Family law and child welfare lawyer Jessica Peck has filed a lawsuit to challenge Colorado’s law that protects child welfare workers accused of misconduct.
Peck said that the current law prevents her and the parents she represents from publicly sharing information about the conduct of child welfare workers they believe may have contributed to the deaths of children across the state.
Peck told FOX31 that she has handled several cases in the last several years where parents lose their children to murder, suicide or irreversible injury.
“Every time we lose yet another kid to preventable violence, we must start asking some very serious questions,” said Peck. “Too often, CPS is the only source that gets to decide our answers. The agency operates in darkness, empowered to bully into silence the grieving families, reporters and lawyers who dare to question the agency’s role in any derogatory way.”
Peck worries that the law doesn’t give parents any way to reveal information specific to case worker misconduct, except for limited exceptions.
In the beginning of 2019, Peck alleged that she discovered misconduct by a case worker involved in two child fatality cases. After she discussed the case with a reporter from Westword, she received a court order threatening prosecution for any further meetings with reporters.
“It was, in fact, only because of this interview that we believe the caseworker in question was removed from the (only still active) case,” said Peck. “My client may have lost her child had we not spoken out. The fourth estate is critical to protecting my clients’ interests and without journalists, we’re doomed.”
The lawsuit referenced two particular cases. In 2018, 9-year-old Jamel Myles committed suicide. His mom said that he was taunted at school after coming out as gay. The other case involved a man who killed his 10-year-old son after finding out his mother won their custody hearing.
Peck said that when Jamel’s mom asked the state for help, they did nothing.
“She was going to the front office and begging for help,” Peck said. “She was going to DHS and saying, ‘Please help me.'”
Attorney Tom Kelley, who represents Peck in the lawsuit said, “This statute we are attacking is a bureaucrat’s dream, shielding those responsible for protection of our children from all meaningful accountability. In the process, it tramples the free speech rights of those who would expose official lapses, incompetence and wrongdoing.”