Texas Legislators Promise Action Against CPS Caseworker
HOUSTON, Texas--Angel Linthicum Cook testified during a hearing this past week that something must be done to hold Child Protective Services (CPS) caseworkers and foster parents accountable for lying, deception, and cover-ups. Texas legislators who listened to her and her children’s’ testimony were appalled by what they heard calling the actions of CPS caseworkers and others “criminal.”
Legislators serving on the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission promised to take action. Rep. Harold V. Dutton, Jr., said it was the worst thing he has heard or seen in state government during his 30 years as a State Representative. He said that he had “never heard a story so bad, so egregious, that it just almost incites a rage in me. This is government at its worse.”
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (TDFPS) is presently going through review by the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission. The Commission is taking testimony from members of the public. Testimony about the horrors that have occurred because of CPS actions have been elicited.
Mrs. Cook and her children testified about how CPS caseworkers lied about the facts in the case, and were “too lazy” to research the prior history of the children while they were in their biological mother’s care. The Cooks had voluntarily decided to care for them and later adopted them.
Once their children were removed by CPS, the caseworker also allegedly intentionally kept the identification and existence of family members away from the judge even though Mrs. Cook has nine siblings and even more extended family members willing to care for their children. It is the law that if children are taken into CPS care the judge must first consider if there are family members who can take the children.
The Cooks became the kinship parents of two children who were the children of her husband’s half-sister. One of the children was an infant; the other one was a 2-year-old who, unbeknown to them, was HIV positive. The child had handprints, scars, bruises and cuts on his body when the biological mother left them with the Cooks. He also had anal warts.
The biological mother, Amanda Lunsford, was trying to evade CPS authorities in two states and dropped the children off at the Cook’s home in 2010. Lunsford was later arrested but the men that sexually abused the children have not been found. Cook told Breitbart Texas that the biological mother left her 6-week-old and her 2-year-old brother in a tent where the 2-year-old was sexually abused.
The Cooks notified CPS that Lunsford abandoned the children at their home and CPS went to court to have these children placed in the Cook’s care. CPS did not help the Cooks in any way. They were not given any financial assistance, health insurance, mental health, or any other assistance. The sexually abused HIV positive 2-year-old was suffering from Attachment Disorder, Reactive Disorder, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The young child would shake when men entered the room.
The HIV positive child died as a result of his disease in 2013. This is when the trouble with CPS began. CPS did not tell the coroner about the prior CPS history on the biological mother, and the caseworker did not tell the coroner that the child had HIV.
Mrs. Cook told Breitbart Texas that the CPS caseworker called Mrs. Cook a “baby killer,” hid the child’s HIV status from the court, and hid records of Lunsford’s former run-ins with CPS from the judge. Mrs. Cook went from weighing 170 pounds to just 112 pounds in one month. She could not keep any food down.
CPS kept the Cook’s seven children from them for 377 days. The children were all placed in separate foster homes, and three of them became victims of sexual abuse and physical violence while in foster care. The Cooks who are in a lower income bracket, had to sell property to defend themselves and get their children back. Mrs. Cook is a stay-at-home mom. So far, they have spent $126,000.
The testimony of Mrs. Cook and her two sons at the Commission hearing details just some of the terror that the family suffered:
Mrs. Cook said she testified, and her children testified, because she wanted to “hold [CPS] accountable like they do us.” She also wanted others to feel freer to speak out about violations of parental rights, and abuses suffered by children in foster care. The Cooks had a limited time to speak at the hearing so there was no time to detail all of the violations that the family say occurred.
The Cooks’ 11 and 13-year-old sons testified that they and all of their siblings were taken from their loving home, and from the only church, school, and community, they had ever known. The 11-year-old testified he was told that if he reported his sexual abuse, he would never see his family again. The caseworker also told the boy that his parents did not love him.
The 11-year-old testified that he and his seven and 12-year-old brothers had to sign forms that said they would not talk about what happened while in foster care. They were placed in a home with a total of 14 children. The 13-year-old was placed in a behavioral risk foster home even though he did not suffer from behavior problems. He was placed with children that were 16 to 18 years of age and he was separated from his siblings. He was sexually and physically abused by foster children who were staying there.
There were also alarms on the door to the bedrooms which would go off if the boys tried to leave their bedrooms at night. The younger brother was forced to wet his pants. The 11-year-old testified that he told the foster parents that his 12-year-old brother, who had a heart condition, was being sexually fondled. The foster parents did nothing about it. A month later, the abuser began sexually abusing him. He testified that he was sexually violated almost 50 times while in the foster home.
The interview with Mrs. Cook by this Breitbart Texas journalist and an examination of her Facebook page has revealed even more horrors. Cook said that police reports were filed reporting rocks being thrown thru their windows, gasoline poured around their home, and of being chased down and run off the road while driving in July 2013.
The Cooks have suffered public shame, and harassment, as a result of CPS taking their children. Someone painted “child killer” in red paint around their front door. They have received death threat notes at their home. A source told this reporter that the caseworker is a suspect.
The Cooks finally had their children returned to them after an agreement was negotiated with CPS. They have been forced to put their two youngest children into daycare even though their religious views provide that they should take care of their own children. Mrs. Cook has always been a homemaker. The ordeal is not over because the agency still has temporary managing conservatorship of their children. Under Texas law, the agency must either have a final trial to get custody or dismiss the case by October.
After hearing the testimony, the Chairwoman of the Committee, Senator Jane Nelson, thanked the Cooks for testifying. She also told them, “It is our job to listen to you and hear what you are saying and to do our best to fix what you are telling us is broken .... We are most grateful and the lesson that you are telling us is about telling the truth is very important and ultimately it will pay off. I am so sorry that you went through what you went through.”
Texas State Senator Brian Birdwell said, “This is the kind of thing that gets to leadership yesterday.” The Senator compared the abuses suffered the Cooks to a death penalty case. He asked whether the state had a way of compensating victims who had to spend money defending themselves and were later exonerated. Birdwell also asked whether Health and Human Services and TDFPS had a mechanism for reviewing charges like this against an agency employee.
Other members of the Commission include Rep. Four Price, Vice Chair, State Rep. Cindy Burkett, Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, Senator Dan Patrick, Rep. Larry Gonzales, Senator Charles Schwertner, Dawn Buckingham, M.D., and Tom Luce. Ken Levine serves as Director.
TDFPS told Cook at the hearing that they would speak to her afterwards. Angel Cook told Breitbart Texas that “regarding what they told me after the hearing – nothing - they said someone will call me. A lady did call but nothing came of it, my kids’ abuse still remains unreported.” Mrs. Cook also said she has video surveillance of harassment by CPS that occurred after the hearing. The supervisor was fired after the Cooks testified. The CPS caseworker still works for the Department.
The Commission has issued a Staff Report which is intended to serve as a compilation of all recommendations and action taken by the Sunset Advisory Commission. Public comments are also posted on the Commission’s website. At this time, the response posted by Kyle Janek, the Commissioner of Health and Human Services, and the Commissioner of TDFPS, John Specia, do not address the concerns raised by the legislators during this hearing.
The Commission website contains a link for receiving comments from the public.
The Cooks will be back in Austin to testify before the Commission on July 25th. Breitbart Texas will continue to follow the case.
Follow Lana Shadwick on Twitter at LanaShadwick2. Shadwick is a former family court associate judge and lawyer for TDFPS.