Family’s 18 months of hell after two children are taken away when blundering social workers wrongly accuse them of breaking baby’s limbs
Family’s 18 months of hell after two children are taken away when blundering social workers wrongly accuse them of breaking baby’s limbs
- Social workers accuse mother of harming her newborn son
- Children taken into foster care despite any wrongdoing
- Case dropped after doctors diagnose boy with brittle bone disorder
By Luke Salkeld for the Daily Mail
Updated: 10:56, 17 August 2011
A couple was accused of child abuse after doctors failed to realise their baby son’s ‘injuries’ were caused by genetic bone disease. Both parents were arrested and prevented from seeing their children unsupervised for 18 months before their innocence was finally acknowledged. Yesterday Amy Garland said she and her partner had been treated like criminals after they took their six-week-old son Harrison to the hospital when he was ill. Miss Garland and her partner Paul Crummey were arrested and banned from seeing their children alone before anyone realised that Harrison actually had the brittle bone disease or osteogenesis imperfecta. The rare condition is caused by a gene defect that impairs the production of the protein collagen, making bones fragile. Those with the disease can break their bones while being cuddled or even in their sleep. Around 40 to 60 babies are born with the disorder each year. Miss Garland, 26, who lives near Bristol, said her family had been left in tatters after she and Mr. Crummey split up over the stress caused by being separated from their children. As soon as the fractures were discovered, social services were called in. The couple could not explain the apparent injuries and police arrested them. Their daughter Bethany, then 20 months, was placed in the care of Miss Garland’s father. When the case went before Bristol County Court a judge ordered them to live in a family placement centre where their every move was observed. Miss Garland said: ‘The judge didn’t want to separate me from Harrison because I was still breastfeeding. We were watched 24 hours a day and there were cameras in every room. It was like a prison.’
After three months, staff could find nothing wrong with their parenting skills and recommended that the family be allowed to stay together. But social workers applied for an interim care order and the children were placed into foster care with Miss Garland’s mother. They were allowed contact with their parents for six hours a day, under supervision. This continued for more than a year until Miss Garland found an expert who said Harrison probably had osteogenesis imperfecta. Six months later, doctors agreed that this was a possibility and South Gloucestershire Social Services dropped the case. Miss Garland told last night how Harrison had been in obvi s discomfort in the weeks after his birth, but hospital tests found nothing. But when she got home she noticed his legs were swollen, and X-rays later showed he had several fractures in his arm, feet, and legs. Miss Garland said: ‘We had no idea that this condition was in our family so when they asked us how they happened we didn’t know. They said they needed to investigate it and we were happy for them to do that. The police and social services asked us a lot of questions. They asked me if there was any family history of violence. The police spoke to our neighbours asking what we were like. They went through our house. I was in absolute shock. I felt like a criminal.’
Even in hospital, she was not allowed to be alone with her son. ‘I wasn’t eating and I couldn’t sleep because I was worried they would take him from me,’ she said.
The strain caused the couple to split up two months after the children went into foster care. Miss Garland said: ‘It was horrible. When I went home at night and the kids weren’t there, I broke down. We took things out on each other.’
A month after the case was finally dropped two years ago, Harrison was officially diagnosed with osteogenesis imperfecta. Bethany, now five, was found to have a lesser type of condition. Harrison still has vitamin D injections to strengthen his bones and sees a physiotherapist to build up his muscles. Brittle bone disease is often confused with osteoporosis thinning bones in women after menopause but the two are not the same. Mr. Crummey, 41, who recently lost his job as a civil servant at the Ministry of Defence, said: ‘All we wanted to do was help our sick child but we were treated like criminals. We’ve never received an apology from social services. It makes me feel very angry.’
A spokesman for South Gloucestershire Council said: ‘We have a legal duty to protect children and young people and we always put the welfare of the child at the heart of how we deliver our services.’
WHAT IS OSTEOGENESIS IMPERFECTA?
Osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), also referred to as brittle bone disease, is a genetic disorder where infants are born with defect connective tissues leaving their bones susceptible to tear. A person born with such a defect can remain troubled by this throughout his or her life. In addition to fractures people with OI often have muscle weakness, hearing loss, fatigue, joint laxity, curved bones, scoliosis, blue sclerae, dentinogenesis imperfecta (brittle teeth), and short stature.
We have been in lockdown for three months although it is slowly easing up. Pubs will be opening up but gyms aren’t or nail bars as examples and it doesn’t make any sense. People can get drunk and forget about social distancing which scares me even though we don’t go to pubs much. I’m looking forward to going out for a meal occasionally but it worries me for that reason – some people drinking too much. I would prefer to go to the health club but the reason why health clubs, leisure clubs and gyms won’t open yet is based on the grounds that when people sweat droplets can be passed on. So why is going to the pub any better when people get relaxed?
I can understand why people are splitting up and domestic violence are on the increase. We have suffered even more with depression as we haven’t been able to go out to places we like. My sister and brother-in-law celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary in May but we couldn’t go due to the distance and social distancing. Their daughters and families went round but had to sit outside. One of their daughters and son-in-law’s neighbour had a party and someone reported them to the police so the party was stopped. My sister was worried that the same would happen to them but they managed to celebrate without being reported.
Her youngest daughter had her third daughter on the 29th of April which was hard for all of the family because they couldn’t visit properly. My niece’s mother-in-law works in a doctor’s surgery so she hasn’t been able to visit or have cuddles which is very sad. My sister was able to go round on the 30th of April with clearance from the midwife so I’m pleased for her. I’m looking forward to visiting and was pleasantly surprised that her mother-in-law said it would be nice to meet up – we are friends on Facebook.
To make life difficult for us even more is a neighbour who has taken a dislike to us. He came out one day having a go at us about our ten cats using his garden to do their business. We don’t have ten cats, one of our cats spend quite a bit of time over the road with her sister and comes over to us to eat. One of our cats has a hiding place which we haven’t discovered yet and comes in to eat. Our other two (four cats in other words) spend time in our shed, indoors or over the road with our other cats. The neighbour has threatened to let his dogs out if he sees ‘our cats’ in his garden. He has been warned if anything happens to any cats in the area he will get the blame due to the threats. Fortunately we have a good enforcement officer in our housing association.
The neighbour made a couple of other accusations, one of which is that my husband is a wife beater. That just made me laugh. We are both quite loud when we argue but once an argument is over and done with that’s it. However, my balance has been getting progressively worse over the years so I do fall regularly so I will shout out for help. We also had a rescued staffie who was beautiful and gentle but in recent months she didn’t like us going out even to walk her and our other dog. She would turm from a placid dog to an aggressive, barking dog. She became worse and worse for getting aggressive towards her playmate and we would intervene. In the end we couldn’t cope anymore and she was sadly put to sleep. The vet was very understanding and knew we didn’t want her to potentially hurt anyone else or put her back into kennels. She had been in kennels for most of her first four years then we had her for three years so she knew she was well loved to the point of being spoilt. Going to bed is still hard as she used to sleep under my knees.
My niece and nephew-in-law went through with the devastion of their second child, a daughter, having Trisomy 18. She lived for a day and looked perfect but it doesn’t take away the pain they live with.
“Is she in pain?” I asked quietly as the pearlescent baby-shaped image on the screen folded its legs and then extended them.
The radiologist doing my ultrasound had just finished pointing out a cluster of alarming abnormalities in our developing daughter, using a slew of medical terms my husband and I, both medical students, were grimly familiar with. Pleural effusion: fluid surrounding one of her lungs, preventing it from expanding and developing properly. Ascites: excess fluid inside the abdomen, surrounding her organs. Cystic hygroma: a large, fluid-filled mass on her neck, strongly associated with chromosomal abnormalities. Something was very wrong with our baby.
