To read Part Two click here
My initial goal when I started this project was to shed some light on Foster Care, in the state of Texas and throughout the country. Having been a part of it myself and having my daughter illegally subjected to 13 years of it as the result of a war fought on her behalf, I started this with two perspectives. One of my own and one of my daughter’s. Because of what she has been through and the fact that she wants to put all of this behind her, the scope of my article has to change somewhat. I love my daughter far beyond anything else and I would never take a freedom she wishes against. So with that in mind, I will write this in general with facts of our case throughout. I will limit the private information on her but still remain on topic about the lawsuit and the fight for her by so many.
Anytime that I refer to my daughter I will use “my daughter”, and anytime I refer to the woman that fought so long on her behalf I will use “Angel.” My focus is on the case and not the people involved. I could write BOOKS about the woman, whom I love and who fought so strong and hard for me and the girl who will forever be her daughter, but that is for another day. People like her don't come along and when they do you have to wonder what you did right in this world to be blessed with someone like this in your corner. I have reflected on my life and cannot understand how I would come to be loved by someone like her. It is a strange thing about men... in matters of war and business we can be giants, wise to a fault. In matters of the heart we tend to be like children. Women are a different matter; they see the child in a man for what it is. She knew me from day one, all the broken pieces she just calmly put back into place as if setting a table. Before I knew what happened she did for me what I thought impossible. One can say that blood is thicker than water, and redemption larger than death, that effort is greater than deed. Within every bad person is a good person crying to get out, a beautiful self beneath the flaws in need of some help. She knew that. I didn't.
Some people act in extraordinary ways to alleviate the suffering of others, with whom they otherwise have no ties. A normal human response is to be disturbed by the very fact of suffering. Our strongest feelings of empathy may be aroused by those closest to us, but we are still moved by the stories of misery from complete strangers. Much of the suffering could be prevented or alleviated but to accomplish this, people would have to risk their own sense of comfort and THAT is not what many will do. It is one thing to witness suffering from a distance and wish to change it. It's another to open yourself up to that same pain by risking YOUR own peace to change it. My wife fell instantly in love with my daughter, as if she was already hers. She was not with her so she simply decided to go get her. It became a war that lasted until she aged out at 18. In the end we won but what was stolen cannot be replaced or repaired so there are no winners really.
After I came to prison my daughter stayed with her biological mother. I would write home and send her what little I could to show her that I loved her. The disconnect is undeniable though and what happens in so many cases is that we inmates find out about events long after the fact. I first learned about my daughter being in the custody of CPS from a member of my adoptive family. All I knew was that she had been there for about 90 days. When I heard that I relived my whole past, strange and sudden. I felt an animal terror growing in me. Even the most commonplace, innocent details bore the imprint of my past, chilling me to the bone. I labored under the weight of that same past, of wounds received or imagined, of irreparable mistakes, of the irredeemability of time. Struggling against it, to hide my face and my fear did no good. All I wanted at that point was to extract her from that painful place, to wipe the slate clean so she‘d be able to begin new things. My thoughts flew round and round, set off on insane tangents, caught in the jerking rhythm of catastrophe. I wasn‘t sure of anything anymore and nothing at all made sense. All I knew was I had to change it and NOW.
Initially I had my full parental rights because I had never harmed my daughter. So I was contacted by her caseworker, a great woman. My goal in this article is not to demonize people. It is not to demonize CPS. I read some comments posted after the first part by a former worker and that is what they thought I was doing. Sometimes the facts are ugly and hearing them laid bare by someone in the way that I do must be hard for someone who prides themselves in working with an agency tasked with child welfare. Good people can be part of a bad system though. Her caseworker kept in constant contact with me and I exchanged who knows how many letters with her. My adoptive family could not take her but had some friends that wanted to foster her and her little sister. The little sister was not mine but my daughter was her sole caretaker since she was born. So the baby thought my daughter was her mother. She had to assume the role of a parent at five years old and worry about the baby choking and try to protect her in a dope haven. The case worker told me that she would carry her on her hip like a 20 year old and had no concept anymore of what it meant to be a child. That breaks my heart to write. They tested her IQ and she was off the charts. I knew she would be because she learned her letters with me during bath time with magnet letters stuck to the side. I would ask her for specific ones and then she would ask me for one in return. I would feign not knowing which one it was and choose the wrong one only to have my baby girl waggle her finger and tell me NOPE. So for them to tell me that she was on a different level than most kids was not at all surprising. IQ scores are not the silver lining people think that they are. Gifted children are often forced apart from their friends because people push them to study and not play like regular children. They are treated different and expectations are laid at their feet without regard for their feelings. Many are often troubled and silently suffocate under the demands of people too caught up to see anything but their own plans for a child who just wants to be a kid. So I was not all that excited about her IQ. I know what it brings to the table and would not want that for any child of mine.
