What the Constant Suspicion of Child Abuse Can Wreak

Hi Folks — We all agree that it makes sense to be aware of child abuse, and even to look out for it. But to assume “Abuse!” when another explanation is not only proffered but also likely, well, that is classic worst-first thinking: Leaping to the WORST conclusion FIRST and proceeding as if it simply must be the case. That’s what happened in this Star Tribune story by Abby Simons. (Any relation to the late Howard Simons of the Washington Post?) – L.  

The baby fell – and then the Plymouth parents’ real pain began by Abby Simons

Little Caleb Slaven was quietly sucking his fingers in the back of the ambulance on a sunny August day in 2009, providing some semblance of relief to his terrified mother as they headed to the hospital.

Moments earlier, the 2-month-old had fallen about 2 feet from his carrier to the concrete patio behind the family’s home in Plymouth, hitting his head on some slate trim.

Tests at North Memorial Medical Center revealed bleeding on the brain, but no major permanent damage. Julie Slaven, a stay-at-home mom, and her husband, Shawn, a financial analyst for Cargill, figured it would be a few days of observation before the baby returned home, where his brother and sister waited with their grandparents.

Days later, instead of hospital discharge papers, the Slavens got notice that their son was being placed in emergency protective custody by Hennepin County, based on suspicion of child abuse. It triggered a two-month legal ordeal for the Slavens — with county officials eventually admitting they made a mistake — that lays bare the risks and ambiguities of child protection law.

The Slavens’ bid to sue the Hennepin County in federal court ended unsuccessfully late last month, but they say their case is Exhibit A of a “guilty until proven innocent” child welfare system.

The “Guilty Until Proven Innocent” phenom shows up in so many places, from background checks for school volunteers to Zero Tolerance rules that treat non-threats as threats. Read the rest of the story here.

 

One boo-boo, baby, and you could be separated from your  parents!
One boo-boo, baby, and you could be taken from your parents!

 

93 Responses to What the Constant Suspicion of Child Abuse Can Wreak

  1. hineata April 7, 2013 at 1:19 am #

    Could someone explain why an attorney for the accused parents wasn’t allowed to present evidence contradictory to the hospital’s suspicions. Am wondering why it was necessary to have a lawyer present at all then if he couldn’t represent his clients? Good on the parents for carrying on the fight, hopefully others will not have to suffer the same thing

  2. Anon for this April 7, 2013 at 2:38 am #

    I hate to be a spoil sport, but this is once anecdote. I can provide another to the contrary: my own. I was physically and emotionally abused as a child. I told two teacher, once in 5th grade and once in high school. Nothing happened.

    My dad threatened my mother with a weapon, was arrested, and we had a state placed restraining order against him. CPS never looked into the case.

    So, yes, CPS can be extremely meddlesome and it seems to often be in benign cases. But so many times when there really is abuse that seems to slip through the cracks.

    There needs to be a revamping of the system.

  3. Natalie April 7, 2013 at 7:40 am #

    My friend was carrying her baby in the airport and fell, dropping him. She and her husband went to the doctor, he checked for head injuries, the baby was fine. A few months later the baby started turning blue for no reason. They panicked and took him to the hospital. After he was treated, the hospital did not return the baby and didn’t tell my friend why, only that alternate custody was being sought. You can imagine the hysteria, my friend didn’t even know who was taking her baby or why. And nobody would tell her.
    Eventually she found out that CPS put her child in a foster home because of suspected shaken baby syndrome. What proceeded was an 8 month long battle until they got him back. Can you imagine missing 8 months of your child’s life? I still cry when I think of all they went through.
    The child had symptoms similar to those of shaken baby syndrome, so the hospital had to report it. Even though a key symptom was missing, something to do with blood vessels in the eye. CPS stepped in and took over. Only later when it was understood why the baby was taken did my friend start building her case. That original fall at the airport had triggered the sudden turning blue a few months later. She had documentation and the doctor’s opinion that had seen her baby before CPS came that this was the reason for her baby turning blue, not shaken baby syndrome. She still didn’t get her baby back. She hired a lawyer, and we all pitched in because we were grad students at the time, she and her husband couldn’t afford a lawyer on their own.
    Over the next 7 months she and her husband had to jump through CPS’s hoops. At first, only she was allowed to see her baby twice a week for an hour, supervised. The visits became longer and eventually her husband was allowed. Then short visits without supervision, then overnight, then they finally got custody back, the whole time having to take counseling.
    This whole travesty, with a lawyer’s help.
    The baby is now 7, happily attending 2nd grade, and has a little brother, 2 years old.
    The story is that CPS got a lot of flak the year prior to her case for not intervening in a case where there was abuse.
    I don’t think that this is an organization of thugs, and neither does my friend. The problem is that they are a government organization. And if something goes wrong, the knee- jerk reaction is to do the complete opposite, whether it makes sense or not.
    My friend looks back and says that she understands that they were trying to protect her son, but there should have been someone to come and explain to her what had happened, where he was, and who she could contact in order to try and get him back in the event that this was a mistake.

  4. Chad G April 7, 2013 at 7:54 am #

    The biggest problem with all of this Hospitals intervening and immediately taking custody of the child without investigation is that once something like this happens it may prevent someone from seeking real and necessary emergency medical help. The problem with a lot of govt. intervention is it is based on one or two instances and does not take into account the real big picture and winds up doing much more harm than good.

  5. Natalie April 7, 2013 at 9:25 am #

    You’re right, chad. My friend is terrified of hospitals.

  6. SKL April 7, 2013 at 9:57 am #

    This is wrong on so many levels. But I can’t help wondering – where in the world do they have resources to take custody of every injured baby/toddler? Kids hurting themselves is a normal everyday thing.

    When I was 2, I was copying my brothers as they climbed up on a 6-foot tall dresser and jumped down onto a bed. I climbed up the dresser, but then was hesitant to jump, so my 5yo brother “helped” me jump, and I ended up with a big hole in my forehead, meriting, I believe, 18 stitches? Being a tomboy, I had bruises elsewhere on my body as well. That was 42 years ago and the doctor took me aside and questioned me multiple times, trying to get me to say my mom had done this to me. Luckily I just kept saying “I fell off the dresser,” so my mom was allowed to take me home and that was the end of it.

    My kids, who were adopted, came into my custody after spending roughly a year in foster care. So I know how disruptions hurt babies/tots. Besides the emotional impact, kids are more likely to be abused/neglected in foster care than in the parents’ care IIRC.

    If there is a real concern for the baby’s well-being, I could understand opening an investigation etc., but not taking away custody over a single injury. I’ve read about a lot of child abuse cases, and they nearly always involve multiple injuries in various stages of healing. Sounds like the CPS folks who took this baby need some intensive retraining.

  7. Dave April 7, 2013 at 10:03 am #

    CYA. No one wants to be responsible if there is abuse. So rather than investigate which would take time they pass it on to CPS and let them worry about it. The hospital is off the hook. There should be some penalty if the hospital makes the wrong call. What restitution is made to the family for their fear and anguish?

  8. Hittman April 7, 2013 at 10:05 am #

    Anon for this, you’re confirming what I’ve long thought about CPS: Their mission is to break up healthy families, and keep dangerously abusive ones intact.

  9. Earth.W April 7, 2013 at 10:33 am #

    Australia has this problem. Even having bruises is automatically viewed as a sign of child abuse in the eyes of many in positions of authority.

