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Inside a windowless conference room at Texas Children's Hospital, Melissa Bright sat facing LeVar Jones.


We went back and forth and I think that they wanted to both hear the sides of story from Dylan and myself and ask questions.


Melissa's husband, Dylan, was down the hall with another Child Protective Services investigator answering questions about what happened a day earlier to their infant son, Mason. Make sure that we had the same story and similar answers and how we described him. Mason was as a child, how we described our marriage, how we described each other as a mom or a dad.


Melissa told LeVar the same story. She told Dylan a day earlier how she left Mason on a lawn chair and turned away for just a moment before hearing his scream. As she spoke, LaVar scribbled notes to be typed up later and added to the Bright's official case file worker spoke with Melissa Bright. She states that while changing Charlotte, she heard Mason screaming to the top of his lungs. She states that she would never do anything to harm her children. After an hour of questioning, LaVar told both Melissa and Dylan this was just the beginning of their investigation.


He would need to go out to inspect the Bright's home and speak with some of their friends and family. But in the meantime, he told them they needed to agree to something called a parent child safety plan. Under the agreement, Dylan and Melissa wouldn't be allowed to be alone with their children pending the completion of the investigation.


They were telling us that someone was going to have to move in with us. Neither one of us were allowed alone with either of our children.


Standard protocol, LaVar said.


Dylan was starting to get frustrated, but he told the investigators they would do whatever it took to help the agency wrap its investigation as quickly as possible so they could get back to focusing on Mason's medical care or answer their questions, will follow their protocols and procedures and will all come out on top of this.


On the other end, they have a hard job and they are doing a hard thing and they're having to advocate for children. And this really sucks for our family. I hate that our families involved in this, but I understand that we've got to go through the process because the process is what exists to protect children. But the next day, as doctors continue to monitor Mason, the VA called with a new directive. The Brights now needed to bring Charlotte, their two year old, down to the hospital.


To Melissa was confused. Charlotte wasn't hurt, but CPS and the doctors wanted to x ray her body, to be sure, searching for signs of earlier injuries like broken bones. Melissa in two hospital workers had to hold the toddler down on the X-ray table for each image. The whole thing took about an hour. Charlotte screamed through most of it. That was horrific. She did not need to experience that. The results came back quickly. Charlotte had no hidden injuries.


A good sign. Melissa and Don figured maybe that would be enough for CPS to close the case. But the state of Texas wasn't going to let it go that easy.


Not after the nightmare in Dallas nine months earlier tonight, the Amber Alert for a missing three year old Richardson girl with special needs has expired. But police, the FBI and the US Marshals Service continue searching. Good morning to you. I'm Katy Blakey. We begin with that breaking news. And this year, Matthew's case is hard to imagine. Just so senseless. Worse, when you see the hole there, it almost feels like I lost one of my own kid.


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What would you do if something happened that changed your life forever, something that called into question everything you've ever known, wondering if this is actually happening brings you extraordinary, true stories of life changing events told by the people who live them. Stay tuned until the end of this episode to hear a preview of this is actually happening. My two hands alone can't hold you back from harm.


From NBC News and wondering, I'm Mike Hicks and Bob and this is Do No Harm. This is episode two Warning Signs. On her first day at Houston CPS offices, Rhonda Carson received a handbook with the agency's mission statement printed on the front to support, enhance and advocate for the safety and well-being of children.


It sounded like a simple, straightforward goal, but as Rhonda soon discovered firsthand, the reality of working for CPS was often far more complicated.


Not that Rhonda was too surprised. She knew a little something about CPS.


I frequently tell people I went to work for CPS because CPS pissed me off.


Back in 2011, Rhonda was working as a sheriff's deputy and living outside Houston with her husband. That's when she learned her brother had fathered a child and that the baby had been taken by the state and placed in foster care.


We did not know of our existence. We did not know she was born or a relative of ours for that matter. Rhonda and her husband filed paperwork to adopt her, but for reasons that baffled her, CPS opposed them, instead pushing for the girl to be adopted out to non relatives. The battle dragged on for years.