When my adoptive family told me about the friends that wanted both children I was excited because they lived right across the street from them and my daughter loved my adoptive family beyond measure. If they could not take her that at least she would be close by and have the comfort of seeing people she knew and loved. I worked with CPS to have her placed there and as part of that deal I agreed to sign away my parental rights to expedite the adoption process. I cannot convey the pain that went into that decision but I knew I had to give all I had left in order to make sure she would not be subjected to the life that haunted me then to this day. So I was sent the paperwork and signed it. I kept every page of that agreement other than the page with the signature because I could not stand for it to be sent back after reading it. I wanted to destroy it and I did. She was put there only to be mistreated and abused, poisoning any relationship I would ever have with my adoptive family. I don’t blame them for the abuse but they could have taken her themselves and did not and THAT led to the abuse. They gave me the names of the people who would abuse my daughter and that cannot be repaired between us. I love and I miss them but if my little girl is not good enough for them to fight for, then I am better off alone. I've been that way most of my life anyway even when others were around.
My daughter was placed in home after home and because I had no parental rights anymore I could not help her. I wrote to CPS repeatedly and they refused to work with me at all anymore. Her caseworker was no longer a part of her case and in losing her we both lost something we needed. CPS’s stance at that point toward me was that I had given up my rights and had no claim on information regarding my daughter’s welfare. No matter what I wrote, they refused to respond with anything more than that. I used to lie in bed at night and think of the stars. They always made me feel sleepy but now I worried that if I slept, that I would be throwing away what little time I had left to help my baby. There is much more to life than merely waiting for death to happen. For life to have a meaning, there must be a purpose. For most of us purpose revolves around love and marriage and children who will carry on after us. For others it is an ideal, a dream if you like. To me, death is preferable to betrayal of a child. So I set about trying to claw something back for my daughter from the ruin of my plans and dreams that lay smoking at my feet. The pebble starts the landslide and I was intent on kicking at every pebble. I am not strong. I never was. I have failed everyone that ever trusted me. My whole life has been a failure - my death MUST achieve something. That is all that I could think about. Changing SOMETHING for the better instead of leaving it ruined in my hands. I told everyone about her. I tried everything to get help. I was naive thinking that someone would just get her and take care of her. I assumed people would love her the way that I did. As time went by I wondered if I would live long enough to help her. Angel became a hero to the both of us. I had been alone fighting for my daughter for roughly four years. I was writing all over the country trying to find out information and hoping someone would step up. I received a letter from a production company wanting to do a interview, the staff would decide based on an attached questionnaire. I wrote on a separate page that I would do anything that they asked if they would give me some time at the end of the interview to talk to my daughter and then send the tape where I wanted because it may be the only chance I get to talk to my little girl. The staff took my letter to the owner of the studio and told her that they chose me. They sent 100 letters and because I wrote about my baby girl...they wanted me. I did not write for effect. I wrote because I was losing time and getting nowhere and I seriously did not think I would live long enough for her to HEAR me tell her what she means to me and this way and she would be able to SEE me saying it. I wanted that more than anything, for me and for her. This beautiful little girl...the one that I would sing with. The one for whom I learned how to French braid so I could do her hair. The one that brought me her dolls so I could blowdry their hair the way that I did hers because she did not want them to get sick. The one that would stand by my side of the bed at night if she got scared and wait for me to wake up so she could get in bed with me. This girl who gave me butterfly kisses with her eyelashes and had such a tight grip on my heart that I forgot it belonged to me too. I wanted this for her because at least it would be SOMETHING.
