The decision about whether the Tutt family will be allowed to home school will be the topic of discussion when they return to court in Dallas County later this week. This decision for the four children now returned home has been reserved by Judge Callahan herself for this upcoming August 22 hearing.
In the meantime, I finally received a response from the second letter I wrote in April to the Commissioner of the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFFPS) regarding the Tutt case dated July 2. The Commissioner specifically asked that his letter be made available to the home school community.
While the Commissioner spent almost two pages justifying his contention that CPS does not target home school families or treat them differently because they home school, he also stated that the “educational setting” of the child is relevant to a CPS investigation. This is a change from previous CPS policy. I responded with my own letter to strongly address my disagreement.
You may recall that Dr. Ronald Johnson, who holds a PhD in education, testified as an expert witness on behalf of the Tutt family at the last hearing in June. After spending time with the family and the children, Dr. Johnson told the court that he believes it is in the best interest of the children to be home schooled for the sake of both their academic progress and healing from the trauma they have endured because of CPS’s actions. CPS attorneys, as you would expect, strongly disagreed and sought to undermine the testimony of Dr. Johnson without success.
THSC believes Judge Callahan has no prudent choice but to release the Tutts to resume home schooling based on the excellent test scores and evaluations of the children. Additionally, both CPS-contracted and outside psychiatrists report no concerns after a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation.
The Tutts’ CPS-contracted, court-ordered family counselor stated last month that she has no concerns about the family and does not believe they need her services. She has informed their CPS caseworker of this fact. It is our opinion that there remains no legal basis or justification for any interference by the court or CPS with the family.
Mrs. Tutt’s 15-year-old biological son remains alienated from her in the custody of her ex-husband, in spite of court orders dating back to January 7th for her to have weekly counseling sessions with him. Neither Mrs. Tutt nor her other children have seen him since he was removed by CPS on November 21, 2013. There was no legal justification for his removal, as acknowledged by Judge Callahan in January and no cause for him to remain alienated from his family members.
One of the two children who were in the process of adoption when they were taken from the Tutts in November remains in foster care. Nine months later! This child is a biological sibling of children already adopted by the Tutts and had been with the family for over two years before being snatched back and placed into foster care.
The trauma to the children who were returned to the Tutt home continues to intensify as they beg for reunification with their siblings. Make no mistake, these children were separated from their siblings and adoptive parents with no explanation from CPS or legal justification for what was happening. Until the family is fully reunited, there can be no true healing for these children.
Attorneys for the Tutts continue to prepare for the filing of a writ of mandamus with the Second Court of Appeals. In order to do that, the attorney preparing this action has had to take affidavits from family and friends who were in both the 12-hour initial hearing and the 8-hour de novo hearing in January. This has been necessary because the judge has refused to make a transcript of the January hearing available to the attorneys representing the Tutts. This is a surprising ruling as representing attorneys are entitled to the court records of their clients.
In spite of Judge Callahan’s decision in March to allow THSC (separately from the representing attorney) to purchase a redacted transcript of the hearing for $2500, the transcript has still not been sent as of the middle of August. Observers believe the judge has no intention of following through on her ruling based on statements made in court and the stalling up to this point.
Perhaps only a writ of mandamus from the Second Court of Appeals or a jury trial will bring an end to the abuse of the children and this family by CPS. Please continue to pray for the children and their parents and for wisdom for the attorneys representing the family.