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Terry A. Dawson
Sunset Advisory Commission
PRS -- A CULTURE OF CORRUPTION
I would like to thank the Commission for this opportunity to
provide testimony on issues related to the Texas Department of
Protective and Regulatory Services (PRS). I have previously
provided this Commission with three written submittals and other
documents. Today I provide you with a full version of this
testimony with additional documentation, all of which I wish to
incorporate herein and have made a part of the Record.
By profession, I am a Certified Public Accountant currently
employed in the capacity of a Contracts/Cost Control Manager for a
major offshore engineering and construction company in Houston,
Texas; by cause, demand, and need, I am also the President of the
Houston Chapter of NASVO/VOCAL -- more commonly referred to as
Victims of Child Abuse Laws.
According to PRS and its outdated records, my wife and I have
abused and neglected two of my five children on numerous occasions.
But according to the Courts and evidence, we are completely
innocent of every allegation.
As noted in my latest submission, numerous problems are
described in the Staff Report. I do not object to those noted,
but I do have reservations and grave concerns about the Staff
Because of the limited amount of time I am permitted to speak
today, I am not going to discuss them individually and refer the
members of this Commission to my materials submitted on June 2,
This Commission is on a road for failure, but it can still
change course. A time limit has been placed on our ability to
address the problems publicly and I have been advised not to
present personal encounters with PRS. The Commission may be
correct about this. But if not now, when? And if not this entity,
then who? Only this Commission is in a position to quickly address
the massive change that is needed to restore sanity and credibility
to this agency that has run amok. If this Commission delays, or
rubber-stamps the Staff's recommendations, then more tax money will
be lost, more fraud will be committed, and countless lives will be
Through personal experiences and assisting hundreds of other
families around the country for several years, I have identified
four major problem areas which must be addressed by this
* Lack of a thorough investigation in child abuse and neglect
cases because of undertrained staff who have an inherent
conflict of interest.
* Lack of accountability and failure to provide a system with
adequate checks and balances.
* Lack of an unbiased, independent and authoritative body to
submit complaints and resolve differences.
* Lack of institutional honesty -- a corporate culture that
tolerates and encourages lies, deceit, falsification of
records, fraud and other corruption.
To anyone who has studied the child protective system as I
have, it is apparent that these problems are not new nor unique to
Texas. Today, however, the issue at hand is not just the system at
large but PRS specifically and the gross injustices that are
performed at its hand.
I wish there was sufficient time to discuss all the solutions
necessary to curb the ills we face from PRS, but there is not.
Unless it's the Commission's desire to sweep all these problems
under the carpet, full-blown investigative hearings must be held.
To demonstrate the dire need for them, you need only briefly look
at the history of the agency -- a past of documented fraud, deceit
and corruption -- which reveals improper schemes to maintain
funding by bilking the taxpayers and over representing the need for
* In late 1987, before PRS became a separate agency, the Tom
Green County Grand Jury recommended that the Commissioner of
the Department of Human Services take immediate corrective
action to remedy the record falsification problems identified
in the San Angelo office and determine whether this was
"occurring statewide at management and worker levels." The
February 1989 Staff Report to the Senate Committee on Health
and Human Services titled "Child Protective Services in Texas"
states that this recommendation was ignored by the agency,
thus permitting the problems to continue. (Copy Attached)
* In 1990, Ethel B. Crear, Regional Director for the agency in
Arlington, Texas, recognized that record falsification
problems continued to plague her department and issued an
internal memorandum "to reemphasize the importance of
accurately maintaining CPS records and to ensure that the
staff understands the possible consequences of falsifying
records." (Copy Attached)
* In April 1994, the State Auditor's Office again cited (Report
No. 94-105) the agency with material noncompliance with
Federal regulations in providing services to undocumented
clients under the Child Welfare Services program among many
other issues. (Copy Attached)
* In September 1994, the State Auditor's Office noted (Report
No. 95-003) numerous problems existing both at the State and
local levels which could not assure that Federal funds were
being expended and accounted for in a timely and accurate
manner. (Copy Attached)
* In February 1995, the State Auditor's Office indicated (Report
No. 95-055) that PRS was unable to obtain certification and
stressed the inaccuracy and unreliability of the data
contained in the CANRIS data base which is also used to
maintain the "central registry" of those alleged to have
abused or neglected children. (Copy Attached)
* In May 1995, the State Auditor's Office cited (Report No. 95-
124) material noncompliance with Federal laws and regulations
for various programs at the agency. The reports noted
payments were not limited to appropriately documented clients,
there were unsubstantiated costs for the Child Welfare
Services program, discrepancies continued to exist in Foster
Care eligibility data, and that PRS had overcharged the U.S.