The owner contacted me and our story began there. Over the course of a year or so she and I fell in love. After almost nine years we still are. When I told her about my daughter the way I told everyone she started looking into things without my knowing about it. I was telling her about my daughter out of habit. I thought that the more I talked about her the closer I was to changing her future. A year into this she told me that wanted to foster my daughter and I cannot tell you what I felt because it was so big. She went through the certification to become a Therapeutic Foster Parent, which means that she could get the most troubled of all kids. That way the State could not say that she was unqualified. She went through home inspections and a criminal background check. She jumped through every hoop Texas held up in front of her and was approved for contact. She is the owner of her own company. She was raised in a mill house with her grandmother. She was not born of money and worked her whole life to be where she is. She sewed upholstery for years and worked her way into owning her own side business doing window dressings and custom sewing. She got out of that and got into antiques. Got outta that and into television and made TV shows for the East Coast for years. She has been working her whole life to be successful. She owns her own commercial real estate company and has never had a criminal charge in her life. Never had a drop of alcohol or smoked a cigarette. She has been the keynote speaker at national conferences for women a number of times. The very definition of a good person. My daughter bonded with her right away. Angel took her young girl with her. They took her gifts and clothes and things she had not had in years. They had the time of their lives. Over the next few months they made plans for her to go spend the holidays with Angel. During this time I noticed they started copying my incoming mail. They would write "one copy" in pencil on the envelopes and erase them but not good enough so that I could not see it. I contacted my lawyer about it and they had no subpoena to copy my mail. The only time they do that is when you're under investigation. Shortly after that Angel received a call from a CPS employee informing her that they knew that she and I were in an "inappropriate" relationship and they were shutting off all contact with OUR daughter. A friend from Dallas told me the news. I was bustling from the land of hope, shattering in panic, and doing my best to rein in my deepest fears and screams. Closed my eyes...no longer wanting to see or hear anything. My life has amounted to a life of shards: Some shiny, others clouded but each and every one SHATTERED.
I cried over the loss of hope. Angel had told them that she came to see me. That was never a secret. They never asked about our relationship. She was given access to our daughter because she asked to speak in open court during a hearing. She told the judge that she would take her and all the things that came with it. That she would love her forever and just wanted to get the chance. The states position was that she was unadoptable. Her own lawyer told the court that she should be institutionalized. Our legal team was shocked. This judge sided with Angel because she wanted so much for this girl to come live with her. So CPS started their campaign to find a flaw they could cite. I became that flaw. They cancelled all contact and proceedings saying that she lied about our relationship. That was in itself a lie. Had we wanted to hide it we could have. Angel was contacted and she in turn got a legal team to fight for our girl. We hired one of the most noted family law firms in the state. When they would show up in these little East Texas courtrooms, the state would state their case and before our legal team could say a word, the judges would ASK CPS what they wanted done and do it. We would get no say and had no right at all to a fair hearing. CPS works with a group of judges and they become allies. They help finance their election and they do their bidding. These are not hollow accusations. These are hard facts. We had some of the best lawyers in the business and they could not believe what they were seeing. It was corrupt and the loser was a young girl who had done nothing at all aside from being caught in a war over her life. We hired several firms to work with us and eventually took the case to Children's Rights Inc. in NYC.
Once they came on board and saw all the abuses of power and how we were being shut out of a legal proceeding they set about investigating the situation. A "friend of a friend" was appointed to see our daughter and have regular contact because we filed a lawsuit against the state, we cited ten cases where the state had allowed kids to languish in State custody when they could have been someplace else or allowed them to be harmed repeatedly without doing anything at all to stop it. On January 16, 2013...a reporter for the AP named Carson Denton wrote an article about the suit and Angel herself. The following is from the article:
Sitting in the Children's Rights offices in NYC, Marcia Robinson Lowry said, "The only redress these children have is unfortunately when our organization goes to court and says judge, look what‘s happening to these children. It’s unconscionable and you know what else? It's also unconstitutional.
A witness (Angel) in the pending lawsuit spoke with Children's Right's earlier today She says, "Someone has to take a stand for these children. Something has to be done for “our' children. Someone has to give "our" children a name, a face, a voice and that someone is me. I just need a lot more people to come forward and help me fight for our children. Something has to be done. It has to stop. How can we expect "our" children to grow up under these conditions? If they survive, how can we expect them to go out into the world and make a life for themselves when all they know is violence and more violence, pain and more pain, fear and more fear? The very people that the State of Texas has put in charge to protect "our" children are the very ones that caused some of the the most harm. Something has to be done and I will fight this fight for as long as it takes. I don't care who knows who I am. I'm not going to cower down to anyone: Least of all to people who abuse children while working under the roof of Texas CPS. They know who they are. Let them be charged and held accountable for their actions. Each and every one of them. The state claims to protect these children. Show it to me. For every child the state can show me they protected. I'll show you 99 children, they haven’t protected. Children they have allowed to be abused, to be overmedicated, to be neglected, to be institutionalized without cause. Show me the caseworkers, the attorney ad litems, the foster parents, the residential treatment facilities and their employees that have caused harm to these children. All kinds of harm. Beatings, rapes, mental abuse; it goes on and on. How in Gods name will a child ever trust again when the very people who were put in their lives to protect them have violated them over and over again? Any and all forms of abuse will be brought to light. Shine the light on them and watch them (the abusers) scramble like they have been doing from the day this lawsuit was filed. It‘s that old philosophy, you can run but you can't hide. I pray this lawsuit shows each and every one of them for what they are and I hope and pray this lawsuit saves other children from living the hell the plaintiffs of this lawsuit have lived.
