As year 2020 gets underway, we are seeing more and more mainstream media sources covering medical kidnapping stories, especially when Child Abuse Pediatricians are involved. One of the latest investigative reports comes from the Tampa ABC News I-Team Investigations. Katie LaGrone, reporting with ABC Action News, writes: "A Florida lawmaker believes the state’s medical experts on child abuse need more checks and balances after an I-team investigation revealed several pediatricians have made questionable calls against parents who appeared to have done everything right. 'Any position of authority that isn’t checked by something is concerning,' said Florida Democratic Representative Anna Eskamani of Orlando. Eskamani was responding to our investigation that found several cases where child abuse pediatricians, who were hired to be the state’s experts on abuse, wrongly accused Florida parents of child abuse."
USA Today reporter Daphne Chen has just published an article on Dr. Sally Smith, a pediatrician who is the head of the child protection team in Pinellas County, Florida. Published in the "Torn Apart" section of GateHouseNews.com, this article is reportedly the first in a series investigating Florida’s child welfare system. Chen refers to Dr. Sally Smith as: "the 61-year-old pediatrician [who] is one of the most powerful figures in the child welfare system along Florida’s Gulf Coast. As the head of the Pinellas County child protection team, Smith examines virtually every child funneled to All Children’s Hospital with suspicious injuries. Among prosecutors, her word is like gold." The USA Today Network reportedly investigated hundreds of Dr. Smith's cases, and: "found more than a dozen instances where charges were dropped, parents were acquitted or caregivers had credible claims of innocence yet suffered irredeemable damage to their lives and reputations." Reporter Daphne Chen discusses several cases that involved Dr. Smith, including: "Beata Kowalski, a 43-year-old mother of two, died by suicide in 2017 after Smith accused her of Munchausen syndrome by proxy — a rare disorder in which a parent fakes a child’s illness for sympathy or gain. Her family members are now suing Smith and All Children’s Hospital for what they said were trumped-up claims. John Stewart, a Marine Corps veteran, spent 300 days in jail on Smith’s allegation that he killed his girlfriend’s son by throwing him repeatedly against a soft surface. Prosecutors dropped the charges after a neuropathologist contradicted Smith’s findings, according to internal memos."
Young children torn from their parents, sleeping in a different bed every night. Families torn apart needlessly - and illegally -- over and over again. But this time it's not the U.S.-Mexico border. This time it's Florida. Who says it's illegal? A report commissioned by the state itself. Why is it happening? In part, because caseworkers are terrified of "media consequences" if they leave a child in her or his own home and something goes wrong.
Florida Mom Seeks 2nd Opinion on Dying Newborn After Car Accident – Loses Custody of All Three Children and Baby Dies in State Care
When an 8 month pregnant mother arrived at the hospital after a car accident, her baby was clearly in trouble. Doctors allegedly seemed to be more concerned about Johnna Furman's broken wrist than the emergency facing her unborn baby. Her baby needed to be born quickly, but the delay of a necessary c-section resulted in life threatening lack of oxygen to the baby in the womb. Baby Gabriel was born with brain damage and other serious medical conditions allegedly arising from this lack of oxygen. Throughout his first week and a half of life, doctors at the University of Florida Shands Hospital told Johnna that her baby would not survive. She refused to accept that answer. When she tried to transfer care of her baby to a local children's hospital for a second opinion, doctors from Shands Hospital reported her to Child Protective Services. While doctors blamed the mother, Johnna says that it was their medical malpractice that resulted in brain damage to her baby, ultimately leading to his death, and that the hospital is covering up what they did by blaming her. Child Protective Services seized her baby and her other 2 children 11 days after the car accident. Evidence that would have proven her innocence was not heard by the Florida judge, who is known for approving over 30,000 adoptions, and her parental rights were terminated less than a year later. She had another baby the following year, but Florida seized custody of that baby, too. In a video that Johnna recorded to talk about her case, she said: "My family's gone. I can never have another child. I don't understand how this is supposed to be the American dream, that justice doesn't matter. The truth doesn't matter."
Florida Dad Wrongfully Convicted for Shaking Baby and Served 20+ Years of a 70 Year Sentence Featured on CNN
On February 17, 2018, CNN aired a Special Report titled "Broken Bones, Shattered Lives" which featured the story of James Duncan, who was convicted of child abuse for shaking his son who was an infant at the time. He has served over 20 years of a 70 year conviction for a crime he claims never happened. A Florida appeals court has agreed to re-try the case. CNN's Jean Casarez interviewed James' ex-wife and two sons (now adults) for the report, and they all maintain that James is innocent. Jean Casarez also interviewed Dr. David Ayoub, a radiologist and expert on infantile rickets who stated: "It's a bad diagnosis." He said he believes Kody had infantile rickets, a disease of early life in which bones do not mineralize properly. Ayoub said it led Kody to develop metabolic bone disease, causing his bones to be very fragile. When Jean Casarez asked Dr. Ayoub how many parents he thought might be incarcerated today wrongfully on charges of Child Abuse for shaking their child, he replied "In the tens of thousands."