  10. SKL April 7, 2013 at 10:50 am #

    Well if this is the new trend, it’s no wonder people are overprotective and it’s no wonder that protective gear (e.g., helmets) for babies has gone mainstream.

  11. Debbie April 7, 2013 at 10:58 am #

    “The CT scans of Caleb’s brain, along with a retinal hemhorrage, caused hospital staff to file a report of suspected child abuse with Hennepin County on Aug. 20, 2009. They said the findings were inconsistent with a fall from a car seat. A board-certified child abuse pediatrician, Dr. Mark Hudson, said “there is reason to be quite concerned that the history does not account for the medical findings, and [Caleb’s] ongoing safety must be a consideration.”

    “All of that being said,” he wrote, “there is no single finding here diagnostic of non-accidental injury.”

    So the hospital called CPS and reported it as possible child abuse of a 2 month old. So if CPS did not step in and keep this baby safe while it did its investigation, we could have had a different ending and everyone in an uproar about how CPS did not do its job. Yes they make mistakes and there are some bad CPS workers. There is also bad teachers, doctors and parents. I am sure the parents went through hell and I really feel bad for them but after seeing first hand what some people are capable of doing to an infant I would rather see CPS make sure the baby is safe then taking the chance of the baby being abused again. It is not a perfect system and I it does need to be changed but I don’t think they were wrong here. They went off the information provided by them by the hospital staff. They did their job.

  12. Laura April 7, 2013 at 11:00 am #

    I always wonder why the ACLU doesn’t get involved with these cases. They should step in and take over for this sort of thing but I guess they’re too busy fighting for transgendered rights to use the men’s/women’s changing room and representing NAMBLA. Our country’s priorities are beyond screwed up.

  13. SKL April 7, 2013 at 11:43 am #

    Laura, I agree with you, but the other part of it is: how does the ACLU know whom to believe? Abuse and accidents almost always happen behind closed doors. Just because someone acts offended at an accusation, that does not prove he’s innocent. I wouldn’t touch that with a 10-foot pole if I were ACLU, unless I had proof from an independent source that there was only one injury and it was caused by xyz.

  14. SKL April 7, 2013 at 11:44 am #

    Laura, to clarify, I agree with the second half of your comment.

  15. ECB April 7, 2013 at 12:03 pm #

    OK, a two month old gets injured to the point that his brain starts bleeding, and the people at the hospital are idiots for thinking there’s a possibility of child abuse? According to this, a two month old who probably doesn’t have much in the way of mobility manages to fall from his carrier that he obviously wasn’t strapped into that was conveniently placed right on the edge of something to a concrete patio below? How does that even work? I’m not saying that accidents don’t happen, or that this didn’t happen the way the mother says it does. I’m just saying that it’s perfectly understandable that the hospital staff may have been suspicious of this story.

  16. Michelle April 7, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

    As a “mandated reporter” (social worker) I just wanted to clarify that mandated reporters (including doctors, nurses, teachers) are REQUIRED BY LAW to contact CPS if there’s any suspicion of abuse. We are NOT permitted to investigate, and we have little or no leeway. CPS decides whether a situation is worthy of a formal report, and an investigation. If I DON”T contact CPS immediately and file a written report within 36 hours (in California) I can lose my license AND be subject to prosecution. There doesn’t even need to be actual abuse — just suspicion thereof – and I am required by law to contact CPS.

    That said, CPS doesn’t always do a good job or make sound judgments.

    I just wanted to clarify the role of doctors, hospitals, etc. in the whole system.

  17. Laura April 7, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

    SKL, when someone is taken into custody for possible criminal activity they must be made aware of their rights, are offered a lawyer straight away, and can only be held for a short time before being officially charged otherwise they mut be released. But, a child can be taken away from their parents for months with no charges ever being filed, no questions answered and no legal council provided. Why would it take two or many more months (or a year!) to determine whether abuse occurred or not? There is something fundamentally wrong with the system that allows the process to be draw out for so long. To me all that seems to be an infringement on the parent’s rights. That is why I think the ACLU should be involved. Especially when CPS admits they made a mistake.

  18. SKL April 7, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

    I am not sure how ACLU operates, but if you’re talking about a general push to make CPS change its policies on *taking* kids with just one mysterious injury, I could get on that bandwagon. But if you’re talking about taking part in a specific case, not so much. Child abuse is not a figment of our imagination, unfortunately – it happens often enough that it is not patently ridiculous to suspect it in the case of a serious injury to a child too young to be mobile. How would the ACLU decide which case to take on? What would happen if the ACLU took on a case, got what the parents wanted, and then the child ended up back in the hospital / dead from abuse that could be proven?

    Maybe they would be willing to take on a truly obvious mistake case, but how often do those arise? I really don’t know.

    Did the ACLU get involved when that little boy named Adolph Hitler got taken from his parents over a birthday cake?

  19. Hazel April 7, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

    I know a man whose son fell down the stairs. And I mean ACTUALLY fell down the stairs. He had a cut on his forehead – not a bad cut but the floor where he hit his head was made of stone. The father didn’t take his son to a doctor or to the hospital and he even thought about keeping the boy off school for a few days until it healed, because he was so afraid of this. I don’t know if he actually did keep him off school, but the boy was fine, thankfully. But it could easily have been different – head injuries are sneaky little things.

  20. Warren April 7, 2013 at 2:27 pm #

    @Debbie

    This better safe than sorry attitude is the problem. Willingness to sacrifice the innocent just to err on the side of caution, is unacceptable. There is no excuse for it.

  21. Donna April 7, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

    If what Debbie reported above is what was given to CPS (I can’t get the link to work), then absolutely CPS should have been involved and concerned. In this case, the DOCTORS medical impressions were incorrect, but CPS was not wrong to react.

    CPS, however, should not automatically default to taking children away, putting them in foster care and and largely cutting off parental contact. They do that because it is easier for them to monitor, but their job should be about what is best for the children and not what is easiest for them. Maybe of the agency was funded better this could be a reality.

    There are no foster homes in A. Samoa. As a result, kids are much less likely to be taken into the system. If they are taken and placed at the one small shelter, efforts are made to immediately reunify the child with a safe family member or friend and the parents have some input into where their child goes temporarily.

    This is a double-edged sword and I see many kids returned to sketchy situations because there is simply no other option. But I definitely believe that the attitude of taking custody as a last resort and quick placement with family or someone else known to the child with the input of the parents are things that could be better used in the US.

  22. Warren April 7, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

    “All of that being said,” he wrote, “there is no single finding here diagnostic of non-accidental injury.”

    Donna the bottom link in Lenore’s post still works. And this is apparently part of what the Doctor wrote in his report.

    Would that statement not conclude, that despite the injuries there was no evidence of intentional injury?

    With mandated reporting I can see that the medical staff will basically report anything. They have to, because their career is on the line. Basically putting them in a zero tolerance position.

    How many people will when hearing of these events possibly not seek medical attention for their child, and later regret it?

  23. Donna April 7, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

    @Warren –

    That wouldn’t conclude it for me. Make it so I didn’t automatically take a child out of the home? Probably. Make it so I didn’t further investigate? Absolutely not.