Child abuse has to stop. The people associated with Texas CPS have to be held accountable. Why are they above the law? How can you be an innocent child's attorney ad litem for years and never meet the child, never even speak to the child? How can you foster a child, give her your word you'll adopt her and then adopt her sister and throw her away? One might ask how those people sleep at night. I don't have the answers but I do know their sleep has been interrupted from the moment this lawsuit was filed. That alone should tell you something. God bless the plaintiffs of this case as well as the other thousands of unprotected children in care of Texas CPS.
I've spoken with Van Zandt Co, CPS employees, attorneys, foster parents, etc. over the past 5 years and all to no avail. We cannot wait any longer for a system that has already failed so many people. It's just not practical. These children are being hurt now, so we need to go and help them now. I encourage anyone who reads this to take a stand. Be it in Texas or the state you live in, take one step towards helping an abused child. If everyone will just take one step, just imagine the possibilities.
When asked by Children's Rights Inc. if she‘s suffered any repercussions since the lawsuit was filed the witness spoke. "Yes but it wont stop me. I've even had an attorney ad litem for a child (our daughter), that I have fought to protect send me a threatening letter. The attorney ad litem herself called it a warning letter. She threatened me with incarceration if I ever contacted her client again. Her CLIENT!! That would be funny if it weren‘t so sad. She had never met the child. She had never spoken to the child by phone or via letter. The child had no idea who she was. This child did not know that she had a lawyer. The attorney ad litem contacted the child after the lawsuit was filed. How convenient? Maybe, maybe not. It would make one ask; “why now?"
When asked by Children's Rights if she‘s referring to any of the children named in the lawsuit, she responded, "Yes I am. A.M. (our daughter) has suffered at the hands of CPS since the day they picked her up along with her two siblings. They lied to her repeatedly about letting the children remain together. They lied to her and told her she would be adopted. They overmedicated her for years. They institutionalized her in an attempt to cover up abuses she suffered they did nothing at all about. They have placed her in more than 14 homes/facilities. Their reasoning when brought before a judge was and I quote, "She's aggressive, uncontrollable, vicious". "When I stood in a Texas courtroom and heard what A.M.'s ad litem said to the judge, I pleaded with the judge to let me speak. I was not party to the case but the judge out of the kindness in her heart allowed me to speak. I basically told her that I would take A.M. along with all the issues CPS claimed she had. I offered to take her into my home, foster her for the 6 month period required by Texas Law before adoption placement can take place and then adopt her. No strings attached. I let the judge know I would take care of all A.M's needs. I am a licensed Therapeutic Foster Parent. I meet all the criteria and then some. Where is A.M and why has she not been adopted? Why? That is the question that has to be answered for A.M. as well as for the other 10 plaintiffs in this lawsuit.
With tears flowing, she softly whispered, "I will never give up. I will bring A.M. home where she belongs and I will continue to fight for the wellbeing of children.
Every child deserves a loving home.
Stephen Dixon, Attorney for Children's Rights Inc after hearing her final statement responded, "Her statement comes as no shock to me. She‘s the one person I've met in all my years at this that means every word she speaks. If we had a mold of the perfect mother, it would be her. No doubt, it would be her. When she said, "Every child deserves a loving home" she spoke straight from the heart. She's an "Angel" in a world full of demons but as she's told me many, many times’, "the good will outweigh the bad every time.” ‘I believe".
When Marcia Robinson Lowry, founder of New York Children's Rights Organization disconnected the phone, she turned to all in the room and said, "I wish each of you had the opportunity to meet the woman on the phone. She walks soft, speaks soft but she fights with the strength of a gladiator. She never gives up. She never backs down. Where she gets her strength from, I'll never know”. Stephen Dixon summed it up best. "She believes. She once told me, you only need to have the faith as small as a mustard seed and that faith will move mountains.
I dare anyone reading this to search your heart for that tiny mustard seed of faith. Yes, she believes.