One day after walking out of court, I looked at my mother and I said, I'm going to change my degree and I'm going to go back to school and get a social work degree to go to work for CPS. She looked at me and she said, What in the world would you want to do something like that after they put us through what they have put us through? And I said, because of that, because if I can keep one family from going through what CPS put my family through, then I'm going to do that.


Eventually, Rhonda gained custody of her brother's child. Then she made good on her promise. She left her job with the sheriff's office, went back to college, and after she'd earned her degree in social work, she applied for a job at CPS.


A few weeks later, they called me and I was hired and I was hired into investigations, which is what I wanted, because that is my background investigations. It was 2015. After a couple weeks of training, she was assigned an iPhone, a laptop computer, and was being dispatched across the sprawling Houston region, chasing down reports of suspected child abuse. Rhonda loved the work, the fast paced investigations. When a call came in, it was her job to interview parents and other witnesses to determine whether a child was in serious danger.


And it was her duty to check in on children throughout the course of the investigation, whether they were home with parents or with relatives or in foster care, it was fulfilling work and it soon overwhelmed her.


Oh, Laura, sometimes the days would run together. They didn't stop. Typical day is you were out of your house by eight o'clock and from that point on, you are running, running, running, and you have to do all the steps to interview everyone involved. In that case. It may mean going to the school to locate the child or children to a hospital. You're making phone calls, you are interviewing people and it may result in having to remove those children.


And if you had to remove those children, you're stuck with those children until a placement comes through there at the office with you. While you're doing paperwork, the clock is ticking down. It's getting to the wee hours of the evening and the night and sometimes through the night. So on a day like that, you wouldn't even make it home to sleep. And then when you leave, there are more cases are coming in and you're back out on the road hitting it again.


It's no wonder that under these conditions, nearly a quarter of the state's sixty four hundred CPS case workers leave the agency every year, a turnover rate that makes it difficult to retain experienced workers. Rhonda saw them come and go. There never seem to be enough investigators to keep up with the constant stream of new cases. And when that happens, Rhonda said, that's when kids start to slip through the cracks. Kids like Sharon Mathews.


Police have found the body of a small child near the home of missing Richardson girl, Sharon Matthews.


Three and a half hours north of Houston, a horror story was unfolding in October twenty seventeen one that would ripple through the entire state.


I will remember that case, even though that was in Dallas that made headlines all over. We were all talking about that case.


Sharon Matthews, a three year old girl with special needs, had been reported missing two weeks earlier by her adoptive father. By the time she was found in a drain pipe near her home, Sharon's body was too decomposed for a medical examiner to pinpoint a cause of death more specific than homicidal violence. This morning, Wesley Matthews, Sharon's adoptive father, was transferred from Richardson here to the Dallas County jail. He is charged with injury to a child, a first degree felony.


The details of the girl's death were horrific, but that wasn't all. I was embarrassed that I worked for an agency that allowed it to happen. I should have never come to that because it turned out that six months earlier, CPS had gotten a concerning report about Sharon. A child abuse pediatrician, one of those doctors trained to spot signs of abuse in children unable to speak for themselves, in Sharon's case, the child abuse pediatrician noticed she'd suffered unexplained fractures in her arms and legs, injuries that appeared to be consistent with abuse.


CPS investigated, but the case was closed a few weeks later. Other doctors who cared for Sharon told CPS they didn't believe she was abused and the agency decided to leave the girl with her parents. Now she was dead and Rhonda was sickened.


How did seeing the news of that case make you feel terrible for the for the family, for for the child? Because it shouldn't have happened. Terrible and ashamed that I worked for an agency that allowed it to happen.


She wasn't the only one. Two months after the girl's death in December, twenty seventeen outraged Texas lawmakers late into senior CPS officials at the state capitol in Austin.


Senate Finance Committee will come to order Hank Whitman, the top official in charge of KPS at the time, was called to testify. State senators wanted to know why didn't his investigators listen to the child abuse pediatrician? Why didn't they protect Sharon?


I read in the newspaper that a doctor saw this child and the child clearly had injuries that CPS need to look at. I'm not going to drill down. I'm just going to tell you that I don't want to read that happen.


