(KMSP) - A new federal lawsuit targets Minnesota's Child Protection Services and child protection laws.
The suit alleges that CPS triggers unnecessary investigations and puts children at risk of being removed from their home based only on allegations.
Dwight Mitchell thought he was living his own nightmare, but when he decided to fight back he found there were many other stories out there just like his - which is why he is heading up the lawsuit and sharing his story.
Mitchell didn’t see his son for almost two years, and it all started with a spanking.
“My former wife told my son that if I ever spanked him to call and tell the police. So he told the babysitter that I had spanked him and his mother said to call the police,” he said.
Based on the one spanking, Mitchell said Dakota County Child Protective Services took his three children from him and charged him with malicious punishment of a child.
“After five months, CPS returned my six-year-old and my 15-year-old son to me, but refused to return my 11-year-old son. They knew I was a fit parent and our household was safe because they had just returned two of my sons with the youngest being six years old,” he said.
Mitchell said two CPS psychologists said he was fit to parent and that CPS was ordered by several judges to reunify him with his 11-year-old son. But instead, CPS tried to terminate his parental rights all together. CPS eventually dismissed the case and returned his son to him, but it had been 22 months with no contact.
“Prior to his abduction he was confident, outgoing, athletic - loved to ride his bike, play tennis, ski - now he’s shy, introverted, never wants to go outside or ride his bike; he doesn’t play any sports whatsoever anymore. The abduction by CPS ruined my son’s life and changed him forever,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell has started a nonprofit called “Stop CPS from Legally Kidnapping Children.” While his case focuses on the actions of Dakota County CPS, it’s happening in many counties - in part because state laws allow them to.
“If we have vague and ambiguous statutes that authorize child protection to seize those kids, single fit parents, then the government ends up raising the child, and we all know the government is horrible at raising children,” attorney Erick Kaardal said.
In the lawsuit, there are many demands, including jury trials for all termination of parental rights proceedings and defense attorneys for people who cannot afford one.
State Senator Andrew Mathews said he will also begin working on legislation to tighten things up here on a local level.
Dakota County said they have not yet been served with the lawsuit and therefore cannot comment on it.