Teen Girls Abused in State Care in Michigan Seized Again in Florida After Insurance Refuses to Cover Treatment
A battle to get insurance to cover necessary medical care for teenage sisters with bulimia nervosa has ended up with those teens being taken by Child Protective Services in Florida. Their mother is asking how it can be that an insurance company is able to direct CPS to remove children from their homes. The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) has accused Laura Dalton of "medical neglect," but the evidence provided to Health Impact News demonstrates that she is a dedicated mother who has been working tirelessly to secure the proper treatment for her daughters. In fact, one of the twins was seized from the hospital, where her mother had taken her the week before due to her dangerously low blood pressure and pulse. The twins have suffered eating disorders after they were put into foster care in Michigan, where they were allegedly abused. They were healthy girls prior to that time, but as a penalty for allegedly smoking marijuana one time, they were removed from their home, and that is when their real problems began. Both girls almost died in state care in Michigan, before their mother was able to get them back home. Once home, their mother looked for help for their eating disorders, and eventually found treatment options for them in Florida. Statistics show that children who have been in foster care are 7 times more likely to develop bulimia and other eating disorders. Foster children are more likely to develop PTSD than veterans of war. But now, after being recommended for a treatment plan that has showed great promise for the girls, their insurance will not cover it, and the mom has been reported to CPS for medical neglect. One of the twins was immediately seized from the hospital, as the family's nightmare has begun all over again.
More than three years ago, a Filipino-American father living in Florida made a promise to his children: "I will never stop fighting for you to come home." Though there were times that Freddie Verzosa and his wife Tracey thought that it would never happen, all of the "7 Angels" have been reunited with their parents. The family is rejoicing and extremely thankful that, after all this time, they can finally all be together again. The six older children were taken from their home by Florida Children and Families (DCF) on July 9, 2014, based on the family's financial situation and allegations that Tracey, who has a mild intellectual disability, wasn't capable of taking care of her children while her husband worked. When their youngest baby Taylor was born, DCF showed up at the hospital to seize the 2 day old breastfeeding newborn from her mother's breast, simply because they already had an open case on the family. Their heartbreaking story captured international attention. The family's Facebook page quickly grew to almost 8,000 followers. Their story struck a chord with people all over the world who do not believe that the government should be able to tear a loving family apart because of poverty or a disability. There were never any allegations that the Verzosa parents ever harmed their children. Some within DCS told them that "love wasn't enough" for them to parent their own children.
A South Florida business owner recently received a visit from a CPS social worker and police officer at his place of business. A former disgruntled employee had allegedly called a child abuse hotline to complain that the business owner was abusing his children by "doing drugs, narcotics, in front of his children." The social worker and police officer were apparently trying to get access to the man's children to take custody of them. The business owner asked the officer if he had a warrant, and if he was under arrest. When the officer answered "no" to both questions, he stated that they did not have permission to enter his private business (a Call Center), and that he was not going to answer any questions. He offered to let them talk to his attorney. They refused, and forced their way into his business anyway. When back up police arrived, they assaulted the man and threw him to floor inside his own place of business, handcuffed him, and took him away. They probably did not realize that this business owner also maintains Facebook Page called "South Florida Copwatch" which documents police abuse of power. The entire incident was captured on video, and posted to his Facebook page.
While the nation celebrates Independence Day with barbecues, fireworks, and family get-togethers, Freddie and Tracey Verzosa are struggling to maintain hope. Freddie's voice broke as he told Health Impact News that this week, July 9, marks 1 year to the day since their beloved children were ripped away from them by Florida CPS because Tracey has a "mild intellectual disability." Later, their newborn baby was literally taken from her mother's arms just one day after she was born on March 11, 2015, simply because the state already had custody of the other 6 children. To date, the parents have never been charged with abuse or neglect, yet the state still has their children. The children are still in various foster homes, separated not only from their parents, but also from each other. Since Health Impact News broke their heart-wrenching story on the day that baby Taylor Lynn was taken in March, the Verzosas have received a huge outpouring of love and support, but their children remain separated from them. The father reports that their children were in good health before the state took them, but now there always seems to be something wrong with them. He says that they often look drugged up, and that all the kids except the baby are on some type of medication. Their 8-year old son was also forcibly circumcised against the desires of the parents.