And again, I don't know what the procedure is. I don't know what whole needs to be plugged, but I never want to hear again that a doctor told CPS they needed to look into a child being hurt that wasn't followed up on and dealt with swiftly.


Whitman, a former Texas Ranger, nodded in agreement 100 percent.


What have we done to fix this? They know now that if those circumstances arise again, they know what to do after that, Rhonda said the message from leadership could not have been more clear. What happened to Sharon Matthews could not happen again. A few months later, in early, twenty, eighteen, after more than two years at the agency, Rhonda was promoted to supervisor, a sort of middle management position at CPS, putting her in charge of a team of seven investigators.


The promotion came with a new office conveniently located close to her home. The downside was the rest of Rhonda's team was based in another building 25 miles away. Typical CPS, Rhonda thought. A few weeks into the new job, Rhonda was chatting with another newly promoted supervisor and the whole office fiasco came up and wish had the same problem.


In fact, the other supervisor, Naish Edwards, had been assigned to the CPS building where Ronda's team worked, while Rhonda had been assigned to the building where Nicias team worked.


So it was kind of comical. They laughed about it and she and I got to talking one day and we decided this just doesn't make any sense. Why don't we get permission to the swap offices?


Of course, this being CPS. That was no easy matter.


It took months to get the paperwork signed on that before we could officially switch offices months. It was so ridiculous. I'm like, it's an office really.


During the transition, Rhonda got to know Nisha and was impressed.


And she was very professional. And I thought she was very competent. She was always very professional. Every time I was engaged with her. And like I said, we have our share of supervisors that were anything but professional and competent. I never had any red flags with Nisha.


But like all CPS supervisors, especially after the Sharon Matthews case, Rhonda said she and Nisha were both under intense pressure as they each settled into their new roles. There could be no more tragic and embarrassing headlines.


The supervisors were so stressed out they were under so much stress. It's not something she and Nisha ever discussed directly. And Nisha did not respond to messages I left for her asking to discuss her work. But Rhonda says everyone in their position was feeling the pressure.


The supervisors were the ones that were really under the pressure because they were getting it from the program directors. If something happened to a case ultimately is going to fall on that supervisor, they're going to be the ones that's going to bear the brunt of any disciplinary action.


In practice, that meant taking it very seriously any time a child abuse pediatrician filed a report warning of possible abuse, even when other doctors disagreed, even sometimes when other evidence didn't point to abuse at that point, it was a better be safe than sorry attitude.


They're afraid that something bad is going to happen and that it's going to come back on them and they will ultimately end up losing their job. So they go to the extreme when they get a report back with the doctor's findings and it says that phrase, The injuries appear to be consistent with abuse or neglect. That's it. You're going to court. You're going to court. It's game over. They're going all out. Nine months after Sharon Matthew's death on July 23, twenty eighteen, a member of the Texas Children's Child Abuse Team loaded a seven page document into a fax machine.


She scribbled to Nisha Edwards, CPS on the cover sheet. Then she punched in a number and hit send. After examining all of Mason's medical imaging and his test results, the team had reached their final conclusion.


While the reported fall could account for one of the skull fractures, it does not explain the other fracture or the extent of Mason's intracranial bleeding. The doctors added this warning.


If non mobile babies with unexplained injuries are returned into the same care environment in which unexplained injury happened, there is risk for further and more severe injury. And in response to the last question on the form, is this child's condition consistent with abuse and or neglect? A doctor had circled the word abuse and wrote yes, regardless of the story Melissa was telling. According to doctors at Texas Children's Hospital, Maysam Bright appeared to be a victim of child abuse. In Lulu's original film Run, you'll meet mother and daughter Diane and Chloe, Diane loves her daughter Chloe so much it's almost disturbing.


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She said that now after receiving this physician statement, they had to change the course of action.


Melissa put Naish on speakerphone so Dylan could listen. She explained that the old plan to let the brights keep their children at home during the CPS investigation would no longer suffice.


