Special Report: Young Couple Speaks Candidly About Child Abuse Investigation

by Victor Lopez
NewsWest 9

ODESSA - All it took was one call to Child Protective Services, to change the lives of 18-year-old Vassella Pride and 20-year-old Randal Trout, forever.

"We had an intake that a child had ingested baby oil and tested positive for marijuana," CPS Case Specialist Lauren Cotton, said.

One-year-old Elijiah Trout somehow got ahold of baby oil and drank it, setting off a chain of events that spiraled out of control.

"When they first approached me, they said well, we're going to have to open a case because this has happened.  They didn't think it was an accident.  They thought it purposely happened, and it didn't," Pride said.

NewsWest9 was allowed to tag along CPS as they visited a young family that has become one of their biggest success stories.

According to Cotton, the first priority for CPS was the safety of little Elijiah.

"The case was referred to Family Based Safety Services after it was determined that there was still risk in the home, but we didn't feel like we needed to take custody of the children because the parents were willing to partner with CPS, take the services and reduce risk to their children," Cotton said.

Pregnant at the time, Vessella recalls how she felt at the thought of being seperated from not only Elijiah, but also her 3 year-old daughter, Johnazia.

"I was angry at first, very angry.  I'm the type of person that's really timid.  I don't like nobody telling me nothing.  It's not a good feeling when somebody is over you saying you can't do this or you can't do that," Vessella said.

She says she was honest with CPS from the very start, "When she came to me I said, I'm not going to lie to you.  Yeah, I smoke weed.  Yeah, I smoke everyday."

Pride says she would never intentionally hurt her child.  But the question remains, how did the pot get into Elijiah's system?

"I never had anything down and around the kids or nothing like that. Whenever I smoked and he went to the hospital, it was like 2 or 3 days before that.  I hadn't even smoked that day," Pride explained.

CPS put the kids in the custody of Vassella's grandmother, for the duration of the investigation.  During this time, the young couple went into counseling.

"Mr. Trout and Miss Pride both participated in parenting and actually, successfully completed the parenting in March. That is a very intensive course of 20 hours, learning about child development, proper supervision, discipline, all kinds of things," Cotton explained.

Vassella also went through substance abuse counseling to help clean up her act and she also has a new outlook on life.

"Now I don't do anything.  I don't drink or nothing.  Actually when you get closer to God, it helps you.  You don't always have to be high on drugs to have fun," she said.

Caseworker Lauren says this case is a great success story. She says the transformation in Vassella and Randal is astounding and she's confident the children are in good hands with their parents.

"When you can be held accountable for your actions, but hold your head high, if you can believe in a parent and know that they'll change, they can.  Every parent can change and every parent has the ability to make the changes that this family has made," Cotton said.