  24. Emily April 7, 2013 at 3:07 pm #

    I agree with Chad and Natalie–if doctors and other health-care workers start calling CPS every time a child comes in with a normal childhood injury (bruise, scrape, bump on the head, broken bone from falling from a tree/off the monkey bars, etc.), then parents might become reluctant to get their kids the medical attention that they need. Also, I agree with SKL that maybe this is why parents are becoming so overprotective, and buying baby knee pads, and pushing the Playstation rather than the swing set with older kids. However, there have been stories in the news about parents having their kids taken away by CPS or similar, for allowing their kids to become obese from lack of physical activity, and unhealthy diets:

    http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/obese-elementary-school-student-parent-home-report-article-1.983112

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2069986/Child-taken-care-obese-Parents-didnt-control-weight.html

    So, while I think it’s important for parents to teach their kids about health and safety, I think there should be a balance point. Kids need to move in order to be healthy, kids sometimes aren’t as co-ordinated as adults, kids take more risks than adults (when was the last time you saw an adult doing flips on the monkey bars, for example?), so naturally, kids are going to get a bit banged up in the process. Doctors shouldn’t cry “abuse” or “neglect” over that, because if kids aren’t allowed to run around and be kids, they become sedentary and obese, which is also dangerous to their health.

    We hear, and read, a lot about “health and safety policies,” as if “health and safety” were the same thing. This is a flawed mindset, because a lot of these policies lean towards “don’t.” Don’t let kids climb trees, don’t let kids do cartwheels, don’t let kids walk to school, etc. However, with this culture of “don’t” comes the flip side, which is “DO drive your kids everywhere, DO watch them every moment of every day, DO make them sit still more than is healthy, DO instill in them that the world is a dangerous place.” If you look at it that way, the ramifications of that mindset are much worse than a few bruises, scraped knees, or even broken bones. Actually, Lenore, I think I remember you running an article over the summer about an experienced pediatrician who saw kids with bruises, etc., as a good sign, because it meant that they were active, and they were being encouraged to play outside.

  25. Donna April 7, 2013 at 3:16 pm #

    @Warren –

    And I agree that some people won’t seek medical attention when needed. This is cause to revise the system and how CPS handles things. It is not cause for CPS to get a report saying that the injuries were inconsistent with the explanation and that the ongoing safety of the child is a concern and say “eh, doc couldn’t definitively say the injuries were intentional so let’s not look into the situation at all” and go on about their day.

    Further injuries need not be intentional to be a sign a abuse. Gross negligence is also abusive. Say the kid really did fall out of a carseat while left on a table all day alone while mom was outside reading a book.

    Personally I think doctors are the major issue here, not CPS. They spend 5 minutes with people and then send out these reports. Why exactly are you okay with doctors CYA and railing on CPS for investigating a report from that doctor saying he is concerned about the safety of the child?

  26. ECB April 7, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

    *CPS, however, should not automatically default to taking children away, putting them in foster care and and largely cutting off parental contact. They do that because it is easier for them to monitor, but their job should be about what is best for the children and not what is easiest for them.*

    Donna, I know taking kids out of their homes shouldn’t be an automatic response. However, in this case an infant was severely injured in a way that could very well have come from abuse. Of course, it could have been a freak accident, but at this point CPS would really have no way of knowing for sure. It would be a guessing game, and there’s a 50% chance that they would guess wrong. So, they have a choice between taking a two month old who will never remember, and who probably isn’t cognitively developed enough to even miss Mom simply because she’s Mom and putting him in a home where all of his physical and emotional needs will presumably be met, or they can let him go home with the people who quite possibly beat a helpless infant to the point of requiring hospitalization. If we’re talking about doing what’s best for the children, option 1 sounds like the best bet to me.

  27. Donna April 7, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    And doctors absolutely aren’t reporting every little injury. My kid had stitches this year and nobody called CPS.

    This doctor reported it because he believed that the injury was not consistent with their explanation of what happened. Not just because he had a bump on the head.

    And in this situation you have a non-talking child. You can’t guage what he said, his reactions, consistency of the story, interaction with parents. All things that doctors and hospital social workers look at before CPS is ever called.

  28. Donna April 7, 2013 at 3:34 pm #

    ECB –

    There are other options than foster care that should be exhausted first. I see it happen daily in a place with no foster care. Children are rarely in the shelter for more than a few days. Foster care is being used as a crutch in the US and is rarely much better than the houses these kids are removed from.

    And CPS needs to be more closely monitored by the court. Here if CPS becomes involved in a case due to abuse, the parties, including the children, all must appear in court on the very next available court day (at least every wed but often other days of the week as well) regarding temporary placement – whether that placement is at home or someplace else. And the case is addressed in court for status updates on a regular basis no less than once a month unless it is a special case needing longterm temporary placement (mom is in prison, child abandoned). Kids absolutely do not languish in CPS custody for months while these issues are sorted out with nobody addressing it.

  29. SKL April 7, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

    ECB, I disagree with you just about 100%. This was (as far as we know) a single incident that the doctor thought “might” be consistent with abuse. If the parents were told that they were under investigation for abuse of their little baby, do you really think they are going to go home and beat the kid up? It seems to me they are going to be 10x more cautious than before, knowing that any incident would make CPS that much more suspicious.

    Let’s assume that this reported incident was a bad injury and a repeat could result in permanent harm or death. Then I would support CPS checking on these folks a lot over the next year or so. A small infant’s serious accidental injury is not a free-range matter, it’s a matter of someone being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It happens, it doesn’t mean anyone is a bad person, but there are ways to prevent it happening again, so I could see CPS expecting the parents to undergo training.

    However, taking even a young infant away from its parents is traumatic enough to cause long-term problems in many instances. An infant’s mental, social, and emotional development is very rapid during the first year, and much of it depends on having a strong, consistent bond with someone (usually the parent). My own adopted kid has had multiple learning problems and some behaviors traceable to foster care / disruptions. Not to be sensational, but if you look at the family history of maniac serial killers, you see disruption (often including foster care) in a high percentage of cases. There is also a relatively high likelihood that the child will not get excellent care in the foster home, but may be abused / neglected there, especially as the foster care system gets more and more burdened due to unnecessary placements. And if it turns out that this child is eventually returned to its parents, there you have yet another disruption at another sensitive developmental age. It’s not OK on any level. The only way it’s OK is if they conclude that the parents intentionally harmed this child.

  30. ECB April 7, 2013 at 3:42 pm #

    “All of that being said,” he wrote, “there is no single finding here diagnostic of non-accidental injury.”

    Would that statement not conclude, that despite the injuries there was no evidence of intentional injury?

    Warren, I think it would depend on how you interpret the word “single”. Maybe there isn’t any one finding that could only have come as a result of abuse and not from an accident. No smoking gun or what have you. However, the combination of all the different medical tests could have made the doctors believe that this wasn’t an accident. Of course, it could mean that there isn’t any evidence that abuse took place. However, the phrasing of “there is no single finding” seems kind of awkward in that case. Wouldn’t the doctor have simply said “There isn’t a single finding diagnostic of nonaccidental injury.”, or even “I don’t think this kid was abused.”?

  31. SKL April 7, 2013 at 3:47 pm #

    As for the “single finding diagnostic of nonaccidental injury,” the doc is saying he declines to conclude that this was done by the parents on purpose.

    Danged if I can get a doctor’s “diagnosis” for anything these days. The doctor is reporting a suspicious injury, not drawing a conclusion on whether a crime was committed.