A few hours later, I lay on a hospital exam table. Arms folded over my head, I tried to stay still as a specialist in maternal/fetal medicine used a large needle to pierce my abdominal wall and then my uterus in order to take a sample of the placenta for genetic testing. After an agonizing two weeks, the results came back: our daughter had trisomy 18. My husband and I immediately understood the gravity of this diagnosis it is one of those rare conditions we expected to encounter on a medical board exam, not in real life.
Trisomy 18 is rare, occurring in about 1 in 2,500 pregnancies. The cells of these babies have three copies of chromosome 18 instead of the usual two. There is no cure. Most babies with trisomy 18 die before they are born. The majority of those who make it to term die within five to 15 days, usually due to severe heart and lung defects. The few who live past one year have serious health problems, such as a toddler lacking abdominal wall muscles, revealing the slithering movement of intestines beneath his skin, or a 1-year-old who cannot not defecate on her own, requiring anal sphincter dilation multiple times each day.
In rare cases, babies with trisomy 18 are mosaic, meaning only some cells possess the harmful extra chromosome, which makes the disease less severe. Our daughter was not mosaic.
As parents, we felt it was our duty to protect our daughter from the inevitable suffering she would meet if she were to make it to term. And so, at 15 weeks of gestation, we made the painful decision to end our very wanted pregnancy.
As the date approached, I wore bulky clothing in an effort to hide my protruding belly I was terrified someone would congratulate me on my pregnancy. Each day, I hoped that our daughter had not developed sufficient neural connections to begin sensing that her organs were failing. Using our home Doppler monitor, a Christmas gift from my sister, we listened to her heartbeat. Two days later, I tried to hear her heartbeat again, but it was no longer there. She had already died.
When I woke up from the dilation and evacuation procedure, during which her remains were removed from my body, I cried. I had never felt such profound emptiness.
My husband and I were given a small box sealed with a bow. It contained a tiny baby’s hat and a thick piece of paper marked with purple footprints the size of my thumbnail. Her footprints.
We had her remains cremated and placed her ashes in a tiny white urn small enough to fit in the palm of my hand. It felt good to have her home, even if it wasn’t in the way we had expected.
For such a heartbreaking event, we had the best-case scenario. My husband and I are medically literate. Our medical costs were fully covered by my insurance. I received care at one of the best hospitals in the country. We received superior counseling from multiple physicians and a genetics counselor, who helped inform us and support us without dictating or judging our decision. The day of my surgery, I was treated like any other surgical patient.
Other families aren’t as lucky as mine. A few months after my loss, my friend Jamie ended her pregnancy due to trisomy 18. I was horrified and saddened by her description of her experience.
As a Missouri resident, Jamie’s insurance did not cover pregnancy termination in the case of severe fetal impairment. Because their local hospital was charging them $8,000 for the procedure, Jamie and her husband, cash-poor from a recent home purchase, opted to drive to an abortion clinic. Protesters shouted at them as they entered the clinic: “Why would you want to hurt daddy’s little girl? That’s daddy’s little girl you’re killing!”
Once inside the facility, Jamie had an ultrasound to confirm the cost of the procedure, which would be based on the baby’s gestational age. She and her husband were informed that the procedure would cost an extra $100 boosting the cost to $800 because the center’s clinicians disagreed with the gestational age that Jamie and her husband had reported. The clinic asserted that the baby was a bit older, making the procedure more costly. Jamie and her husband found themselves in the twisted position of having to haggle the cost of their own nightmare.
Eventually, Jamie underwent the procedure. Feet in stirrups, she received a “comfort shot” an extra $60 which I later learned meant an injection of fentanyl, a powerful narcotic. She was vaguely awake throughout the procedure and has spent the months since actively suppressing the dim, distressing memories of the termination.