government due to its method of allocating foster care income
credits. (Copy Attached)
* In August 1995, the Texas Department of Human Services, to no
one's surprise, documented (Report Nos. 95-010 & 95-011) that
PRS lacked financial controls and failed to account for trust
funds of children, as well as other significant issues.
* Also in August 1995 (Report No. A-06-94-00041), the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services -- Office of Inspector
General reviewed PRS's foster-care program. The report stated
treatment plans were not followed, state and child placing
agency caseworkers did not have frequent contact with the
children in foster care, fire and health inspections were not
always performed, potentially harmful conditions exist at some
foster homes, background checks of foster parents were
incomplete or not performed and training was not provided to
all foster parents. (Copy Attached)
* In February 1996, the State Auditor's Office reported (Report
No. 96-318) that PRS was once again in material noncompliance
with Federal regulations, including the overcharging of
approximately $3 million of unallowable foster care
maintenance costs, making payments to undocumented clients and
using Federal funds to pay for settlements of lawsuits in
which the agency violated Federal and State laws and
regulations. (Copy Attached)
* Also in February 1996, the State Auditor's Office noted
(Report No. 96-052) PRS's inability to obtain certification
and highlighted the inaccuracy and unreliability of the data
contained in the CANRIS data base. (Copy Attached)
* Continuing on with a very poor February 1996, the State
Auditor's Office identified (Report No. 96-047) over $2.7
million of questionable expenditures to 20 different
contractors of the agency. The questionable expenditures
included excessive payments to related parties for management
and consulting services, purchasing land and blueprints for a
$5 million church complex, purchasing a program director's
home for $417,000, purchasing and improving a home used for
the executive director's office for nearly $200,000,
fund-raising costs which exceeded funding proceeds and
excessive travel expenditures. (Copy Attached)
* And to top off Black February, the U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services -- Office of Inspector General (Report No.
A-06-95-00035) reported that PRS was retaining approximately
38% of the funds intended to provide food, clothing and
shelter for children under their care. The monies instead
were being spent on non-allowable expenditures. The audit
estimated the illegally retained amount to be approximately
$2.7 million, of which $1.7 is from the U.S. government. The
report also noted duplicate payments being made and payments
being made for services never provided. (Copy Attached)
* If all the prior audits were not enough, PRS's hidden agenda
-- to maintain funding through disinformation -- was
conclusively exposed on April 26, 1995 in a meeting, attended
by Susan Watkins (Program Administrator for PRS), Joanne Duda
(Legal Counsel for PRS), two key legislative staff members and
three private citizens who had been abused by the system. The
agency personnel were asked why the family's income had been
substantially reduced in PRS's records when caseworkers had
been provided the correct amount. Ms. Duda responded that
they [PRS] regularly do this to obtain additional Federal
funding. In subsequent questioning about her response, she
confirmed her original statement. Ms. Watkins did not
These fraudulent activities, corrupt practices and abuses of
our children and families cannot be ignored! The Grand Jury
findings cannot be ignored! The evidence cries out for
investigation! For justice! For reform!
This Commission must use its subpoena power to require the
parties present at the April 26, 1995 meeting to testify as to the
specifics of this meeting and to determine the magnitude of the
fraud being committed by PRS! The names of the undisclosed parties
will be disclosed privately to the Commission upon request. There
is much more evidence to substantiate illegal funding schemes being
utilized by PRS.
For those in attendance and for the members of the Commission,
I encourage you to contact the Office of the State Auditor, the
Texas Department of Human Services and the Inspector General's
Office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and read
the audits of PRS over the last three years.
It is no wonder PRS is always on its knees begging for more
money to protect children -- they squandered the monies they were
given. Yet instead of trying to reform and change, the Staff
report recommends expansion of these illegal practices. An
outreach program, to teach other county and local child protective
agencies how to "easily" access additional Federal funding, is now
in the works.
