Houston News & Search
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Photo: Karen Warren, Staff Photographer
A federal civil rights suit in Houston accuses Child Protective Services of discriminating against African-American children, saying they are likelier to be separated from their parents and extended families than white children.
The suit was filed earlier this year by an Arizona woman who was denied custody of a young nephew, who instead was approved for adoption by a white foster family in Houston.
The suit brought a group of community activists Tuesday to the federal courthouse in Houston, where they decried generations of “robbed and stolen opportunities for kinship families” through what they contend is a pattern of discrimination by CPS.
The paternal aunt, Maravi Moore, was granted custody of one nephew, now 4, who was removed from his family. But CPS denied her custody of the boy’s little brother, now 3, and instead facilitated his adoption to the foster family.
Neither Moore nor the boys were at the courthouse Tuesday, but the children’s birth mother, Tisha Hunter, stood along the sidelines with a 2-year-old daughter watching. She said she had not been invited to the event.
But the emphasis was on the bigger picture – that black children living in poverty are over-represented in the child welfare system and are denied placements with other family members more frequently than other children in the system.
Minister Robert S. Muhammad, of the Muhammad Mosque No. 45, said the agencies are destroying black communities.
“The bellwether of what’s going on in the black community is how our children are being traded in foster care for money,” he said, apologizing for his strong language. “Modern-day slavery is going on down at the family courthouse. Just peel this onion back and you’ll find … this uneasy nexus with CPS, that is not the independent arbiter of where a child should be. You’ll find that they’re a lapdog and a rubber stamp for the family court judges.”
Among the other groups that came together Tuesday to draw attention to the issue were A Second Chance, which focuses on kinship care; Black Administrators in Child Welfare; the National Association of Blacks in Social Work; and Black Lives Matter.
Pamela Williams, Moore’s attorney in the federal suit, said she believes race influences decisions around the country, not just in the case involving her client.
“When the child’s relatives stepped forward to actually bring the child home into the loving environment, she was refused and instead the child was given to a white family,” she said. “You would never see CPS take a white child from a white family and place them with an unrelated black family when there was a suitable relative.”
Studies confirm the numbers have been skewed toward greater separation of black families. A 2013 study by the state’s own Center for the Elimination of Disproportionality and Disparities cites a 2013 finding that African-American children in Texas are twice as likely to be removed from their families and four times as likely to be placed in foster care than white and Hispanic children.
The lawsuit was filed against several state officials, including Hank Whitman of the Department of Family and Protective Services and Gov. Greg Abbott; Harris County and several Harris County employees; ad litem attorneys, who are named by judges to represent children; and service agencies.
It names one contract worker, who is accused of aiding in the adoption by way of “fabrications, defamations, concealment of evidence, delay and abandonment of the relative placement process” and wrongfully placing the child with a non-relative family seeking adoption.
State officials did not comment on the case other than to provide a copy of a motion filed in which the state asked the judge to dismiss Moore’s case, saying she doesn’t have a claim and the state is protected by immunity. Harris County officials referred requests for comment to the state.
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