They are a microcosm of the failures of the Child Protective Services System - two young men whose stories clearly illustrate two sides of the same coin. It was a chance encounter in the middle of Union Station in downtown Washington, D.C. As we talked with these young men, I realized that their stories were perfect demonstrations of why Dee Prince, Whitney Manning, and I joined hundreds of other parents and activists in our nation's capitol for the Million Parent March events of September 17 - 19, 2017. One of them had grown up in the foster care system since age 3, and told that he and his siblings had been abandoned by their mother because she didn't care. After he aged out of the system at age 18, he found out he had been lied to, as he was reunited with his mother and siblings. He was never abused in his home. The other young man grew up being abused in his home, and there were people who knew, who saw, yet did nothing. They left a scared, hurting little boy in a bad situation and didn't intervene. The contrast in their stories is riveting, yet it is something that I hear on almost a daily basis. The Child Protective System failed the children in both cases. Why?
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An Idaho couple has been blindsided by an accusation of Shaken Baby Syndrome. Michael and Chelsea Wolken had a date night and left their 5 month old baby in the care of a trusted babysitter. They knew something wasn't right when they got baby Rylee home that night, but they never dreamed that her symptoms would be diagnosed days later as Shaken Baby Syndrome. The Wolkens have more questions than answers about what happened to make their baby so sick, but one thing they say they are certain of - they didn't shake their baby. A Child Abuse Specialist pediatrician told police and Child Protection Services that the baby's condition had to be caused by abuse, based on his interpretation of x-rays, despite the fact that there were no external signs of trauma, such as a neck injury, bruising, or history of violence in the parents. Since the doctor has made this diagnosis, CPS has taken custody of Rylee and removed Chelsea's other 4 children from the home. And doctors have stopped looking for any other explanation. A very sick baby is now living with strangers in foster care.
It has been two years since "Baby Malik" was returned to his family. It has been a long journey of helping him to overcome the harm from being taken by Child Protective Services and Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago, but his grandmother Lakisha Tanna says that they can finally "function like a normal family again." Malik just started K-5 kindergarten. He is doing well now, but that didn't happen overnight. He was out of his family's custody for 1 year, 8 months, and a day. All that time in the custody of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) had a lasting impact on him, and it wasn't good. He came home with a great deal of insecurity, afraid to let Lakisha out of his sight. There were times that Lakisha was afraid that he would never come home, and times that she feared for Malik's very life. She thanks God that he is safe now. The public attention brought to their story by Health Impact News made a big difference, she believes. As long as DCFS and Lurie Children's Hospital were able to operate in secrecy, there was no accountability and they were able to do whatever they wanted with Malik, including perform multiple experimental surgeries on him without his family's consent. To this day, Malik's story remains one of the most horrific stories we have ever covered of medical abuse under Child Protective Services custody. Because our readers became involved in making phone calls and writing letters, holding the hospital and DCFS accountable, Malik was finally returned home.
A law professor at the oldest law school in the nation believes that there is no inherent right to parent one's own children. In an interview for CRTV about homeschooling, Professor James G. Dwyer told syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin that: "The reason that parent-child relationship exists is because the state confers legal parenthood on people through its paternity and maternity laws." An investigation into Dwyer's writings and history reveals that this alarming statement was not an exaggerated statement taken out of context or misrepresented by a conservative journalist. Instead, the statement appears to be a foundational core belief held by a man who formerly worked in New York state family courts as a Law Guardian, which is the equivalent of a Guardian ad Litem. Dwyer's writings now influences policy within the family court system. Dwyer argues: "Courts should recognize that newborn babies, much more clearly than birth parents, have fundamental interests at stake in the state's selection of legal parents and, therefore, a much stronger claim to constitutional protection."
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Matthew Marble is a disabled dad who loves his daughter very much, and claims he has never done anything to harm her. When the state of Tennessee terminated his right to parent his child, he was shattered. Requests by family members to care for her were denied by the Department of Children's Services (DCS). Recently, he learned the devastating news--on Facebook--that his little girl has been adopted out. The news came right before Hailey's 5th birthday. Several family members saw the public posts with her adoption photos. Matthew's mother, Kim Trackwell wrote: "To find out over Facebook that his daughter was adopted ... the tears just won't stop. I love you, Hailey!"
Oregon's child welfare agency has agreed to pay $7 million to settle a lawsuit filed on behalf of two children who were nearly starved to death by foster parents the state approved for them. The Yamhill County foster parents who for years withheld food from the two preschoolers and subjected them to other abuse, John and Danielle Yates, are each serving 2 ½ years in prison. According to the lawsuit, caseworkers and their supervisors ignored complaints and obvious problems during the 2 1/2 years the children lived with the couple. A state review of the case found that a caseworker saw the emaciated children less than a month before doctors at Randall Children's Hospital determined they suffered from chronic starvation. But the caseworker did nothing. At Randall, the lawsuit says, doctors found the children resembled victims of a famine: their ribs visible, their bellies protruding and their brain development severely affected.
Nearly a year after a judge overturned the murder conviction of a former suburban day care worker accused of killing a newborn in her care, the woman is suing investigators for allegedly withholding evidence and fabricating scientific findings, according to court documents. Jennifer Del Prete, 46, spent nearly a decade in prison after she was found guilty of first-degree murder in the 2003 death of 14-month-old Isabella Zielinski. Authorities accused Del Prete of shaking the 4-month-old at the day care where Del Prete served as a caretaker. The baby died about 10 months later. During her trial, a state medical expert testified that Isabella's injuries could have been inflicted only on the day she became unresponsive, ignoring evidence that the baby had suffered an unexplained brain injury days earlier. A Freedom of Information request filed by journalism students at Northwestern University's Medill Justice Project uncovered a memo written by the lead Romeoville detective who worried that the pathologist who conducted the autopsy did not agree with the shaken baby syndrome theory.
Pitocin is one of the most commonly used drugs in childbirth, given to the majority of birthing women to either induce or augment (speed up) labor. Cytotec is also used by many doctors to induce labor. As common as they are, they are not without significant risks to both mother and baby. There are known side effects that are rarely, if ever, told to parents. Unfortunately, some of these risks also appear on the list of symptoms of Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS), or, as it is sometimes called, Abusive Head Trauma (AHT). Hundreds of parents each year are accused of SBS. The National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome estimates that there are 1,300 cases of SBS per year in the U.S. Many have their children seized by Child Protective Services. Some are imprisoned, and some have even been put to death. How many accused parents are aware that simply having labor induced or augmented could cause Shaken Baby symptoms in their baby? Perhaps more importantly, how many doctors, social workers, attorneys, and judges are aware of this? Or are they aware, but choose not to disclose this information?