Melissa couldn't believe what she was hearing and essentially the safety plan shifted from somebody being able to be in the house with us and the kids being home to the kids having to leave the home and go elsewhere, Nisha said. Charlotte would need to immediately move out of their home and go stay with another family member while the agency continued its investigation. And as soon as Mason was discharged from the hospital, he would have to go there, too, for his safety.


Dylan was outraged. It was unbelievable to me at that point that it had even gotten that far. And that's when I started questioning. What type of investigating are you really doing? I just couldn't understand how this could be getting worse. What about Charlotte's x rays? Don't ask Nisha. Why did she have to move out if she was fine? What about all the friends and family members who'd vouch for the rights as good, caring parents like? Are you all taking any of that into account?


And I use his words were, well, we have we have the reports from the doctors. We have everything from the doctors that we need. After two weeks in the hospital, having undergone surgery to relieve the excess fluid that had been building up in his head, Mason was finally ready to be discharged. But now he wasn't going home. Instead, the new CPS agreement required Dylan and Melissa to take him to his grandmother's house in Baytown, more than an hour away from their home north of Houston.


Mason's sister, Charlotte, was already there. It was technically a voluntary agreement, just a temporary measure to ensure the children's safety until the CPS investigation was over.


Oh, that first meeting back was just complete chaos. Under the safety plan, Melissa and Dylan can spend as much time as they wanted with their kids during the day, but not at their own home, and only if Dylan's mom was there, too, and they were not allowed to be around their children at all after bedtime.


But it was just really hard and it was really hard on the kids, especially for Mason, who had been in the hospital for so long that he had gotten off of his routine and he wasn't used to sleep through the night to avoid a two hour daily round trip to see her kids.


Melissa, who hadn't gone home once during Mason's two week hospital stay, made arrangements to stay on someone's guest bed near her in-laws home. That way, Melissa could Nurse Mason in the evening, then rushed back to her mother in law's house. First thing to feed him again in the morning, essentially went over there and I close the lights and I went to sleep and I got my phone right beside me just in case I needed, you know, to answer any phone calls or my mother in law call it at any point in time.


My alarm was set for five forty five. So that way I could be up, make the bed and drive back over there by six o'clock when I was allowed in the house. And it was just complete, overwhelming, complete rundown. And every day was about survival.


After two weeks off, Dylan needed to get back to work with the kids at his mom's house and Melissa away too. He was left alone in his home.


He passed the time obsessively cleaning and cleaning the children's rooms.


And that was that was awful for me. No wife, no kids. It was deathly silent, you know, and get my updates during the day with phone calls and FaceTime. And that was all of a sudden. That was now that was now my life.


As the days turned to weeks, it became more than just an inconvenience. When Mason left the hospital, there were strict instructions from doctors to keep him upright and calm at night because crying could cause fluid to build up in his head or caused his surgical wounds to tear open. But each night, Mason couldn't have the one thing that calmed him down his mother. I wanted to be close and my son called for me or Charlotte cried for Mommy in the other room.


I wanted that. But even beyond it being about myself, they needed to know that mommy was there. And when they cried out, especially Mason and I couldn't be. And it was devastating. In what world is that the best choice for my infant son? But all that we were ever told, you know, from CPS is that their biggest concern is the safety and well-being of the child during this time in the safety that when we have to make sure that he's safe and that he's protected during this time.


And it's like all of the doctors said that we needed to focus on his recovery. How was this possibly help my son? And at Mason's next checkup, his neurosurgeon confirmed their worst fears. Fluid was starting to build up in his head again if his condition continued to worsen, if they couldn't find a way to keep him from screaming all night. Mason might need another more invasive surgery. It would mean implanting a shunt to drain the fluid from his head, a more permanent solution.


Dylan and Melissa had had enough of the arrangement with KPS was intended to protect their children, but in Mason's case, it was doing the opposite. When I see you get filled with so much rage because you just want them to understand, you just want them to hear you, to listen to you, to see. And they and they refused to. But the person it affects the most is the one person they claim to be advocating for. And it's just so infuriating.