  32. Leah Backus April 7, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

    So…did no one but me notice that it was mom who had to move out of the family home, but no mention was made of dad? Seriously, people, there is simply no way to know the full story here unless we were privy to all the investigative and legal paperwork. These armchair analyses of these cases are doing nothing positive for the free-range kids movement and I wish to heck Lenore would stop posting them.

  33. Donna April 7, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

    @ECB – This was a 2-month old baby and highly likely to be breastfeeding so they removed, not just the mother, but also the food source. This baby stayed home with grandma so maybe breastfeeding/breast milk was able to continue. But if put in a foster home for 2 months, you’ve pretty much ended the breast as the sole food source. Even if she pumped everyday, her body would not be prepared to meet the needs of a 4 mo old baby and the baby would be used to the faster, easier milk delivery of the bottle.

  34. ECB April 7, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

    SKL, if somebody beats up a helpless infant to the point that his brain starts bleeding, they’re either a complete psychopath or they have very very serious anger control issues. Even if they did try to “be good”, is that any guarantee that they wouldn’t lose their temper again?

    *Let’s assume that this reported incident was a bad injury and a repeat could result in permanent harm or death. *

    What’s to assume here? His brain was bleeding. How is that not serious? You can become brain damaged or die from something like that. I really don’t understand why everyone is acting like this kid is being snatched from his home just because he got a “booboo.”

    Also, like I said, CPS would have no way of knowing for sure that this was just a freak accident. It’s not like they immediately realized that it was an accident, but decided to take the kids out of the home anyway. When they first started to investigate, they wouldn’t know whether it was an accident or abuse. Considering the seriousness of this baby’s injuries, it makes sense that they would err on the side of caution.

    I’ll admit that I’m not an expert in infant development, but I find it hard to believe that a two month old is going to suffer permanent emotional damage by being taken away from his mother. If he’s being bounced from home to home with no form of consistency whatsoever, then yes. But what if they take the baby out of the parent’s home, and place him with a new family who meet all of his needs physical and otherwise, keeps him the entire time the case is being investigated and even follows the exact schedule the baby is used to? Is he still going to be traumatized?

    So, CPS had a choice between doing something that could possibly cause emotional problems somewhere down the line, or doing something that could possibly result in a child being seriously injured or killed.

  35. K April 7, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

    At two months old, all three of my children were at least four months from getting nutrition from anything other than breast milk. I work full-time, so most of that was delivered at night. My children took as little expressed milk as possible during the day, and nursed much of the night. It is absurd to think that a two month old lacks the sentience to notice the difference. Even if not all parents make this choice – there should be stronger evidence before disrupting a family.

  36. SKL April 7, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

    Donna, I thought (in the linked story) they had the baby stay in the hospital and allowed the mom to breastfeed. Though that might not have been for the whole 2 months of the investigation. I thought removing the mom from the home was to protect the other kids.

  37. ECB April 7, 2013 at 4:44 pm #

    *This was a 2-month old baby and highly likely to be breastfeeding so they removed, not just the mother, but also the food source.*

    Um, you do realize they make formula right? I know that breast feeding is supposed to be the best option, but it’s not the only one. No offense, but you’re making it sound like this poor kid is going to starve to death because he doesn’t have access to his mother’s breast milk.

  38. K April 7, 2013 at 4:50 pm #

    My kids were highly allergic to dairy. Often, there are cross issues with soy – so, appropriate formula can be hard to find. Also, while formula is available – its use is correlated with allergies, ear infections, asthma, and other health issues. And, babies accustomed to breastfeeding derive comfort for
    the process. There should be good justification before this is disrupted.

  39. SKL April 7, 2013 at 4:52 pm #

    ECB, yes, the disruption is harmful for a baby that young. It’s a proven fact, not just my opinion.

    Also, AFAIK the baby had a single injury that is not consistent with a psychopath or anger-motivated creep “beating him up.” The couple had other children who were old enough to talk. If these folks were the type to go crazy and beat the crap out of a helpless infant, wouldn’t you be able to gather some evidence from the other kids (bruises, fears, testimony of beatings)? Or of documented mental illness? Prior reports? Concerns of teachers/ babysitters etc.? Since it turned out to be a “mistake” as stated by CPS itself, I’ll assume an investigation would have turned up evidence that did not support your crazy violent parent hypothesis. Said investigation could and should have been done before they decided to remove the baby from the parents’ custody.

    I’d love to hear exactly what the “mistake” was. Someone mixed up the file numbers? Someone was drunk when they read the initial report? Someone unreasonably delayed the hearing date by a couple months?

  40. SKL April 7, 2013 at 4:56 pm #

    I’ve heard of many cases of kids being placed with foster parents who have not been adequately screened. Some foster parents who abuse children have prior records of child abuse/neglect. Many foster homes are not adequately monitored. The argument that a baby placed in foster care is certain to be safe and well-cared for is flawed.

  41. SKL April 7, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

    ECB, are you a mother? If so, it surprises me to hear a mother speak so flippantly about the ramifications of a baby being wrongly separated from its mother for months.

  42. Donna April 7, 2013 at 5:14 pm #

    ECB –

    Yes, there is formula. And I have great respect for parents who choose to feed formula. These parents didn’t. They choose to breastfeed. Unless there is no other option, that decision should be maintained. Here, there was concern but not clear and present danger.

    SKL – I think that the baby was only in the hospital for a few days and during that time she was only allowed to see him to nurse him – from the time CPS stepped in until the hearing was held on Aug. 25. I can’t imagine that the state spent what must have been close to a million dollars to keep a perfectly healthy baby in the hospital for 2 months just so the mother could breastfeed. And, if they did, I may actually be even more outraged about that.

  43. SKL April 7, 2013 at 5:18 pm #

    But the writer implied that the family had no clue there was a problem until the baby was to be discharged. Or so it seemed to me. It is rather unclear.

  44. Steve April 7, 2013 at 5:24 pm #

    Michelle, Said:

    As a “mandated reporter” (social worker) I just wanted to clarify that mandated reporters (including doctors, nurses, teachers) are REQUIRED BY LAW to contact CPS if there’s any suspicion of abuse.”

    1.) Michelle. WHO decides WHAT is suspicious? Do you?

    2.) Do YOU have to adhere to a check list dreamed up by experts? ______ Yes?_______No?

    3.) Tell me about a group of experts who “always agree.”

    4.) If you have to adhere to a checklist in order to decide if something is “suspicious,” doesn’t this bother you?

    Lenore is showcasing this issue because “suspicion” has come to mean almost anything.

    When we have people in fear of loosing their jobs if they permit even one suspicious potential case of abuse to slip through, we have today’s system. The Fear System.

    EVERYTHING is suspicious, just in case!

    The fear system is everywhere. That’s why Lenore started this blog. She saw the helicopter fear system warping parents and children.

    Over the past 30 years many parents have lived in fear of some “well-meaning” person thinking their child might be abused because of bruises, cuts and scrapes. And many kids have those on display all the time. This over-zealous suspicion by authorities (and busybodies) has been out-of-wack for a long time, and its getting worse.

    Locally, we have a hospital advertising on the radio. Their advertisement is for what they call ER-FAST TRACK. I’m not kidding, here. They actually say this is an emergency room for MINOR EMERGENCIES like: “cuts, spains and sore throats.”

    So everything is an Emergency today.
    And almost anything is abuse.

