Houston parents get baby back after CPS accused them of not trusting 'western' medicine

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- After four months apart, a baby girl was reunited with her parents just in time for her first birthday.

Watching baby Casey Lee with her mother, laughing and cuddling, it's hard to imagine they had to spend months apart. It is, according to the family's attorneys, another injustice caused by an improperly conducted investigation by Child Protective Services.

Casey was born seven weeks premature and has had a well-documented history of medical problems. In January, her parents took her to Texas Children's Hospital for a broken leg. Within a day, CPS investigators were accusing the parents of abuse.

"I need a lawyer. I need a lawyer," said Wenqi Hao, Casey's mother. "Because (I'm from) a different country, different culture, my English is not good."

Hao didn't realize it at the time, but her Chinese background would figure prominently into the case.

"We tried to tell CPS, 'Listen this is not a case of abuse. If you pull the medical records, you see mom and her husband have brought this baby over 34 times to different medical professionals to deal with medical issues,'" said Thuy Le, one of the family's attorneys.

Le and her co-counsel, Mike Schneider, said right away they felt their clients were treated differently because they were Chinese immigrants.

"This caseworker claimed these parents didn't believe in American medicine, they just believed in Chinese medicine," said Schneider. "The caseworker fabricated this entire story based on an Asian stereotype that they don't trust western medicine. They just are into Chinese medicine, which is the opposite of true."

The lawyers point out that baby Casey was born seven weeks premature and had clearly documented medical issues. While they battled CPS in court, baby Casey was required to live with a caregiver. Hao and her husband said they were so grateful that a neighbor offered to care for the baby, so the parents could at least visit the child daily.

"Every night I clean baby. After clean baby, I leave my neighbor's home," recalled Hao, her eyes filling with tears. "My neighbor tells me, every time I close the door, my neighbor cries for me. It's horrible."

"This case was really about stereotypes of these two parents," said Le. "When you talk to them, and talk to other doctors, everything indicates that these parents have done everything they could to support their baby."

In a statement on Wednesday, CPS said:

"While confidentiality laws restrict us from discussing details of specific investigations, we want to be clear that DFPS does not tolerate discrimination against any group based on its ethnicity or beliefs."

In court last week, the judge ruled in favor of Casey's parents, finding nothing to substantiate allegations of abuse. The family is now back together. Her parents, who are very private, decided to speak out because they want to let others know, even if there are language or cultural barriers, they can fight for their rights.

"My English is not good, and so many (people) helped," said Hao. "I want to do something to help other people. I'm so lucky. I'm so, so lucky."

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