I included this article about Angel because it shows that it is not just my love for her that causes me to laud what a great woman she truly is. People who meet her ONCE see that. She is someone that will pull out all stops and put so much of herself on the line for a complete stranger, NOT so that people will talk about her or think highly of her, because hardly anyone knows anything she has ever done. She just cannot allow a system to roll over so many lives without someone paying for it.
Having spent years myself trying to expose the State mechanisms of fear, violence and neglect, the last thing I want to see is another victim of those elements. We need accountability - even though, in confronting such painful aspects of human experience, we are necessarily pushed beyond our comfort zone. It does not take the effort of the powerful to bring change to something as big as CPS. It takes diligence and dedication and the willingness to stand and face a machine. The ultimate bully in charge of children in need of understanding and comfort. The very formula for failure and abuse masked as a savior and saint.
I remember the parting from my parents/grandparents and the long, cold journey that followed it, a devastating effect on a boy of five. The memories are jagged, so for years I pushed them away. I was never at ease among boys my own age and I could not adapt to the changes around me within my new placements. It became a permanent DISplacement. It's as if I became aquatic...unable to surface to the world above again. I could see it but I could never be part of it again. Once I loved life and the sun was a golden joy. But joy is often short lived. I looked inside myself and asked: Why? Why is hate so much stronger than love? Why does strength and violence count for more than morality and kindness? There are no real answers to these questions. So for the sake of sanity I had to change my perceptions. Once I was a lamb, playing in a green field. Then the wolves came. Once you have seen that...it is hard to want to be a lamb. Children adapt and learn to lash out before something gets too close. It is not that they are violent by nature...but by necessity and as a result of treatment or the lack of it provided by the people tasked with their care. And what happens when we react on autopilot? Punishment. A vicious cycle if there ever was one.
Often claims that the most effective measures are in place, it was simply a matter of giving them the time to take effect. Perfectly stated from the cool comforts of their rank and office, yet difficult and tragic for those children, who according to US District Judge Janis Graham Jack, “languish in a system where rape, abuse, psychotropic medication and instability are the norm."
For two to three decades they’ve tried to make a bad design successful, while ignoring the damage done to the children who were abused and neglected, then expect these kids to come out of it all as productive adults, which makes me question the sanity of anyone claiming the system is in any way salvageable. CPS quotes statistics to evidence improvement. What is an acceptable statistic for children allowed to be raped, abused and over medicated? How can an organization claiming to be righteous allow these crimes? These efforts are as useless as their reforms, since they serve only to produce more victims and more excuses. CPS, with the present methods, is a breeding ground for mental illness. When these children go back to civilian life, oftentimes you'll find yourself with a considerable problem on your hands. On society's hands.
We filed suit because these crimes will not change on their own. My daughter was shipped from place to place and denied a home life with a loving family because I am on Death Row. Their intent is to punish me until I am dead but they punished her. They said my relationship was "inappropriate" with Angel. Someone vetted and flawless became unworthy of a child they deemed "unadoptable". They tried repeatedly to have the suit dismissed or denied class certification because they knew if it made it to court they would have no defense against us. They lost time and again so they tried to get extension after extension until the Judge forced their hand. Our attorneys were flying in from all over but they could not make it to Corpus Christi. That was what the Judge finally asked them about. Angel hoped for a resolution that would bring our daughter home but years had passed since we’d initially filed the lawsuit and nothing had changed for us. No contact. This time, the state said, because we were party to a lawsuit. THESE are the advocates for child welfare. The people we pay to protect children fought to HOLD a girl in a violent detached life, spending untold hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to deny her a place to live available the entire time. Out of spite. They faced a Judge about what they have allowed to happen, not just to our daughter but thousands of children they are in charge of. My Angel set a pebble in motion that started a landslide under their feet AND upon their heads.
People who survive this form of childhood try their best to convince themselves that everything will be fine. Sadly I did not manage to convince myself. In the street I felt as if I were walking on glass that was ready at any instant to shatter beneath my feet. Living required a sustained effort and attention to things, which exhausted me. I kept seeing myself this way... an external gaze, this critical camera. How could I utter an authentic word, make an authentic gesture? Everything I did became a show of myself, just a reflection and a poor one, that did not impress me or fool me at all. No one could pull me out of myself or make me forget myself just a little. It seemed to me the inevitable end of an old story that pursued me relentlessly: the story of my lack of real family bonds, destroying any trace of love for life. I had never felt so alone. In the midst of those I was shipped around to, I felt powerless and ashamed; their world remained closed to people like me, and they knew how to get that point across . So I abandoned hope and myself. I wanted to be left alone but that was impossible. I was scraping my soul on the world as on broken glass: I kept deliberately swallowing razors. then being surprised when they cut them out my guts. This is not about ME or my daughter...this is about a system that creates thousands of people like us every year. These are LIVES...and our aim was to give them a voice again. You know why it's so common for kids who go through a system like this to shy away from a camera? Because their self image is so tainted and stained, they don't want you to take a picture of it. Because the photographic process lies about how ugly they feel themselves to be. So ugly that they shouldn't produce a pretty picture ever. Orphans define their lives in two parts; before and after the death of normal when their whole world changed forever.
