Parents Smoke Pot, Lose Custody, and Child Dies in Foster Care

A troubling story from Texas has brought into sharp relief the many serious issues with CPS agencies and removal actions.

This video from KVUE news tells the story:

The parents of little Alex lost custody of their daughter when law enforcement learned they had smoked marijuana while the child was asleep in her room. There does not seem to be any other rationale proffered for the removal of Alex from her parents' care -- one use of marijuana, in the home, while the child was asleep.

The parents were cited for neglect and Alex entered the foster care system. During an early visit, Alex's father noticed the child had unexplained bruising on her body, and also that her bag had mold and a strong mildew odor. He demanded that Alex be moved to a safer home, and Alex was, in fact, moved into the home of another foster parent, a woman named Sherill Small.

Seven months later, Alex was brought to the hospital where she remained, comatose, for two days before she died.

Small has been arrested and charged with capital murder. And a caring father will never have the chance to regain custody of his child.

What makes this case even more galling is that the CPS agency in question had a problematic record when it came to ensuring safe environments for foster children:

Officials with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services tell KVUE they rely on private child placing agencies to perform background checks on all foster homes. The agency in this case is called Texas Mentor and state records show 15 total deficiencies for the Austin branch of that agency over the past two years. Four of those deficiencies were for failing to perform proper background checks on people who live in foster homes.

We can leave the debate about whether parental marijuana use constitutes de facto neglect or abuse for another time. It's undisputed Alex's parents broke the law in Texas when they smoked pot.

But from the sole perspective of the child's welfare, it's hard to give any credence to the notion that Alex was in more danger in her parents' home than she was in foster care -- especially given the tragic outcome.