In case you missed Part 1
By Gretchen Rachel Hammond
On April 12, Michelle’s brother passed away. Her parents who had been at her side while Isaiah was a patient at Lure rushed home to Kansas City.
Michelle was alone.
Three days later, on April 15, she received a phone call from a Lurie social worker summoning her to the hospital. As she remembered each moment of a day seared into her mind, Michelle broke down in tears.
“I had a gut feeling that someone was wrong,” she said. “I was walked into a small room. There were people staring at me. I heard someone say ‘we’ve got the mom.’ A doctor and a social worker who I’d never seen before told me ‘we’re sorry about your brother, but we are taking your son for 48 hours.’ I asked them ‘for what?’ They said “for medical child abuse.’”
Michelle recalled that Lurie’s staff then demanded that she stop crying so they could escort her out of the facility without alarming any other parents.
Illinois DCFS includes medical staff on its list of mandated reporters of child abuse (required under law to contact DCFS when they have “reasonable cause to believe a child known to them in their professional or official capacity may be an abused or neglected child.”)
The definitions of abuse and neglect span some 140 pages of a DCFS procedures document. In one section, defined alongside “violent acts towards a child such as smothering, strangling, pushing or shoving”, the term Medical Child Abuse can be found as Factitious Disorder by Proxy or Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome “a form of child harm that is characterized by a parent/caregiver who intentionally and persistently lies, fakes, and/or produces illness in the child and repeatedly presents the child for medical assessment/treatment.”
Doctors are given extraordinary latitude when it comes to accusing a parent of Munchausen by Proxy and Medical Child Abuse. Once a case is started with a call to a DCFS hotline, an investigator from the agency has 48 hours to reach a determination. A full investigation must be concluded within 60 days.
Since Munchausen by Proxy is a mental health condition defined as “the production of or feigning of psychological symptoms in another person” one would assume that a clinical diagnosis by a psychologist would be necessary before such an accusation is made against a parent.
Yet, there are reports of multiple Munchausen cases nationwide in which no psychologist was involved before a call was made to a Child Protective Services hotline.
In fact, so wide-ranging and absolute is a medical provider’s power to separate a child from a parent and so liberal is their ability to use Munchausen by Proxy as a reason, that it has given rise to the term “medical kidnapping.”
Stories in which parents have found themselves “terrorized by doctors” and ultimately separated from their children by a State’s Child Protective Services for arguing with a doctor’s diagnosis, objecting to a treatment plan or vaccination on religious grounds or otherwise, asking for a transfer to another hospital, deciding on the home birth of a child rather than at a hospital, using natural medicines or bringing a transgender child in for treatment have been brought to light across the country.
“I didn’t know doctors could take your child if you didn’t agree with them,” Michelle said. “They were not able to provide the care my son needed so, instead of doing that, they just removed me because, in their eyes, I was the problem.”
In a case in which a member of a hospital’s medical staff alleges Medical Child Abuse, rarely is a determination made in favor of the parents over the doctors even after an extended and prohibitively expensive legal battle. Meanwhile, a child is hauled away from a loving home and placed into a totally alien environment; be it foster care or, worse, a group home which borders on juvenile detention.
After he was released from Lurie Children’s Hospital, Isaiah was placed in a smaller medical facility and finally a foster home. Michelle asserted the home was located on the South Side of Chicago—an area of the city which has become infamous nationwide for its heightened levels of gang violence and weekly murder rate.
“It was like watching ISIS kidnap my child,” she said. “They wait until you are at your most vulnerable. There’s no warning. All any parent wants is for their child to get well. You trust that a doctor agrees with you. Then they say they are taking your child away and you can’t do a thing about it because they have the total backing of the State.”
In a video recorded and published on YouTube while in DCFS custody, Isaiah described himself as a “victim of being taken away from my mother for, so called, Medical Child Abuse which is totally ridiculous because my mother is an amazing woman who has done nothing to harm me. DCFS, all you do is destroy families and make money off them. Do you understand how much worse kid’s lives are when you take them away? How much worse my life got? I just don’t understand why this needs to happen. I want to be back with my mom!”
Why DCFS did not take Isaiah’s own wishes into account during the trial is unknown. Indeed, according to court documents the agency’s petition asserted that “Isaiah did not want to be returned to his mother’s care.”
According to Isaiah, he was never asked to be present at any of the court hearings in which such a desire was being attributed to him as his fate was being decided.
In his first interview since the case was concluded, he told the Chicago Eagle “my mom and I never had any problems. I really loved her. We never had any problems. She had always been there for me; always had my back. I was finding out what was happening at the court hearings. My first case manager knew something was wrong with what DCFS was doing. She knew. Then something happened to her and I never heard from her. I got a new case manager. It was horrible. No one wants to be forced away from their mother like that.”