By An Anonymous THSC Member
It happened. I couldn’t believe it. CPS knocked at my door.
After first reading about the Tutt family’s ongoing CPS case, I remember imagining how simply I could be reported to CPS for child abuse. Like the Tutts, we have a child with special needs who can easily find herself in interesting and unusual situations and left to her own explanation, that situation could really make me look like a neglectful or abusive parent. You see, she seems to speak wonderful English and has a charming personality, but after arriving for the first time in America only four years ago as a seven-year-old newly adopted girl with no English-speaking skills whatsoever, her vocabulary and cultural astuteness are quite lacking today. Don’t get me wrong, she doesn’t mean to confuse you, but she does. For example, she’ll describe all vehicles as cars: the 18-wheeler is a car, the Texas truck is a car, the convertible is a car. So, if you’ve been in a disciplinary situation with a guilty child, you can imagine predicting her explanation to an authority without understanding the whole situation could be of concern. Hit, slammed, poked, smacked, touched, tickled, patted, spanked, punched, bonked, banged . . . it’s all the same to her.
But it wasn’t all the same to the nurse counselor at her special needs camp the week before the man with the DFPS badge showed up at my door. I had just finished catching up with social media, which just so happened to include the most recent viral article about a “CPS nightmare,” when our doorbell rang. The house had not quite recovered from the weekend and with my bedhead, morning breath, and comfy sweats clad self, I answered the door expecting to tell the man that we did not need pest control, weed-eating, etc. However, I immediately recognized the badge. I had just read that acronym in the CPS nightmare article. I’m sure I looked dazed and confused.
Honestly, I don’t remember much of what he said. I tried to remember everything that THSC instructed on their website for these exact situations (by the way, one of the things is to write down everything that was said). Even though I had imagined this scenario, I didn’t have the instructions memorized. I did remember to not let him in, not to volunteer information, that I needed a lawyer, to not let him alone with the kids . . . all this was going through my head when I asked dumbfounded, “What? Who? Huh . . . ?”
He told me very politely and courteously (he didn’t quite fit my nightmare scenario) that I had been reported for child abuse and that he would need to interview all of my children individually. At this point the kitten started to escape and my oldest came to me saying something–probably something about his math problem or his little brother leaving his underwear on the floor. I calmly (even though I was beginning to rage and tremble inside) handed the kitten to my son and looked back at the young man who now represented a threat to my family. I took control of my voice and asked if I could contact my attorney first and he said yes and that my attorney could call him back to set up the interviews. “Here’s my card . . . .”
I shut the door biting my lip to keep my composure as I walked quickly back to my room to get some privacy and recollect.
My first thoughts: I’m a THSC member right? They offer legal assistance for this exact situation right? What was that number I’m supposed to call? Should I call them first or should I call my husband?
I chose to call my husband first. He didn’t answer. He texted back: “What’s up? In a meeting.”
I texted back: “CPS knocked at the door. I’ve been accused of child abuse.”
He called pretty quickly after that. Fortunately, he’s a very calm and level-headed man who knew just what to say to me: “I support you. We will get through this together.” That’s when I lost it. I told him the situation and said I thought we should call THSC right away. He agreed and I called THSC.
I spoke with a woman (probably a good thing so she could understand the talking while crying thing) who said she’d give my message to the attorney, who was in court at the moment, and he’d return the call by the end of the day.
Then, being a home schooling mom, I had to somehow get back to my kids and return the house to some sort of order (you know what happens when mom disappears for a while with no indication of returning). I found a moment alone with my daughter and asked her some questions about camp. I asked her about her counselors and what they talked about. That’s when I figured it out. The week before she left for camp, there had been an incident with an upset mom and a disobedient child at 4 in the morning. Nothing abusive had happened. After hearing her re-telling of that early morning, coupled with her limited vocabulary—remember, a “spank” is the same as a “hit” to my daughter—it could sound abusive with a poor choice of wording. We tried to go about our day–but let’s just say, not much schooling happened that day.
When THSC’s attorney called back a couple of hours later, I had gathered myself enough to explain the situation without crying again (thank goodness!). He knew exactly what to do. I immediately felt relief and comfort. This man knew how to handle the situation and knew how to protect my family. I immediately felt like I had a team and the coach knew exactly how to play the game. He told me the game plan. Before he hung up, I had to ask him: “Based on what I told you, am I guilty of child abuse?”
You see, that was the worst part of the whole experience. I began questioning everything about myself. I even began to wonder if it would be best for the children if they were taken from me. If I sounded at all like I abused my children, then maybe I shouldn’t be their mother. Thinking back on it, the thoughts all sound absurd now.
Thank God THSC offered me the legal assistance I needed, because it took all of my energy and attention just to cope with the spiritual and emotional part of this situation. My ability and adequacy as a mother had been called into question. If you’ve ever dealt with feeling inadequate as a mom before, the addition of being accused of child abuse can seem overwhelming. Knowing that I had a lawyer handling everything with CPS, I felt the freedom to hash some issues out with God. Don’t get me wrong, we gave the legal stuff to God on that first phone conversation with my husband. But being able to let go of the legal mumbo jumbo and just focus on my family served our family immensely.
THSC is not kidding when they say they are Keeping Texas Families Free. They freed me to search my heart and make me a better mom.
Today, we received notice that I am in fact not guilty of child abuse. It took some time and some interviews of each individual in our family in the presence of the lawyer THSC provided, but it is done now. And I am relieved. I did cry again: tears of joy. I am rejoicing that God used THSC to protect my family. I am grateful that we are members of THSC. Soon, THSC will be receiving our check for a Lifetime membership.
I implore you to protect your family and join THSC. Or, simply support the funding that provided the attorney for my family. I will be forever grateful to you. Thank you! And thank you, THSC, for Keeping My Texas Family Free.