Ridgway, Jr. contributed to this report.


No comments:

Post a Comment