Dylan called LeVar Jones their caseworker and told him they wanted to meet with him and his supervisor. The voluntary safety plan wasn't working and they wanted to work with CPS to come up with a better plan. The meeting was scheduled for August 14th, nearly a month after Mason was hurt. Dylan spent days preparing, compiling his son's medical records and online journal articles that seemed to cast doubt on the child abuse pediatrician's conclusion.


That wasn't going to rely on them to do an investigation. We were going to do everything we possibly could ourselves and then hand all of that over to CPS.


The Brits believed if CPS just had all the facts laid out in front of them, surely the agency would reverse course and let their children come home. But once they were finally face to face for the first time with Nyasha, the CPS supervisor in charge of their case, things did not go the way they'd hoped.


Baby, that one house. That's not an option right now. We're going to go home with the same.


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And so I tried to have it be hospitable. And so I had like some little breakfast snacks there and I had water and things like that. The brights goal was simple. Convince the investigators that they hadn't abused Mason, that they were gentle, loving parents so that Charlotte and Mason could come home. Everyone arrived promptly that Tuesday morning and gathered around the jester's kitchen table. Dylan's mother, Missy, who had been caring for the children in Baytown, was also there, along with a meeting facilitator hired by the state to take notes and keep things on track.


Things began friendly enough that his uncle Bobby for the last week was all right.


A friend had recommended they keep a record of every interaction with CPS, so Dillon switched on a recorder.


What is this here? What is the Fuser? Essential Oils and has Christmas spirit or.


And Mason played on the floor a few feet from the table. The last time they met with LeVar, he mentioned he had a master's in theology, and when he wasn't working for KPS, he helped run a funeral business, ministering to people during the hardest moments of their lives. That knowledge had given Melissa some comfort. Now, sitting at the Jester's kitchen table, the facilitator mentioned how some families like to begin these meetings with a prayer that we have.


Both of our parents.


Melissa held Dylan's hand to her right and Nicias hand on her left.


Bargara. We just we humbly thank you. They gave us. And thanks for both of our guests that are here in this house. And thank you for their service that they I cannot imagine doing their job, helping to seek the safety and protection of our family and our country's greatest assets. We got our children. Yes. Thank you. I would ask this of your son and me.


Afterward, the facilitator asked everyone to formally introduce themselves and state what they hope to get out of the meeting.


Yes, I am LeVar Jones, CPS investigator. All right. Thank you for being here. I am sure it was supervisor of investigations also. Right. I am missing child smile. I am so perfect.


Thank you for being with Michael Dylan, right? Yeah. And I'm Nathan and Charlotte's father.


I am here today because. Because I'm here to fight for my children. I am grateful to be their mom and I hope to get out from today to take my child at home. We just want to get back with our family to be experiencing a life together, to be able to witness all the highs, lows, and I think the goodness that comes from it.


When it was his turn, Dillon told the story of how Melissa had quit her engineering career because she wanted to devote herself completely to her children.


And so that has always been our motivation. We want to be absolved of this entire investigation completely. We want to be able to offer my son the best environment for his recovery so he doesn't have to go back for another surgery. So he doesn't have to go back in under the knife again.


And Dylan's mom, Missy, chimed in to describe the difficulty of trying to comfort Mason at night when all the baby really wanted was his mother.


Mason is totally not sleeping on duty at nine o'clock. I'm like twenty one times a night, fifteen times a night, 17 times not, Missy said.


Mason was screaming several hours every night, putting him at risk of reinjuring his head.


As you can see the pressure building and watch the pulse in the wound. He's already had to return to be restitched once because it was weeping.


Then it was his turn to speak. Nisha did most of the talking while LaVar sat quietly. She said she understood Melissa's concerns about being far from home and not being able to nurse Mason at night.


But all those things, are you convinced? All those things? But I no, it's not quite the family, but the family. All those things are enemies as far as what baby and mom and interrupting their bond appeared on staff or it is. However, we still have in best interest when we consider we have a vulnerable age now that cannot speak to us.


How vulnerable, how a very serious injuries. So we have to consider all that information until we have something to say. Without a shadow of a doubt, this child is safe.


Based on the report from the Texas children's doctors, Nisha said there was no way CPS could let the kids come home before they're investing. Was completely off the table because of the two minorities, and we'll win them over when I say you're not.


