My Fight

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In order to put this story in perspective I'll start from where it all started. My girlfriend at the time, Michelle, was pregnant. She suffered a placental abruption when she was five months along. The placenta detached from the inner wall of the uterus. It is a serious complication that deprives the baby of oxygen and proper nutrients. She was hospitalized for the remainder of her pregnancy, confined to bed-rest to keep both of them in a position where any damage would be minimized.

A month into her hospital stay she went into labor and our baby was removed via C-section. Our daughter Sylvia spent the first three months of her life in an incubator with numerous machines and tubes surrounding her. One of the main causes of placental abruptions is cocaine use during the pregnancy. So the doctors are required to run a drug screen to see if that was the cause. We told them she tried to move a TV while I was at work but it was the law so we let them go ahead with the testing.

Before her hospitalization she was having extreme nausea and cramping. Her doctor told her she could not “officially” recommend it but a lot of her patients used pot to take the edge off the nausea. We told the hospital about this, but we did not disclose the name of the OB out of respect for her wishes. As soon as the test came back positive for pot, CPS was called and an investigation began, even though the report from the hospital specifically said that marijuana had no part in the abruption or early birth. Since CPS believes they know more than doctors they told us pot use caused all of this.

We were only allowed to see our daughter in the NICU under the supervision of the nurses. When she was eventually released we had to submit to random drug tests and hair follicle analysis. Michelle was clean and living at The Ronald McDonald House near the hospital to be close to our daughter. After four months of clean tests I was still not allowed to see my daughter. So I made the decision to go back to what I believed was right. I made a statement to CPS that they try to hang over my head even to this day. I told them I have three other daughters and I have been smoking their entire lives and not once were they ever reported as being abused or neglected. For over 11 years I was never reported for being a bad or abusive father. So to be called one now is something I would not stand for.

They tried their hardest to find someone in my life that would tell them I ever put my children in danger at any time. They failed miserably. They praised how fast my daughter was growing and progressing. They told me if I was in her life she would not have made such progress. Unbeknownst to them I had been with Sylvia during the entire investigation. Her mom knew I was no threat and I was the one who taught her to walk. After a year or so they eventually gave up on me and I moved in with Sylvia and Michelle.

Things were great for a while, but Michelle ended up getting charged with food stamp fraud a year or so later. It was an honest mistake due to the system not being as efficient as it should have been. Regardless, she was put on probation the day she was convicted and given a drug test on the spot. She tested dirty for pot but nothing was done at that time. In the typical CPS fashion they show up two months later after her probation officer reported the results of her drug test at the court.

One day after getting off work I went to my room and hit the bubbler. My daughter was in her room down the hall watching a movie. I heard a knock on the door and there were two investigators from CPS at my house. They asked to talk to Michelle and I told them she was sleeping because she worked an overnight shift managing a restaurant. One of the investigators made a dramatic face saying the smell of pot was so strong he almost got dizzy. I knew he was exaggerating, I had only taken one rip and Michelle had just cleaned the apartment. I told him I would wake up Michelle and left the door open so they could see me and couldn’t accuse me of hiding evidence. When Michelle got to the door they informed her they had called law enforcement because they smelled pot and our daughter was in the house.

The police arrived and found nothing in the apt and it was well kept. There was food in the fridge, Sylvia’s room was clean, and didn't reek of pot. She was well fed and in no impairment from any drug. The only thing the police found was a half loaded bowl outside a shared backyard. We lived in a condominium that had a shared backyard with five other neighbors. The officer told me since it was found behind ours that either he would charge Michelle with it or take us both. I told him it was mine and was arrested for the half bowl of pot and given a ticket for the pipe. We were given an option to place our daughter with a family member or she would be forced to go to a state home. We placed her with my mother because Michelle's dad was also a pot smoker and he would not have passed a drug test.

We had a meeting with CPS scheduled a couple of weeks later. At the meeting we were told that since we already had a case concerning pot, this time they would seek to have our daughter removed permanently. Needless to say I gave them more than just a piece of my mind. I proceeded to tell them if they wanted to take my kid from me they would have to prove in court that I am a threat to my kids. They even went to the schools of my other daughters ages 12, 10 and 5 to question them. All of them said that I was a good dad and they never saw me use drugs. They also told CPS that they would rather live with me than their mother who doesn't use pot at all.

A month or so later Michelle and I were both served a summons to appear in court to answer charges of child neglect. The CPS investigator J.J Murillo was asked by Judge Karen Bonicaro what the concerns were. He replied that the house stunk of pot and that I admitted to smoking pot. The Judge then asked about the living conditions and the health of our daughter. The investigator replied that the house was clean and Sylvia did not seem to be impaired or under the influence. When asked if there were any concerns other than pot use, he replied, no. The Judge immediately dismissed the case for removal and told the investigator and the officer that arrested me that they should use their resources better than removing kids solely because of pot use. The look on their faces was priceless!

Michelle and I asked if we could go pick up our daughter today and the CPS investigator told us his hands were tied so he couldn't keep us from picking her up that day. We were so excited! Not only to have our daughter back but also for standing up to an agency that thinks they’re above the law! We fought for what we believed in and won!!! Since then they tried again to investigate us for pot use but we already had a decision in writing stating they would need factors other than pot use. Needless to say they didn't and we stuck to our guns. From what I understand ours is the only case to set such precedent in Texas and I hope that our fight helps others fight this broken system! ~