  45. Donna April 7, 2013 at 5:25 pm #

    CPS resolved this very quickly in CPS terms with no finding of even minimal fault on behalf of the parents which tells me that an investigation while baby was still in the hospital and some intense followup could have resolved this without a disruption. The fact is that CPS defaulted to removal first and then began their investigation. And that is wrong.

  46. Donna April 7, 2013 at 5:30 pm #

    SKL – It seems that the first notification was when the parents EXPECTED the baby to be discharged. The baby was not discharged and the first hearing was a few days later. The baby was likely discharged once the hearing was held and temporary custody was determined. Again, there is no way that I imagine that a perfectly healthy baby was kept in the hospital for 2 months. A hospital is not a babysitter for healthy kids. It would demand his removal if he was no longer under care. And the state wouldn’t pay those bills.

  47. SKL April 7, 2013 at 5:39 pm #

    Donna, you’re probably right. I thought maybe the baby was still recovering and was kept in the hospital rather than have a foster family deal with the ongoing medical issue. Nowadays they discharge sick people but expect them to do a lot of follow-up on an outpatient basis, etc.

  48. Donna April 7, 2013 at 5:45 pm #

    SKL – That could be true too. But since the baby was going to grandma and not a random foster parent, I imagine he just went home. I could be wrong.

  49. SKL April 7, 2013 at 5:48 pm #

    Rereading the article, it’s not clear how long the mom had to live away from home, or how often she got to be with the baby (under supervision). A lot of things are not clear.

    Point is, though, they need to have a policy that requires investigations to be done without removing the child unless there is clear evidence of continuing danger. An example of such evidence would be multiple non-accidental injuries or unexplained injuries occurring at multiple different times.

  50. hineata April 7, 2013 at 6:57 pm #

    @Donna – I am surprised that you have a cps unit on a. Samoa. I would have thought the tribal groups would have dealt with most stuff internally? The joys of ‘civilisation’ I guess.

  51. ECB April 7, 2013 at 8:17 pm #

    *If these folks were the type to go crazy and beat the crap out of a helpless infant, wouldn’t you be able to gather some evidence from the other kids (bruises, fears, testimony of beatings)? Or of documented mental illness? Prior reports? Concerns of teachers/ babysitters etc.? Since it turned out to be a “mistake” as stated by CPS itself, I’ll assume an investigation would have turned up evidence that did not support your crazy violent parent hypothesis. Said investigation could and should have been done before they decided to remove the baby from the parents’ custody.*

    SKL, first off, yes, there is evidence you can collect that can help determine whether somebody is being abused or not. The question is what do you do with the kid(s) while this evidence is being collected? This is probably something that would have to be decided on a case by case basis. In this instance, an infant who is completely unable to defend himself in any way suffered an injury serious enough to require hospitalization. When CPS first arrives, they have no way of knowing whether or not this is abuse. They only know that it’s a possibility. Now, if CPS assumes that abuse is a possibility, they would have to ask themselves how safe these kids are. I doubt any of them would want to leave children in the custody of people who have possibly caused serious physical harm to a helpless infant while they sort things out.

    Unfortunately, aside from video evidence, there’s not much evidence that CPS can gather that could be considered completely objective proof. People can lie or make mistakes or interpret a situation differently from someone else. Medical records and other documents can get lost or have mistakes on them. Kids can have behavioral problems for a variety of reasons. Even with a complete lack of prior evidence, you couldn’t really say that a particular incident isn’t abuse. Abusive parents usually try their best to hide the fact that they’re abusing their kids. They may be outright sociopaths who deliberately hurt their kids and know how to not leave marks. And of course there’s a first time for everything. I know that this last example especially sounds wildly paranoid, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility. So, at the end of the day CPS would have to try to gather as much evidence as they can, combine that with whatever experience and instincts they have, and make a judgment call. And there’s no way to guarantee that they’ll always make the right one.

  52. SKL April 7, 2013 at 8:29 pm #

    But ECB, here in the USA we don’t expect that just because someone can’t prove beyond a doubt that he did NOT commit such a heinous act, he (and his family) must be treated as if he HAD committed it. That’s not how things are supposed to be done here.

    This mistake is not benign. It harms children.

    And if this is the standard, what is to stop them from doing it to anyone and everyone? Every parent in town “might” have gone overboard on his kid today. Every parent in the ER “might” have been the cause of his kid’s injuries. Every kid who has any problem whatsoever “might” be the victim of neglect – emotional, physical, or educational. How is CPS to know I did *not* hit my kid with a stick, humiliate her, or starve her today? By your standard, all non-verbal kids (at least) should be taken away just in case.

  53. SKL April 7, 2013 at 8:32 pm #

    I should have said, by your standard, all non-verbal kids who have problems / injuries should be taken away just in case. (Clarifying my last comment to ECB.)

  54. fred schueler April 7, 2013 at 8:58 pm #

    I wonder if this is due to the physician at the second injury not having access to the report about the first injury, so he just had to take the parents’ (possibly fabricated) word for it, rather than seeing a formal medical report. When the wife was hospitalized for leukemia (Ontario,1992) she was repeatedly readmitted after going home for each chemo, and the physicians had to rely on her journal as a record of her treatment and symptoms at previous admissions, since it would have been very difficult for them to get the records of her previous visits out of the hospital’s archival files. If a two-month-old was being properly nourished, how could it be fed away from the mother? …and certainly bureaucracies easily slip into “guilty until proven innocent.”

  55. Arianne April 7, 2013 at 9:01 pm #

    My cousin had this happen to them. They took their son in to the ER for a decent head bump (he fell off the bed) and ended up having to take parenting classes, lots of meddling by CPS for a while (like, I think a year or so), and even were ordered not to allow children to live with their stepdad for a short time! They are really good parents, so it freaked us out. I wondered if their blended family status and race had anything to do with it. It has certainly given me pause when I’ve considered taking my kids in a time or two since then.

    Also, OT, but I thought this was interesting in light of previous discussions here on the likeness/differences in risk-assessment for kids and cats (I don’t have cats, so I don’t know if this is overboard or not).

    http://diyshowoff.com/2012/05/23/cuckoo-4-design-diy-cat-tunnel/

  56. Donald April 7, 2013 at 9:33 pm #

    I think this is a great example of why we need a community where people are friendly to each other, know each other, look out for one another, and make it harder for a pedophile to sneak in.

    When we destroy the community, fuel suspicion, and presume that all people are kidnappers or creeps until they can prove otherwise, the only thing that can protect children is a bureaucracy! A bureaucracy is very mechanical and can’t use judgment.

    We need a community SO THAT WE CAN PROTECT CHILDREN

    CPA can do a better job if they have more personal references to check. However the way we are butchering the community, more and more people are isolated and uncooperative. (and take their frustrations out on their kids) CPA has a hard job. Why are we trying to make it harder for them by fueling suspicion, paranoia, and mistrust?

  57. Jenny Islander April 7, 2013 at 9:47 pm #

    @Arianne, I do think that CPS is differentially harsh based on race and/or class. My friend’s preschool daughter climbed up on a high stool at a local fast food restaurant while she was a few feet away with her attention on the cashier. The girl fell and bonked her head, and my friend had to go through months of CPS visits etc. on suspicion of being a bad mother. My toddler son inflicted a much more serious wound on himself with a supposedly innocuous object while I was a few feet away cooking dinner. For a while they thought he would have to have major surgery or die (he didn’t and he didn’t). But nobody breathed a word against me, even once.