Children who spend years languishing within the system only to age out or be adopted late tend to react in similar ways. Most run away from their new home only to change their minds, sabotage relationships just when they seem to be flourishing, embark on journeys of discovery that turn out to lead nowhere. They often seem to be fleeing something but rarely know what that something is. They throw away keepsakes, fail to stay in touch and leave their loved ones worried without realizing it. People who don't understand tend to judge, referencing their own prejudice. That idea of the "unadoptable" or "bad seed" pervades our culture like any other acceptable bigotry. The idea that a person might be born bad, a lost cause, or better off dead - was something Angel and I have railed against for all sorts of reasons.
We had naively thought that major decisions were made on the basis of correctness and rationality. But many other factors were involved, conflicts of bureaucratic precedence, special interest and not surprisingly personal ambition. The so-called solution seemed distorted, even warped. Raising the budget at CPS without any real sense of what to do with the money is not a solution to the problem...its allocation becomes moot and ridiculous. There might have been a plan, but it didn't happen and in the end, the only thing that counts is what IS, and not what could have been.
When I was young I had a precise idea about the world. About what should be and what actually was. About my own place in it. But I had forgotten, or rather l did not yet know the force of time, or the weight of adult responsibilities put on the shoulders of a child and how such fatigue has no end. I was tempted to talk more openly about this: but I was afraid of shocking people, of offending them. So what blocked the words in my throat when, in a fit of fatigue and sadness, they began to rise up? FEAR...not from the reaction but by simply laying myself bare. Sometimes it's better to prefer fear and emptiness than to show people your weakness. I met someone here who was adopted tell me that he did the exact same things that I did. He was surprised. I have talked to several adopted people and I noticed that MOST of us believed and felt similarly. So I lay myself bare today, the way I never would have earlier in life, for those kids who think as I did and silently suffer wishing someone would SEE and HEAR them cry for help without saying much of anything.
Texas CPS is much like TDC, a closed system that polices itself. Should a child suffer injury, they are handled by an employee or a contract employee for 99% of the time. Ones treated elsewhere we hear about from time to time and reports are made yet the national media or state media seldom ever covers it the story. A year or so ago the public and the Govt. was up in arms about MUMPS at Disneyland. How many of those infected died? None. You could not watch the news without hearing something about the outbreak of the mumps virus and the need for vaccination. While this was being reported around the clock how many children were killed from neglect or abused by the people we pay to protect them? Where was the reporting on that?
The powers that be want everyone to stay calm. Whatever happens, stay quiet, impassive, like windows of a burnt out church, like the little old man on the park benches with their canes and their memories, or the faces of these drowned children just below the surface of society, never to be saved. Imagine your child is trapped in a burning house and someone tells you to "stay calm." If your child were being abused, raped, and neglected by people who repeatedly say they are making changes, yet after 20+ years the culture remains the same...would you stay calm? Understand this...the agony of the devoured is ALWAYS far greater than the pleasure of the devourer. Of course they tell you to stay calm. The real danger here is the inaction of men and women who believe the rhetoric. I had a childhood and then came my war. I was still the same kid until CPS created new problems for me. Eventually those horrors transformed me. When I cried out at night, no one answered. One thing leads to another and here I am. If this would not have happened to me as a child I would not have made the same mistakes. I too wanted to live a good and useful life, to be a man among men. But my hopes and dreams were smashed, betrayed, and this evil entered my life because I was trusted to the services of CPS. None of it can be made whole again, ever. I can cite the usual justifications in my sleep, talk endlessly about the rotational cohesion of information and the irrelevance of semantic comprehension. But after all the words, it stays the same. They sugarcoat unpleasant truths for self-interest and self-preservation. Inattention creates indifference, or disrespect. Try explaining the incomprehensible to the indifferent.
