Language Barrier at Child Protective Services

For the first year, Baby Raymond lived happily with his family. Then the agency took him away and even though his Chinese-American family fought to get him back, they couldn't find the right words

This is the first red flag that the interpreter may not have understood Situ and Ling. The scar on Raymond's bottom was a surgical scar from a minor infection he had contracted in Phoenix. No doctor in Phoenix ever expressed concern over Raymond's welfare, just as no doctor had at the Bellaire clinic where Raymond received his vaccinations. It is difficult to understand why Raymond's grandmother and aunt would say they had no explanation for his scar.

On March 9, 2006, Charles and an interpreter went to Sally's condo to remove Raymond. By this time, Sally had been relocated to a psychiatric facility in Dallas, where she would remain for months. Situ and Raymond were hanging out in the condo while Ling shopped for groceries at the market next door. When Ling answered her cell, she heard her despondent mother: They took Raymond.

Situ would later testify that she had no idea why Phyllis Charles was removing the child, and that she gave her the business card for the Chinese restaurant run by her daughter Connie and son-in-law Tony in Phoenix. Unlike Ling, Connie and Tony could speak English. Situ thought they needed to know what had happened; Connie and Tony could straighten things out with CPS and in turn explain to Situ what in the world was going on.

Raymond was constantly surrounded by family. Here with his cousin, Diana Diep.
Raymond was constantly surrounded by family. Here with his cousin, Diana Diep.
...with Grandmother Situ.
...with Grandmother Situ.

Apparently, Charles must have believed Situ was merely recommending a good Chinese joint should Charles ever swing through Phoenix, because neither Charles nor any of the four subsequent caseworkers who handled the placement of Raymond Liu ever called the number.

But by then, it was too late anyway. As soon as Charles left with Raymond, there would be no chance the Lius would ever get Raymond back — not if CPS had anything to do with it. As CPS caseworkers would later testify, they failed to follow the rules mandated by the Texas Legislature regarding the process of placing a child with the best possible caregiver. While the rest of Raymond's family fought to retrieve him, CPS caseworkers ignored state law and put Raymond on the fast track to be adopted by strangers.

Something's very wrong here...Family should have the first priority to...care for this baby, any baby...Why didn't they contact them? That's very upsetting to all of us.

Kim Szeto, executive director, Asian American Family Services

The day after CPS took Raymond, his Aunt Ling called Asian American Family Services asking how she could become Raymond's legal guardian.

Ling also gave AAFS contact information for her sister and brother-in-law in Phoenix, contact information already known to CPS. Five days later, Sally's caseworker at AAFS, Sing Chan, called CPS to explain the family's situation and see how they could retrieve Raymond. Charles said it was too late. A show-cause hearing had already been set. It was out of her hands. Chan called Charles again, on the day before the hearing. Chan's notes state: "She said that she lost control of making decision where the baby would go at this point, let the judge make that decision."

Despite the fact that Raymond's grandmother raised him from day one; despite the fact that there was no evidence the child was ever abused or neglected; despite the fact that for the first year of his life he lived with aunts and uncles in Phoenix and Houston; and despite the fact that his aunt called AAFS within 24 hours of his removal from the family's care, CPS decided to go with a colorful bit of folklore that could be shared around a bonfire alongside stories about Bigfoot and Leather­face: Raymond's own family didn't want him until it was too late.

During the September 2007 trial over whether to terminate Sally Liu's rights, Estella Olguin, a spokeswoman for CPS, told KTRK Channel 13, "In this case we didn't find out about the relatives until a year later, after we already filed to terminate parental rights of the mother."

By that time, Olguin was apparently following the only policy CPS caseworkers ever stuck to: the Cover Your Ass ­Protocol.

Around the time Olguin propogated the myth about the family not stepping forward, Charles testified in court that she had violated Texas Family Code 262.201, which states: "If DFPS determines that removal of a child may be warranted, DFPS is required to provide the parent or other person having legal custody with Form 2625 Child Placement Resources for the purpose of identifying three individuals who could serve as the child's kinship caregiver."

Following that, "DFPS must complete a background and criminal history check on each person listed on the form and complete a home screening of the most appropriate substitute caregiver, if any. At the adversary hearing, the court must place a child with the noncustodial parent or relative, unless it is not in the child's best interest. Appropriate and willing relatives and family friends are generally given priority for placement."

However, it's difficult to know if following the statute would have made a difference, as CPS documents are rarely printed in Cantonese, and the agency would have then been depending on a nonnative-­English-speaking schizophrenic who was laid up in a psychiatric facility to provide contact information for relatives.

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