    She is brown and she was on aid at the time. I am white and I wasn’t on aid at the time.

  58. Warren April 7, 2013 at 9:48 pm #

    The one statement the doctor made, that I brought up….I was wondering if that was an attempt on his part to try and temper the response of CPS. Stating that the child did have the injury, but that an all out offensive by CPS wasn’t called for.

    For all intents and purposes my parents should have been doing life in prison, for abuse. My medical records read like a connect the dots diagram, of stiches, sprains, breaks, and so on. None of their doing, but to some that doesn’t seem to matter.

    In most other professions, if you made an error that caused as much damage to someone, as this has done to this family, heads would roll. Why is CPS allowed to operate, change lives, and not be held responsible?

  59. Warren April 7, 2013 at 9:51 pm #

    I also wonder, if a few years down the road, this mother is going to have background checks coming back, dictating she cannot volunteer at the school or wherever.

  60. Sad, but true April 7, 2013 at 9:52 pm #

    And to continue on what Dave said, what is the restitution provided for the years of therapy the children will suffer for having been abruptly taken away from their families at such a young age without knowing what happened? Children blame themselves when their parents fight, divorce and even when they die, what happens to a kid when they are whisked away to live with strangers for months without an explanation?? Who pays for that therapy??

  61. Donna April 7, 2013 at 10:13 pm #

    @hineata – Part of the “American” part of American Samoa maybe. Truthfully CPS is needed here. Because of the nature of things sometimes kids aren’t safe anywhere in their tribe – the teen whose entire family blamed her for her uncle killing himself when he had been molesting her for years for example. They even need some provisions for foster care so we don’t have to keep reunifying families that don’t really want to be reunified. But for the most part families are left intact while counseling, etc is ongoing. I have access to a good bit, but certainly not all, of CPS cases and the cases I’ve seen CPS involved in needed CPS involvement.

  62. Donna April 7, 2013 at 10:54 pm #

    @Warren –

    CPS workers aren’t omniscient. They did not maliciously do this to ruin a family. They had a pretty bad allegation of abuse from a doctor and acted accordingly. The doctor was wrong. CPS and the court (we seem to be forgetting that a JUDGE ordered the children removed; CPS didn’t just take them) seemed to jump too fast to removal as they often do in allegations of physical abuse (while leaving kids in cases of emotional abuse and neglect). Mistakes were made, but if you hold CPS workers liable for not being omniscient, the system shuts down and no kids are helped.

    I think some of you here need to go sit in family court and see what exists in this world. Family court is not full of innocent falls and kids walking to the post office anymore than the prisons are full of innocent people wrongly convicted, though there are a few who are there. CPS does need some overhaul, but there are hundreds of thousands of kids that NEED even the imperfect system we have so destroying it is idiotic.

  63. Warren April 7, 2013 at 11:23 pm #

    @Donna,

    I am not saying to trash the system, but it does need a major overhaul.

    Any system that can effectively ruin the lives of innocent people has to have accountability. You cannot tear a family apart, and then just walk away afterwards with the attitude, of oh well better safe than sorry.

    You and many others in here have jumped down my throat for charging in and over reacting, but seem to think it is fine for the state to do it. You do not get to have it both ways.

    As for those you say are jailed and wrongfully convicted…….when they have been cleared via DNA or whatever, the province, the state, the system pays dearly for ruining peoples lives. Yet CPS does it and walks away.

  64. hineata April 8, 2013 at 12:14 am #

    @Donna, regarding the teenage girl, that is sad. Guess I was being rather idealistic. I do like the idea though of kids being with family as far as possible, and it sounds like your guys try to do that. Must be a hell of a job sometimes being a social worker. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

  65. Helen April 8, 2013 at 3:26 am #

    I don’t know if CPS were overzealous in this case. We don’t know all the details. I’m sure they are sometimes and other times they leave things they ought to get involved in. I’m sure there’s room for improvement – I haven’t seen an institution, State, nonprofit or private that was perfect.

    BUT I take issue with the idea that concerns for child safety should be held to the criminal proof standard and that the ideas of inncence and guilt and proof beyond a reasonable doubt are what should drive CPS’s actions on a child’s behalf.

    I used to be a police officer several decades ago. And one of the things that horrified me then was that our tactic if a child said they were being abused by their parents was to leave them where they were in order to collect evidence. Because it happened too much that a child was removed, the evidence (pretty much the child’s word) was not sufficient for a conviction and the child was returned to the parents – who now knew they were under suspiscion, but also that the chld needed to be kept silent. So the reasoning was, better to put a 9 year old child who was being raped by her father back in the house to be raped again in circumstances where evidence could be gathered than to keep her safe from the moment you suspected. How sick is that?

    In a system where parents’ rights hold until they are criminally proven to have abused their children, you are driven to do terrible things like this.

  66. BL April 8, 2013 at 5:40 am #

    @Warren
    “My medical records read like a connect the dots diagram, of stiches, sprains, breaks, and so on. None of their doing, but to some that doesn’t seem to matter.”

    Which is what many (most?) of us remember about our own childhoods. Bumps, bruises, scrapes, chipped teeth, even a broken bone or two – all from running around, playing games, bicycling, climbing on things, exploring.

    The idea that I could have been ripped from my parents’ house and placed with some government-appointed caretaker just chills me to the bone.

  67. SKL April 8, 2013 at 5:52 am #

    Helen, I understand your point, but it seems to ignore the harm that is done to a child when she’s removed from a family that is not abusing her. Not to mention the simple fact that it isn’t right to discipline someone who is innocent.

    Of course if a 9yo girl says she’s being raped by family members, that is a while different story from the OP, where suspicion of abuse is based purely on circumstantial evidence (an injury but no witness saying it was done by the parent). Granted, infants can’t tell, but on the other hand, accidents do happen fairly often. I’d guess the majority of babies fall on their heads before they are out of diapers.

    If the incidence of false reporting / mistaken suspicion was low, compared to the incidence of true reporting / correct suspicion, then I could understand occasionally risking the former to ensure all of the latter are caught. But not when there are other alternatives such as speaking to the other children in the home etc.

    What we’re seeing here is the other extreme – effectively, they are imposing strict liability. If your kid has an injury, you are an abuser. I just can’t get on board with that.

  68. Warren April 8, 2013 at 8:02 am #

    @Helen,

    It must have been more frustrating than any of us could imagine.

    But that does not justify being able to rip families apart, just to err on the side of caution.

    Aside from the harm done to the child, by being taken from her mother, there is the damage done to the rest of the family. Allegations of child abuse can ruin a parent’s life, from the stress, to the pain, to alot of time the damage done to their reputations, which can last only a short time, or could follow them the rest of their lives.
    Hopefully this in this case the family will recover, but there are cases where families do not.

  69. Brian April 8, 2013 at 8:51 am #

    This is a really scary story and to second the point above, the biggest issue is that it keeps families out of the hospital when there are potential head injuries. Instead of stopping by to just double check it becomes a situation that risks the freedom of your entire family. The result can be children who die of brain swelling simply because they never go to a doctor out of fear.

    I also wanted to point out the difference between this story and the one where the father was keeping CPS out last week. These folks did everything they could to resolve the situation and only then did they sue. They got their case resolved, restored their family and then asked for justice. They didn’t send out dogs to attack cops or keep CPS out of their home. Had they done so, it is likely that this story would have had a different outcome.

