A Caddo Parish couple says when they called the system for help, the system turned it's back on them, then came after them. After a two month battle to get their daughter out of protective custody, Todd and Megan Wedgeworth want answers.
"We don't know what else to do," said an exhausted Todd Wedgeworth. He and his wife are thrilled to have 16 month old Zoe back home, but they're furious she was ever taken.
In October of last year, the Wedgeworths say after picking up Zoe from daycare, they noticed significant bruising and claw-like marks all across her back, her side and an arm.
"We called the daycare and asked, what happened. They told us maybe a 9 year old girl that was in the room may have handled her too rough," said Todd.
They took Zoe to the hospital and promptly called Child Protective Services with the Louisiana Department of Family and Children Services. However, Todd adds, within days it seemed like CPS turned on them when they attempted to report that Zoe now seemed very ill.
Todd added, "That night we called CPS, the case worker, and she was more concerned with how we got her personal cell phone than question why we're calling. She got mad at us."
And days later, the Wentworths say they were shocked when the case worker said Zoe would be taken into protective custody.
GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT
For two months, Todd and Megan were limited to supervised visitation, court hearings and meetings with case workers. Todd says his faith in the system was so lost, he began recording meetings with CPS workers.
Moments after putting a recorder on the table in front of two case workers, Todd says he couldn't believe what they told him.
Todd played his recording for our camera: "Like I told you, we have to go on the premise that, when we removed the child, we have to go on the premise - guilty until proven innocent."
Todd says the worker went on to tell him, "It would make it easier if you just confess now".
"What happened to our rights?", exclaimed Todd while recalling the moment for our investigative report.
According to Trey Williams, spokesperson for Louisiana's Department of Family and Children Services, a case worker should never tell parents, or any accused, they are guilty until proven innocent.
"This is America. You're innocent until proven guilty. No one should be told that," added Williams.
However when asked about specifics on this case, Williams said he's unable to comment. He said state law prohibits him from even commenting on whether a case is open, or exists.
WHO HURT ZOE?
Days before the Wentworths were to return to court for another hearing, news comes in that the case against them is being dropped and Zoe is being returned. However Todd and Megan's suspicions about their entire ordeal only worsened when a security video tape from the daycare was finally released by DFCS to their attorney Joel Pearce.
"They sat on evidence. They did not disclose this evidence, " says Pearce, who added in his opinion, CPS will make your life miserable unless you tell them what they want to hear.
According to Pearce and court records, a case worker previously testified that Zoe never left the view of the camera and could be seen at all times. The case worker felt that proved the injury did not happen at the daycare.
"I documented everything myself," explained Todd. He says he watched and logged all of the video taped evidence. He claims large amounts of time are missing from the tape. He also pointed out on the video, proof that a daycare worker walked out of the toddler room with Zoe. He then showed us Zoe and the worker returning some 9 minutes later.
"It's only after looking at the video tape, what the CPS worker said under oath was not true. The CPS case collapsed under the weight of the facts," added Pearce.
"DEATHLY AFRAID TO TALK" TO CPS
When asked about oversight of the behavior of CPS workers in the media or public eye, Williams made clear, "There are checks and balances, maybe not visible to the media."
The Wedgeworths say they are now deathly afraid to call CPS or even check to see if the investigation is ongoing. Williams said the Wedgeworths and other parents should never fear calling the Department of Family and Children Services.
Megan said they feel lucky, lucky they had enough money to hire help to get their daughter back.
"Who else has this happened to, to parents who don't have money to get an attorney."
The Caddo Parish District Attorney's office and the Caddo Parish Sheriff's Office both declined comment for our report.
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