Turning to the investigation practices of PRS caseworkers,
there is an inherent conflict of interest. A person trained to be
a child advocate cannot be a disinterested, neutral investigator.
This is confirmed by Douglas Besharov, prior Director of the
National Center on Child Abuse:
Nationwide, 65% of all reports of child abuse are
unfounded; that is, they're closed after an investigation.
The problem in cases like this is that the caseworkers,
when they go out, they forget about the presumption of
And when you add federal funding to the mix, which is based on
the number of reports received and the income of the parents, a
financial incentive exists for the caseworker to determine abuse
has occurred. Bias and monetary incentives cause bad
Tess Fleming, a caseworker with PRS, exemplifies these
problems. Ms. Fleming testified, "I will lie under oath to anyone
about anything if I feel that it is in the best interest of the
child." After making this statement she received a promotion.
Case after case right here in Texas reflect exactly Dr.
Besharov's concerns, but time does not permit a complete recitation
of these cases. I am also fearful of further retaliation against
these families and their children. I will talk briefly about my
family, however, because we have been so utterly devastated that
the fear of retribution has no hold over me.
This is a shorthand account of my most recent encounter with
* On September 24, 1993, a report of physical abuse allegedly
resulting from a reasonable disciplinary paddling was made by
my 14-year-old son, Bradley's, school counselor;
* Before any investigation by PRS, my ex-wife contacted the
caseworker on September 27, 1993 to inquire about the status
of the investigation. She knew about the counselor's report
before we did, even though the caseworker had not called her.
* The following day PRS arrived at my son's school and multiple
females forced my teenage son to disrobe and then took
emergency possession of him. One of these women apparently
was a friend of the caseworker who was simply along for the
ride. Later the same evening they took po ssession of his
biological sister toward whom no abuse had been alleged. None
of my other children were taken.
* On February 12, 1996, the school counselor and reporter of the
alleged abuse, testified that the caseworker was accompanied
by a person believed to be the caseworker's supervisor.
* On February 13, 1996, the supervisor denied being at the
school. (Copy Attached) However, when I talked with her on the
evening of September 28, 1993, she made statements indicating
to me that she had been present at the school.
* Also on February 13, 1996, the caseworker was deposed. She
testified she was alone when she came to interview my son.
* On the evening of September 28, I tried to reason with the PRS
personnel and requested that they interview me and my wife
before deciding what they would do. My wife and I had been
cleared every other time we had contact with PRS; we had no
reason to believe that would not be the case this time. I
should have doubted this, however, when they confronted me
with unidentified photographs of a horrendously bruised child
they claimed was my son, when I knew it was not Bradley. They
showed me these pictures in connection with their attempts to
bully me to sign my children over to them. I refused to sign
and requested the return of the children. Instead, with my
ex-wife in a room with my son, PRS gave me the option of
letting my children stay with my ex-wife or place them in
foster care. They also threatened me with court action and
refused to return my children Despite this involuntary
removal, the caseworkers disobeyed state law and the next day
failed to initiate the mandatory court proceedings required to
review all involuntary removals in Texas.
* Sometime on September 29 or 30, the case was transferred to
another unit and on September 30, 1993 the new supervisor
called our home to inform us that she was assigning this case
to a caseworker we had a bad experience with. During an
earlier investigation, he shoved my home door open attempting
to involuntarily enter my house; in doing so, the door struck
my wife's head, injuring her. We complained then to PRS and
this caseworker was replaced. Now they were trying to assign
this person to our case again! We complained again to the
supervisor -- who was obviously miffed at our request -- and
another caseworker was assigned.
* Without ever discussing any of the case details with me, my
wife, or other witnesses who were present during the paddling
in question, the new supervisor decided that my wife was "out
of control" and that it was in the best interest of my son to
remain permanently with my ex-wife. She also informed the new
caseworker to delay contacting me or my wife until they could
again interview them in front of my ex-wife. (Copy Attached).
The caseworker who drafted these notes testified that he could
not explain how they became part of the case record and then
tried to distance himself from them by calling them
typographical errors. (Copy attached).