  70. Helen April 8, 2013 at 10:16 am #

    SKL – I agree that a strict liability, prove-your-innocence system is bad for children too. But it’s not clear to me that that is what we have – I haven’t heard that being the policy for any CPS department, whereas leaving a child in place was the policy our force followed.

    In this case it wasn’t that the child was injured and the parents were therefore considered guilty. It was that the injuries were not what would normally be expected from the explanation the parents gave. That’s an inconsistency that ought to rasie concerns. When you’re talking about children too young to talk, especially in a family not chaotic enough to draw authorities’ attention anyway, this is often the only point at which there is a chance for an abused child to be saved. Taking that sort of warning seriously is important if we are going to protect children whose parents are abusing them.

    I think the decision on whether the department sets the bar appropriately should be based on the balance between the number of false positives (like this case) and the number of false negatives (times a child who was being abused would be missed).

    This story doesn’t tell us anything about where the balance is for the department in question, so it doesn’t tell us anything about how reasonable the department is. The story does get us thinking about the problems with removing children in a system with imprfect knowledge, and that’s good, but it plays on the emotions of just one story, whereas the true picture is hundreds and thousands of stories some with similar outcomes and some with different ones. It’s a complex situation given a false veneer of simplicity through the use of a single case.

  71. Christina April 8, 2013 at 10:41 am #

    I am coming to the conclusion that it just depends on the day, the hour, and the mood of any given individual. When we were living in Houston, one of my sons broke his foot at 16 months while in the care of our (excellent) babysitter. The resident called CPS before even ordering pain medication for him. I was so angry, I told the CPS worker that she could go and find the pain management person and once my child was comfortable I would discuss the incident. I was shaking I was so mad. To her credit, she went and found the person for me. A second CPS worker came by later and we discussed the matter at length. She was very blunt about the fact that she considered it a waste of time based on her observations of my behavior. Apparently threatening the resident with bodily injury comparable to my son’s if said resident touched my son again before he received pain alleviation medication (not my best moment) worked in my favor. It probably also helped that the injury did not happen under my watch. It probably REALLY helped that the doctor running the ER that night had a kid who was in a MDO program with my boys. That night was my only interaction with CPS.

    A co-worker in LI had a far different experience. Her middle child, around age 10, made a comment at school about how his dad would beat him if he brought home anymore bad grades. The kid’s parents were VERY anti-corporal punishment, so it was funny to those of us who knew the family. Apparently, the school took it VERY seriously and called CPS without ever once talking to the kid. It took over three months and several attorneys at our firm throwing in some pro bono time before that mess was cleared up. Poor kid was SO freaked out. Unsurprisingly, he is now fairly mistrustful of his teachers and the school in general, because he doesn’t even know who called CPS. One little joke (from his perspective), and his family was put through hell.

  72. Elisabeth April 8, 2013 at 11:33 am #

    does anyone know whether an insurance companies obligation to pay changes if abuse can be proven? I know it can vary from state to state, but I can’t help wonder if there is some financial incentive for someone (and by “someone” I mean large, octopus like corporations — ’cause they’re people, right?) to pursue these kinds of claims.

    My daughter (14) who got a concussion when she tripped over her backpack and hit her head on her bedpost. (I’ve told her a million times not to leave her backpack on the ground by the door — hey! maybe i’m negligent because I don’t pick it up for her!!) She just got a “confidential – for addressee only” form in the mail from our health insurance company asking basically “who did this to you? Because we want to reduce our responsibility for this claim.”

    Maybe I’m too much of a conspiracy-theory lover — but whenever there is outrageous stuff going on, you gotta ask “who’s getting paid?”

  73. Elisabeth April 8, 2013 at 11:34 am #

    ugh -forgive my pre-coffee grammar: “insurance company’s obligation.” Mea culpa.

  74. SKL April 8, 2013 at 11:47 am #

    Helen, I never said the incident should not have raised concern. I said an initial investigation should have been conducted *before* deciding whether to take the child away from his parents. In this case, the child was in the hospital for several days, and they could have done it then. Instead they showed a gross disregard for the child’s welfare by postponing the investigation while the child was kept from his mother.

  75. Donna April 8, 2013 at 5:09 pm #

    “As for those you say are jailed and wrongfully convicted…….when they have been cleared via DNA or whatever, the province, the state, the system pays dearly for ruining peoples lives.”

    Only if they are CONVICTED and spend considerable time in prison.

    There are thousands of people who spend MANY MANY MANY months in jail waiting for a trial to be acquitted (my last case was 10 mos but we’ve had them wait over a year). They get nothing. We just consider that the system working in that an innocent person is not convicted.

  76. Donna April 8, 2013 at 5:18 pm #

    “does anyone know whether an insurance companies obligation to pay changes if abuse can be proven?”

    The insurance company would be obligated to pay, however, it is possible to get their money back if someone else caused the injury. Many of our physical injury criminal cases involve restitution to the victim for medical bills. In the case of insurance, they would file a claim with the DAs office to have restitution paid to them in the event of a conviction if criminal charges are pending.

    Then you also have civil actions. The insurance companies can sue an individual for reimbursement of any money paid as well whether criminal charges are pending or not.

  77. Donna April 8, 2013 at 5:39 pm #

    “Any system that can effectively ruin the lives of innocent people has to have accountability.”

    The problem is that too much accountability shuts down the system and harms children.

    Mistakes are going to happen. It is that simple. CPS workers are human and humans make mistakes. Also most child abusers are smart enough not to do it in a room full of witnesses. Often the only witness are the children. Some of whom are too young to talk and all of whom love their parents and many of whom don’t actually want to be removed from situations that will potentially kill them.

    If you make a CPS worker accountable for every wrongful removal, no kids will be removed. Why would you risk removing a child if you there is any possibility that the parent was innocent if being wrong meant you had to suffer a penalty?

    If you make a CPS worker accountable for every failure to remove, all potential abuse reports would result in removal. Why not remove a kid if there is any possibility that the parent is guilty if being wrong means you have to suffer a penalty?

    If you make CPS accountable for both, then the system stops.

    CPS should be accountable for gross misconduct and malicious actions. CPS can’t be accountable for simply making a mistake. Here they should be questioned as to why the investigation didn’t start until AFTER the children were removed. They had 5 days from injury until court hearing and it doesn’t appear that they talked to anyone except the doctor. That conduct should be looked into and them possibly held accountable if done with no valid reason (underfunding is going to be a big reason for this and I don’t see faulting a case worker for having too many cases and too few hours in the day or holding an agency accountable because they lack funding to hire enough people).

  78. LRothman April 8, 2013 at 6:03 pm #

    I was lucky. When my son was about 10, he fell in the woods and ripped his knee open on a rock. At the hospital, after about the third person asked him what happened, he looked at me and said “why can’t they just listen the first time.” The nurse who was in the room almost started laughing.
    I told him that sometimes kids lie about what happen because it was someone else’s fault and they don’t want to get that person in trouble. I said that they make you repeat to make sure that the story doesn’t change too much.
    He said “that makes sense”.
    Between his question and his response to my answer, they must have been satifsified because that was the last time they asked.

  79. Helen Quine April 8, 2013 at 6:03 pm #

    Sorry SKL. I meant to address my previous post to Warren.