Explain to me why it didn't matter that Charlottes x rays were free of injuries or that there was no evidence of previous abuse in the family as far as CPS was concerned, they still hadn't ruled out the possibility that Melissa or someone else intentionally hurt the baby.


This is serious. And considering that fact, so many different things can happen. We as an agency have to make and take every precaution to make sure your child is safe. So I'm not a doctor. No one I work with is a doctor. You know, we have to go on what's being reported to us. It cannot just be based upon how beautiful your family is and these different reports given to you that right now what has been provided to us, we don't have enough information to say it did not have.


Dylan and Melissa sat stunned. Right now we have reached a point that is actually beyond because now we actually are facing another, more basic reason. Why don't you and I have to be a part that has to be a part of your consideration.


At one point, Melissa read from a law review article describing two consequences of misdiagnosing child abuse. Either real abuse is missed and children are left with dangerous caregivers or accidents or confused for abuse. And children are needlessly taken from loving parents.


But there's a third the third cost of misdiagnosis, and that's Mason, which we all are in agree on. Both sides of this table are all in agreement. And that is this is what we're feeling right now. Is this misdiagnosis, the cost of this mistake? This is Mason and having to go back under general anesthesia. I don't have a permanent shotgun in place because he has been torn from his family.


Because you think that's the best scenario.


Are you saying that if we don't change the child's placement back to mom, that that is what's going to come? No, we have to know what we're telling you. That's the way it's not going there. No, actually, I don't know what Chris what I'm saying is, Chris, right now, the family can all agree that his current environment with mom not being there and all of the things that is causing him, it's it's hindering his full recovery.


And the doctors told us if we don't get him sleeping, we don't get him into the night and get him calmed down. He's going to have to come back in because of fluid buildup is going to cause we're going to have to go back in with another shot.


After nearly three hours, Nyasha made one concession.


She understood their concerns about the children being so far from home.


And although she was not yet willing to let them return, she agreed to start the process of moving them closer to Dylan's aunt and uncle. The jesters were a short drive from the brights.


That way, at least Dylan and Melissa could sleep in the same house again, and Dylan could see the kids during the week. At the end of the meeting, the CPS worker assigned an updated agreement with the Brights, this time pledging to get approval to move the children to the jesters. Within a week before they left, Melissa had one last question about whether they would be notified when CPS finished its investigation.


I doubt if anything, but you will let us know how you see. OK, fine. I would not lie. Just all of a sudden you find out I know that you will be the first people to know anything that's going on with your own children. I knew in Might because one of you I was number one goal in writing was to clear stuff to get that back to your there always. I thought that was OK. I appreciate this always.


The meeting was a small victory, not the immediate reunion they were hoping for, but better than nothing. Dolores Dillon's aunt was impressed with both LaVar and Nisha. They were warm and thoughtful. These weren't heartless government agents.


They are kind. They're coming into your home. They sit around the table and they pray and they agree with you and they laugh with you and they talk about the kids and they talk about you. And and it it just felt like we were all on the same page that afternoon.


Melissa was feeling good as they drove across town back to Dylan's parents. Only a few more days of this. She thought things were going to get better.


But when she and her mother in law went to get Mason out of the car, they noticed fluid seeping from his surgical wound, the very problem his doctors had been warning about.


So they immediately turned around and they went back to Texas Children's that evening and they got admitted into the E.R. again because of the fluid buildup. And then when the doctors came in and said, look, we can't continue to do this. We have to go in for the shunt man. It just it it just crushed our world because we we it's like men. We're already down.


There was no choice. Mason would have to have another surgery to relieve the pressure around his brain.


It doesn't matter if your kid is getting tubes in their ears or they're having open heart surgery. Not being able to be present and all of the unknowns and the lack of control that you have, that you feel the powerlessness is not anything that any parent wants to face ever. So in general, the fact that he was having surgery was a nightmare.