* On October 9, 1993, when I attempted to visit my children to
take them some clothes, the new caseworker informed my ex-wife
that "the father could not be alone with [the] children
because there is legal action pending and if he was alone it
would hurt CPS's chance of taking the children."
* On October 11, 1993, an agency attorney recommended that the
caseworker contact my ex-wife to find out if she was willing
to file a suit in an effort to have the divorce decree
modified. (Copy Attached)
* When the new caseworker informed his supervisor of his
conversations with the agency attorneys later on October 11th,
the supervisor stated that CPS was now in a weakened legal
situation. (Copy Attached)
* After repeated demands by me, the caseworker finally came to
our home on the evening of October 11, 1993. He stated he did
not know what purpose the meeting was going to serve since all
the facts had been documented by others. He refused to
interview witnesses to the alleged abus e and who were present
during the home visit. He also refused to review records of
previous false or frivolous reports made by my ex-wife or the
school counselor. And when I complained that my
constitutional rights were being violated, he replied that CPS
was now alleging I also had abused the children; even though
I was some fifty miles away at the time of the alleged
incident. He recorded the entire interview with our family on
a Styrofoam cup. He concluded the meeting by prohibiting my
wife and me from contacting our children without his approval.
* Since none of the agency personnel would communicate with me
or respond to my numerous letters, on November 19, 1993, I
went to the offices of Harris County CPS accompanied by a
private investigator. During this visit, the supervisor
confirmed that she had seen my correspondence, but when
questioned as to the status of the case she replied, "We are
just sitting on the file."
* On November 21, 1993, at the request of my two children who
were wrongfully torn from our family, my wife and others went
to see them. The children asked to come home for one night.
When this occurred, my ex-wife contacted the caseworker and he
instructed her to contact the police department and to
immediately bring the children to the CPS office. CPS then
took actual possession of my children and placed them in
* On November 22, 1993, an emergency hearing was held and CPS
was granted temporary managing conservatorship based solely on
a misleading affidavit submitted by the caseworker. The
children were removed from foster care and placed back with my
ex-wife. (Copy Attached)
* On December 8, 1993, my ex-wife, at the recommendation of the
CPS attorneys, filed a Motion to Modify.
* On December 10, 1993, at the full adversary hearing, no
physical evidence of abuse was presented and the caseworker
testified that my daughter had never been abused; nor had any
allegations of abuse been made against me. CPS was dismissed
and my children were legally returned to me. However, at the
request of my son I permitted him to temporarily continue to
reside with my ex-wife. By Christmas, he wanted to come home,
but that was easier said than done.
* Throughout most of 1994, numerous hearings were held related
to the Motion to Modify and agency personnel were present in
support of the Motion. Finally, on November 15, 1994 almost
fourteen months later, my son was rightfully returned to me
due to his deteriorating condition in the custody of my
Had a proper investigation been conducted by a qualified,
unbiased and non-incentive-funded investigator none of this would
have happened. A real investigator would not have ignored the prior
case notes and seen that my ex-wife had been quoted stating, "the
only way she can get custody of her children is if their father is
guilty for child abuse" (Copy Attached), the validity of this
report would have been questioned. Had PRS looked closer, they
would have found that she had previously been warned by prior
caseworkers about filing false reports of abuse. And they would
have understood why she knew about the allegations of abuse before
we did. My family suffers today because of the culture of mendacity
that permeates the very core of PRS.
Later, the Ombudsman performed an unrequested review of my
charges. There was no real desire to seek the truth; rather there
was just the oft-repeated Ostrich-syndrome -- burying of heads to
ignore the problems. Just maybe, if all the facts had been known,
the PRS would have had a different opinion of my quest for the
truth and why there is a dire need for organizations like VOCAL.
A PRS employee may not have e-mailed a colleague at the Ombudsman's
Office that she "Hopes this closes things on this man, but I am
sure it will not. He is involved with VOCAL, and I doubt if we
will ever satisfy him." (Copy Attached) I will be satisfied only
when the meat of the truth about PRS is digested; I will never be
satisfied by the sour milk and stench that PRS tries to pass off as
What has this done to my family? It has destroyed us
financially. My retirement is gone. Our children's college funds
are spent. My wonderful wife is currently recovering from a nervous
breakdown. Physically we are drained. But worst of all, this took
a real toll on our family relationships. We love one another very
much and are trying to recover, but the closeness which was once
there is slow to return. The things this system did to my family
and children are outrageous, but what they did is far too common.