During the disposition of the lawsuit, CPS went to plan B, which amounted to bluster and warnings. Their position was that should this lawsuit go forward and they lose, that the disruption will cause more children to be displaced and injured. They shift the blame from themselves to the Judge, using experts bought and paid. Some of their "experts" are little more than witch doctors dancing through improvised rituals: meandering free-form interviews full of leading questions and nonverbal cues, scavenger hunts through regurgitated childhoods. Sometimes a shot of lithium or haloperidol when the beads and rattles don't work. So the therapists and psychiatrists poked at their victims and invented names for things they don't understand, and worshipping at the shrines of Freud and Klein and old astrologers, doing their very best to sound like practitioners of science. It is a fact that they put children with normal everyday issues on medication. Psychiatrists, hired to prescribe meds for children so the state can control them. Do you know how many medical trials there are for psychotropic medications on children under the age of 18? NONE. Yet they experiment with children that belong to someone else... They would not place their own children on those medications but their clients are unwanted or neglected. Einstein said: "Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them". How can a machine correct itself without a complete rebuilding? The State spent so much of their time fighting to have this case tossed that they were unprepared for the trial itself. Our lawyers destroyed theirs and the trial was a walk in the park. Their tactics are to have cases thrown out on procedural defaults, long before they reach the courtroom. Because they have unlimited budgets and lawyers they usually win. This time their opponents had an unlimited budget and lawyers. Their mistake was in underestimating Angel and me. Had they given us our daughter, they could have saved the money it cost them to fight us and the MANY MANY millions these reforms will cost an agency complaining their budget, is too tight. One child. People who have studied t the lawsuit do not know why it was filed. They don't know about Angel and myself. They don't know our daughter and what was done to punish her for the sins of her father. How two people put it all on the line to bring to light what was being done to her and so many others.
Our daughter was hurt by the state. Our baby girl. I felt helpless. Her situation dragged at me and drew me into a tight and final darkness. No air, no light, no breath, no whisper of waking spirit, a grave inside a grave. Fear burned my brain like a white hot blade. I could see nothing but the twisting flames that destroyed my dreams for her. She is still beautiful and we love her to no end. But the change was deeper than people can easily see in the expression of her eyes, in her gestures, the way she moves. Where before she was young and burning, a wild bird beating her wings against the wires of her cage, now she broods, wings clipped, graven, a creature of the ground. Still the same person, but suppressed and hidden so as not expose herself to injury anymore. My life repeated though her, my nightmare visited upon our baby.
At times I question my life, my part as it were, the value, if any, I left in my wake. Some will say I did as well as I could, others that I wasted my chances. Everyone has a version, a kind of dreaming distortion of the truth. I recall a series of feelings and pictures, a kind of bright and silent dream through which I moved like a spirit, weightless and bodiless, borne up by the air. The pictures, though vivid, are diminished into distance, a world that no longer included me. And then the nightmare sense of grief that comes when I wake again to feel the loss I’ve forgotten in my sleep. One misfortune or misstep seems to breed another and so it was for me. There was a time of darkness - the first I had suffered, when I was half broken with weariness, the weight of losses coming one after the other. The world had turned sour, and my luck was dead. I was a man alone in an empty cell, contented enough, but listening to sounds beyond the shut door. Waiting with half a hope for someone to help, for God, though knowing in my heart of hearts that he would not. BUT HE DID.
My daughter and I survived all of this because of one woman. The same one that the lawyers at Children's Rights Inc. spoke of. The first time I saw her, I felt the shock of it right through my body. My mind was working, where it had no right to be working at all. My whole body tightened and thrilled at the sight of her. She sat before me and my voice strangled in my throat. Her hair was raven black, eyes green like precious flowers before they open. HI felt my blood jerk. Between myself and Angel is a bond stronger than any, the best matched pair. We are the same person. We are part of each other as are night and daylight, dark and dawn, sun and shadow. When we are together we lay at the edge of life where opposites make new beings, not of the flesh, but of the spirit. She was waiting for me. I saw her through the window, a small solitary figure, yet so strong and beautiful. I was unable to decipher the emotion this beautiful, patient woman stirred in me. More than love and gratitude, more than the very real need to cry. It seemed she had always been there, waiting for me to realize who she was and find her. I can never fully explain the complexity of my passion. HERE was home. HERE was my missing piece. Throughout it all she fought for a girl to whom she wanted to give a beautiful life to more than anything. She never stopped fighting, never gave in to the threats and the warnings, and risked an incredible sum for a child the state said was not worth anything. She proved that even the mighty CPS can be beaten when the truth is your weapon and love your warrior.