But the operation went smoothly. And after yet another week in the hospital, it was time to take Mason home based on their signed agreement with CPS. The Brights should have been cleared by then to take the children to the home of Dylan's aunt and uncle. And when Melissa texted LaVar to make sure that was OK, he replied, OK, that should be fine. But as they were loading Charlotte and Mason into the car, Lovaas called her. Never mind, he said CPS was still waiting on a senior official to sign off on the move.


The kids needed to go back to Dylan's parents more than an hour away in Baytown. Now, Melissa was angry and I asked him several times the federal level.


We've already packed the kid's stuff. And I was like, I don't have any clothes in Baytown. I don't I don't have anything. Mason is here. We had to discharge him in one of Charlotte's little dresses because I didn't have a single article of clothing for him because, you know, it came straight to the hospital the last time.


So because of of one signature, a single person's signature that we had been waiting on for two weeks, they had to turn around everything loaded up in the truck and drive all the way back out to Baytown. Melissa told VA she was outraged, but they would comply.


I said, we're doing this simply because you don't have a signature, but we're going to continue to comply with this plan, this voluntary plan, despite it being the worst decision for everybody today and for the next three days, Melissa stayed in Baytown and waited at a time when her son was supposed to be recovering from surgery.


Each day, they called LaVar to ask if the move had been approved. And each day he said no. Finally I'd had enough. So I called Melissa and I said, no, it doesn't matter. We're not going to voluntarily comply anymore. They're not going to get this signature. They're dragging their feet.


I'm not going to allow us to comply with their investigation at the expense of my son's recovery any more.


We can't just live out of a half packed truck.


There's no way for a child to recover from a major surgery if CPS is truly not going to pay attention to what my son has just gone through and continue to make the same decisions, or in this case, not making a decision, was making a decision that I would make it for them. And so I no longer cared about voluntarily complying with CPS at that point.


And so Dillon called the bar and essentially said, we're not going to voluntarily comply with this voluntary plan because it does not put Mason first.


I said that you obviously are not listening to what we're telling you. You're not listening to what the doctors are telling us.


My son is coming home. Pretty much said it just like that.


And LaVar said, OK. And we went home.


When Melissa pulled up to the house an hour later with the kids in the back seat, Dillon went outside to meet them in the driveway. It was the first time Mason had been home since the accident more than a month earlier.


And man, they came in and it was all just, you know, hugs and kisses and tears and joy because everybody was home. And that night, the brights enjoyed their first family meal. In weeks, they sat together in the living room and watched an episode of Paul Patrol. They tuck their kids into their own beds and for the next three weeks, they heard nothing from LeVar Jones or Nisha Edwards. Dylan got back to work. Melissa enrolled the kids in a preschool program at church.


Life seemed almost normal again. They thought CPS must have moved on to. Then out of the blue in mid-September, Melissa got a text message, it was from the VA. Good morning. How is Mason? That's next time on Do No Harm from NBC News and wondering if this is episode two of six of Do No Harm, a story about innocent children and the adults who are supposed to keep them safe. The next episode will be out in a week.


But listen to it right now.


Ad free by joining wonderous plus in the Wonder to Do No Harm was written, reported and hosted by me. My Kicks and Ball, a national investigative reporter for NBC News special thanks to my reporting partner Carrie Blake, anchor whose reporting made this podcast possible. If you want to help us spread the word, please give us a five star rating and review on Apple podcasts and be sure to tell your friends subscribe on Apple podcasts, Spotify, the Wonder App or wherever you're listening right now.


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He pulled the trigger twice, believing this gun to be loaded. Point blank range at my chest. What would you do if something happened that changed your life forever? I felt her hand moved my hair off the side of my neck and in, like one swift motion, she slit my throat, something that called into question everything you've ever known. And there was my son lying not alive anymore. And I thought, what am I supposed to do now?


Eyewitness Dean, I have a Ph.D. in social psychology and a single question has fascinated me for over a decade, what happens when we come face to face with the unknown and are plunged into a completely new reality? I could feel these entities definitely wasn't human wrapped around my torso from behind. Each week I bring you extraordinary, true stories told by the people who lived them. Your brain is different. You can't go back to who you were. This is actually happening.


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The thing that was tearing me apart was questioning if everything I know in my life was real at all.