My family currently is involved in a Federal civil rights
lawsuit against PRS and others that hopefully will result in
justice for us and will prevent other families and children from
being abused by PRS and the child abuse industry.
As for PRS accountability, there is none. Checks and balances
are non-existent. The small bit of information I have provided
today demonstrates this. Until this agency or any agency which
hopefully comes into being to handle the responsibilities of
protecting children from abuse and neglect is held accountable for
their wrongful actions and their neglect of children really in need
of care, families and children will continue to be abused by the
To eliminate future embezzlement of State and Federal funds
by PRS, and to provide for professional and thorough
investigations, establish accountability and to allow for an
unbiased avenue of redress in child abuse and neglect cases, I
would like to make the following recommendation to the Commission
and request that it be forwarded to the Legislature.
* Transfer all child abuse and neglect investigative authority,
responsibilities and respective funding to each county's
Sheriff Department's Abuse Units.
* Transfer all child abuse and neglect social services
authority, responsibilities and respective funding to each
county's Family Court Services who would report and be
accountable to their respective Family Law Courts.
* Provide additional funding, as necessary, to adequately and
appropriately train the Sheriff Department's Abuse Units in
dealing with children.
* Require the Sheriff Department's Abuse Units to establish an
investigative task force from within to thoroughly investigate
and pursue the prosecution of those making knowingly false
reports of child abuse and neglect.
* Abolish the Ombudsman's Office and require that all complaints
against investigative officers and/or social workers be
initially investigated by a Citizen's Review Board which is
reportable to the respective county's Commissioner's Court and
all substantiated complaints and appeals be forwarded to the
Texas Rangers for further investigation and resolution.
* Within the next three years abolish the Texas Department of
Protective and Regulatory Services, all current county and
local child-protection agencies (e.g., Harris County
Children's Protective Services) by transferring their
remaining authority, responsibilities and funding to the
Department of Human Services.
The Staff Report mentions legislative actions which have
occurred around the country; however, it fails to recognize the
positive changes which have taken place in such states as Utah,
California, Indiana, Washington and many others. I have provided
you with copies of some of these changes in previous submittals. If
additional copies are required, I would be happy to provide them to
Just about one week ago, many of the legislators in the State
of Washington began calling for a Grand Jury investigation into the
child-protection system. They know something is wrong and are
trying to do something about it. (Copy Attached)
And two weeks back, a Seattle man falsely accused of sexually
abusing his daughter was awarded over a half million dollars with
punitive damages being assessed against the agency and caseworker.
The facts of this cases are very similar to those in the majority
of the cases right here in our State. (Copy Attached)
You also need to ask why our Federal legislators are becoming
involved in what used to be called a "state issue" and why Texas
State Legislators are speaking out against PRS. Times have changed
and the evidence has been produced to prove beyond a reasonable
doubt that Federal dollars are being illegally obtained, siphoned
off and wasted by the child-protection industry in Texas and in
other places. (Copies of sample letters attached)
Any failure by this Commission to recognize the obvious and
report the truth about PRS to the Texas Legislature is negligent at
best, duplicitous at worst! The Commission must decide whether it
is going to perpetuate a bad and dishonest system or make a clean
break and posture Texas to have the best run system in the nation.
Nothing less is at stake. And the children and families of this
state deserve an honest accounting by this Commission.
For those of you interested, The Coalition of Parents (COP),
The National Coalition of Free Men (NCFM), Texas Fathers Alliance
(TFA) and Victims of Child Abuse Laws (NASVO/VOCAL), would like to
invite each member of the Commission, its Staff, the general
public, legislators, and media to a "true" sunset of the Texas
Department of Protective and Regulatory Services. The gathering
will be held at 4:00 P.M. on the west steps of the State Capitol
Building in Austin, Texas, on June 19, 1996.
Respectfully Submitted By,
Terry A. Dawson
Post Office Box 6183
Katy, Texas 77491-6183
Last Update March 18, 1997