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Family Testifies During CPS Recommendations Hearing
Updated: Wednesday, June 25 2014, 05:49 PM CDT
Foster families, social workers and child advocates are reacting to new recommendations for the Department of Family and Protective Services. In May, the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission released a list of nine issues and recommendations, including reducing caseworker turnover, improving poor foster care outcomes and improving data collection on alleged perpetrators. At a public hearing at the Capitol Wednesday, one family spoke about how Child Protective Services ripped them apart.
"The people who swore to protect our kids are hurting them," said Angel Cook, a mother of eight from Cleburne, Texas.
CPS took Cook's children away after a child she adopted died.
"You killed your child. I'm taking your seven kids and you will never see them again," she says.
Cook says a case worker made huge allegations before reading the child's file which she claims showed prior abuse and that the boy was HIV positive. "She's too overwhelmed with so many other cases that she didn't have time to prevent 377 days away from my kids," she said.
Now reunited, Cook's family testified Wednesday before the Sunset Advisory Committee about their foster care experience.
Her sons shared stories of sexual and physical abuse. "Beaten and not loved," said 11-year-old Bryan Cook.
"It's like, where is he at? What is he going to do next?" said 13-year-old Justin Cook who says he still has nightmares about his perpetrator.
Dr. Katherine Barillas, The Director of Child Welfare Policy at the non-profit One Voice Texas, says it's one of many problems that plague CPS. "I have not met one alumni of the foster care system who has not been sexually or physically abused either by their caregiver or other children."
Dr. Barillas hopes Sunset will address this epidemic in their final recommendations.
"I have eight children who have never been hurt, except for the two abused ones I adopted, and now they're returned sexual assault victims," said Cook.
As with any agency overhaul though, it comes down to funding. "I don't know that they've gotten a true picture of what it costs to do this," said Dr. Barillas. "The fact that redesign didn't receive any state dollars. No state has been able to move forward with their redesign efforts without state general revenue investment."
If you ask the children they'll tell you, it's worth it. "I feel like that I'm about to make a change," said Bryan Cook.
A spokesperson for the Department of Family and Protective Services responded to Wednesday's testimony saying, "we're listening and we support the recommendations."
The next public meeting on the Sunset Advisory Commission recommendations is set for August.
(Photo from Angel Cook.)
By Deeda Payton