  80. mags April 8, 2013 at 8:51 pm #

    Of course an injury must be investigated but both sides of the story must be taken into account. There are many, many instances in the US, Canada, and the UK wherein hospitals are quick to label an injury as shaken baby syndrome, when it is not. Many so called experts have been discredited in recent years.
    One can look to case law in NY,, the case of Julia BB,, only won by appeal by an extraordinary attorney named Cynthia Feathers who took the case pro bono.

    Or the case of the Finnegans in Indiana. Also prro bono attorneys.

    Or the Baynes in British Columbia.

    As to a State’s Directory for child abuse, that is another animal.. Been ruled unconstitutional in some states, as well it should be.

    Only credible evidence, that is the social worker thinks it may have happened can land you on the list. In NY, you are on the list until the youngest child named in the report turns 28 years of age.
    Being on the list precludes you from working in education, child care, medicine, health care, EMS, any job with a security clearance, law enforcement, and most if not all civil service jobs..

    A total lack of due process.

  81. mags April 8, 2013 at 8:53 pm #

    I am so sorry for the typos. Got this new wireless mouse and it is faster than I am.

  82. mags April 8, 2013 at 9:03 pm #

    I am not an attorney, merely a paralegal volunteering in immigration law at a non profit at present. But there are non profit law clinics devoted to family law and most importantly social service law in NYC in support of parents..

    My hope is that other paralegals and attorneys may throw their hat in to help parents who are falsely accused.

  83. Sue Luttner April 8, 2013 at 9:09 pm #

    This anecdote is more than just a problem with CPS understaffing: It illustrates how child-protection physicians working with a widely accepted but flawed model of infant head injury have been over-diagnosing abuse for 30 years and counting. The problem is that the system contains no controls for such medical mistakes, so the doctors have been convinced by their own experiences that the theory is correct. Families are put in the position of having to prove that they did not abuse their children, which many of them simply cannot do.

    The tragedies are overwhelming. Please see, for example, the story of a family torn apart when their son’s genetic disorder was misdiagnosed as abuse: http://onsbs.com/prologue/

  84. mags April 8, 2013 at 9:31 pm #

    Understaffing, my eye. I agree with you, Sue. Child abuse for a simple one time instance that cannot be confirmed? No, most state statutes protect families against this but CPS does not follow the statutes.

  85. AW13 April 8, 2013 at 9:39 pm #

    As a mandatory reporter (both as a teacher and as a nurse’s aid), no, we didn’t have a checklist, but we did have a list of suspicious injuries. So maybe what we’re looking at here is also partially a flaw in how mandatory reporters are being told to assess potential abuse.

  86. Warren April 8, 2013 at 10:04 pm #

    @Brian
    With your comparison about how this family cooperated, and everything got resolved. What got resolved? A mother had to move out of her own home, and have the grandmother come in and take care of the kid. I don’t even want to imagine the financial costs this family suffered. The trauma the family suffered, the damage to their reputation and so on.
    The biggest thing is they had no choice but cooperate, because they took their baby to the hospital, and the hospital would give the baby back. They had no choice but cooperate.
    So don’t try and make this out to be a shining example of how cooperating with CPS is the way to go.

  87. Warren April 8, 2013 at 10:05 pm #

    sorry “hospital wouldn’t give the baby back”

  88. Warren April 8, 2013 at 10:23 pm #

    “CPS can’t be accountable for simply making a mistake.”

    Simply making a mistake is misplacing a file. Simply making a mistake is adding 2 plus 2 and getting 5.

    Tearing a family apart, without exploring every possible avenue first, is not simply making a mistake. That is gross misconduct.

    In the private sector, employees that performed like that would find themselves jobless, real fast. So why do we accept such low standards from these people.

  89. Donna April 9, 2013 at 2:41 am #

    “In the private sector, employees that performed like that would find themselves jobless, real fast. ”

    First off nobody does this job in the private sector so we have no idea what the result would be. But in your opinion we fire everyone who errs on the side of caution. Do we also fire everyone who errs on the side of family when the children are being abused? Since every single person who can’t see the future (all of them) who does this job will at some point err to one side or the other, and probably both, who exactly do we get to do this job?

    No offense but this isn’t tire changing. I’m not knocking people who change tires for a living. But changing tires is pretty cut and dry without much grey area. Much of CPS’ job is trying to predict the future. Humans are notably less than perfect at correctly predicting the future. Expecting them to do so with 100% accuracy is futile.

    And if you have a career with HUGE stakes your miscalculations have HUGE consequences. I have 300 peoples lives in my hand every day. A miscalculation on my part means that an innocent person could spend years in prison. And I have and will make miscalculations because I don’t have a crystal ball. I can make the best decisions that I can based on my experience but I can’t read the minds of 12 unknown people.

    My boss absolutely will never fire me for a miscalculation. He will fire me if someone goes to prison because I couldn’t be bothered to prepare for the trial. And that is where there may be a failing in this situation – failing to conduct an investigation prior to removing the child. But you seem to want to go beyond that and hammer every single CPS worker who makes a miscalculation as to the need to remove a child.

  90. Warren April 9, 2013 at 8:01 am #

    @Donna

    Then by your employer’s standards these people would be fired. Because although you took one quote from my comment, you skipped over the one before it.

    “Tearing a family apart, without exploring every possible avenue first, is not simply making a mistake. That is gross misconduct.”

    There is also a big difference between what you do and what they do. People come to you for help. You do your best to help them.
    This families do not go to CPS for help, quite the opposite, they find themselves under attack by CPS and the system.

    It is funny Donna, every other profession out there has accountability. Doctors, lawyers, cops, nurses, teachers, but for the sake of the children, the CPS army seems to be very much above them all.

    I am not saying to hammer the little mistakes, people make mistakes all the time, it is human nature. But when you rip a family apart, cause all the emotional, mental and financial damage, and your are wrong……………you don’t just get to walk away. That is bullshit, and you know it.

    And Donna please stop playing tabloid reporter and taking my comments out of context.
    There was the quote you left out in this one above, and I had said “wrongfully convicted” yet you felt the need to comeback with “only after they are convicted”. Little games like this are beneath you.

  91. mags April 9, 2013 at 6:56 pm #

    Families have been fighting back by suing and although immunity does exist it doesn’t exist when hospitals and CPS do not follow even their own rules.

    There have been wins for falsely accused and persecuted families, some published, some not.

    But I do know of a few doctors who no longer practice in the “child protection” arena, some through major media exposure to their erring, others through lawsuits.

    Some “experts” have created a cottage industry of “child protection”.

    When a child falls, according to what I have read, social workers chime in, the entire dynamics of the family must be considered. Children fall. Accidents do happen. Remember accidents? They sure enough happened when I was a child.

    Now a days, from the cases I had previously worked on and/or read about, as the earlier poster stated, the burden of proof has shifted. One is guilty –in deed in some instances social services attempts to exacerbate the situation, until one PROVES his or her innocence. Often times nearly impossible as to how to prove the negative, that is often the question.
    Straight upfront, if it were me and I was presented with a CPS investigation, I would shut up and get an attorney tout suite.

  92. oncefallendotcom April 12, 2013 at 9:20 am #

    I am sick of the victim industry. It exploits children for profits. It is easy to round up the sheeple with “save the children” slogans and anecdotal stories of horrifying abuse when they need to raise money or get some guy elected. And you people buy it hook, line and sinker. We aren’t thinking of the children when we put 10 year old kids on the public registry. THE REGISTRY SHOULD NOT EXIST IN THE FIRST PLACE!

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