All of these things happened because, regardless of my being in prison and restricted as I am, I did not stop trying. Angel stood with me, setting all of this in motion, and we supported one another through wins and losses. My partner. My best friend. My rock. My wife. We're a family. We may not be what people think a family is, but there has never been a greater love. Why should man expect his prayers for mercy to be heard by what's above him when he shows no mercy for what is below? We should do more for children in these situations. It does not take millions. It takes opening yourself to someone not born of you. Life is short. Anyone can make a difference if they provide comfort to a child with none at all. Thank you for reading this, giving me a chance to explain the situation for so many lost and afraid. I am fortunate to be able to explain it but YOU are the ones capable of changing it. Never let good enough be good enough when it comes to a child's life. Best wishes.
If you're reading this Babygirl, we love you. Always have...always will.
Update: There are far more cracks in the Foster Care System and CPS than many people think. My life, and that of my daughter, are in no way unique; she and I both went through the same system and both were harmed in many of the same ways. For me to have dealt with my challenge in the early-80’s, and then my daughter to have dealt with the SAME situation in the early-2000’s, is a travesty. Given the funding they have, and the responsibility they are tasked with… there is no choice but to from calling it what it truly is: A FAILURE.
Our story highlighted the way they FIGHT to hold children for no rational reason at all; and how, by doing that, they forced us to file a lawsuit that will cost this State hundreds of millions of dollars by the time they implement all of the changes ordered by the judge – having LOST to us. Yet, though we beat the State of Texas, there are no winners in the end. Those kids cannot unlive the sorrow, nor erase the memories that they should never have. They harmed our daughter. They harm many of the kids they are supposed to protect. Those are simple facts. My goal in this was not to demonize anyone. If, after reading the facts and researching these things yourself, you come to another conclusion, then so be it. I won’t argue with anyone. I cannot speak for everyone. Our daughter went into the system when she was five-years old and aged-out on her birthday thirteen-years later. Even though we battled for her and, in the end, won, they won the war of attrition by stalling things until she aged out. These people, who we as a society trust our children to, did everything they could to ensure she aged out of the system, rather than go to the people who loved her all along. Judge Janis Graham Jack, from Corpus Christi, ruled in our favor. She even went beyond that and assigned “Special Masters” to oversee the changes she mandated to Texas CPS as a result of the facts of this case. (See https://www.dallasnews.com/news/texas-legislature/2016/11/29/texas-spent-7-million-fighting-foster-care-suit-meters-running).
According to TSN News, the State of Texas has spent over seven million dollars on this matter thus far; and they were debating filing another appeal to the 5th Circuit Court, which would have cost even more. Seven million tax dollars WASTED because they would not let a child go to a loving home. That is the fact that caused this whole situation: One girl. Our daughter.
Since she was released, there have been some ups and downs, and they can be expected to last for some time. I had many of the same ones, for many years. Ultimately, I ended up here; but we will do everything to ensure that is not the case with her. Where I was lost and without people, she will always have us. She and I have a difficult road to face with one another, and I cannot say what will or will not happen regarding that. We did not do what we did so that she would respect us, or worship us. We did it because we love her. No stipulations at all. There are trust issues, and I don’t think anyone could ever really understand how deep some of those scars are. It takes TIME. Maybe I will see things mended, or maybe I won’t. I don’t know. What I know is this: Love is the rarest of gifts; one that is seldom found even ONCE in a lifetime. Most relationships start off as physical attraction or commonality of interests, but TRUE love goes far deeper than that. It is an unexplainable connection of the heart, one that endures triumph and tragedy, pain and suffering, obstacles and loss. It is something that is either present or missing. There is no “almost,” no “in between,” no “most of the time.” It is the unexplainable reason some marriages, entered into after a one-week courtship, can last a lifetime. Its absence is why “perfect” marriages can fall apart. It cannot be quantified or explained by science, religion, or philosophy. It cannot be advised on by friends or marriage counsellors who cannot take their own advice. There are no rules, no “how-to” books, no guaranteed methods of success. It is not defined by vows, rings, promises, or tomorrows. It simply is a miracle. One that too few are blessed to experience. And I know, as I am one of those who were blessed. So is our daughter. I think about her all the time and I will forever. I am not alone in that. I am one member of this family, and we all feel the same way. All we can do as parents is love, and do our best to protect our children. And if we fail, we never stop trying to make that failure right. I hope someday it will be.
This link provides a good summary of the class action, the legal proceedings to-date, and the recommendations of the appointed Special Masters.
|Jedidiah Murphy 999392|
3872 FM 350 South
Livingston, TX 77351