After it was over, Jamie and her husband were not able to obtain the remains of their baby, nor were the remains sent for genetic analysis to determine whether their child’s form of trisomy 18 was heritable or not, as my husband and I had learned from genetic analysis. The center did not send a pathology report to Jamie’s obstetrician until many weeks later, and only after she phoned the center multiple times.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, 26 states prohibit abortion coverage in Affordable Care Act marketplace plans, and 11 states extend these restrictions to private insurance companies, effectively eviscerating Roe v. Wade. Only one of these states (Utah) makes an exception in the case of severe fetal impairment. In these states, only the wealthiest have access to pregnancy termination.
Social media urged to take ‘moment to reflect’ after girl’s death
Children’s Commissioner for England writes open letter highlighting ‘horrific’ content
Richard Adams Education editor
Wed 30 Jan 2019 00.00 GMT
The children’s commissioner for England has accused social media companies such as Facebook and Snapchat of losing control of the content carried on their platforms, telling them that recent teen suicides should be a “moment of reflection” for the way they operate. In an open letter to Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, YouTube, Pinterest and Snapchat, Anne Longfield said the suicide of 14-year-old Molly Russell has highlighted the “horrific” material that children were able to easily access online. “The recent tragic cases of young people who had accessed and drawn from sites that post deeply troubling content around suicide and self-harm, and who in the end took their own lives, should be a moment of reflection,” Longfield told the companies.
“I would appeal to you to accept there are problems and to commit to tackling them or admit publicly that you are unable to.”
Molly’s father Ian has said that social media was partly to blame for his daughter’s death, after her Instagram account was found to contain distressing material about depression and suicide. “The potential disruption to all user experiences should no longer be a brake on making the safety and wellbeing of young people a top priority. Neither should hiding behind servers and apparatus in other jurisdictions be an acceptable way of avoiding responsibility,” Longfield added.
Longfield reiterated her call for an independent “digital ombudsman” to ensure that the companies protect young children and speed up the removal of disturbing material. “I do not think it is going too far to question whether even you, the owners, any longer have any control over their content,” Longfield wrote.
“If that is the case, then children should not be accessing your services at all, and parents should be aware that the idea of any authority overseeing algorithms and content is a mirage.”
A spokesperson for Facebook, which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, said: “We have a huge responsibility to make sure young people are safe on our platforms and working together with the government, the children’s commissioner and other companies are the only way to make sure we get this right. Our thoughts are with Molly’s family and with the other families who have been affected by suicide or self-harm. We are undertaking a full review of our policies, enforcement, and technologies and are consulting further with mental health experts to understand what more we can do.”
Longfield’s letter included questions that she wanted to be answered by the companies, including how many self-harm sites or postings are hosted on their platforms, and how many are accessed by users under the age of 18. The companies were also asked to reveal the results of their own research into the impact of self-harm sites on children’s mental health, and what support options are offered to users searching for images of self-harm. “It is your responsibility to support measures that give children the information and tools they need growing up in this digital world or to admit that you cannot control what anyone sees on your platforms,” Longfield told the companies.
The intervention comes after Ofcom this week said the proportion of 12- to 15-year-olds who reported being bullied over social media rose from 6% in 2016 to 11% last year. Snapchat said its public content was moderated and “highly curated”, using only content from leading media companies and celebrities, and collected from other users by its in-house news team or professional partners. “We work hard to keep Snapchat a safe and supportive place for everyone. From the outset we have sought to connect our community with content that is authoritative and credible and safeguard against harmful content and disinformation,” said a spokesperson.
In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.
The real story behind ‘forced adoptions’
A story this week about a girl put up for adoption because her grandparents were ‘too old’ is just one more in a long line of emotive but simplified media tales
The British media abounds with highly emotive adoption stories, and this week was no exception. Howls of protest sounded in some areas of the press at the news that a three year old girl was forcibly put up for adoption this week, against the will of her loving grandparents, allegedly because they were judged ‘too old’ to care for her. It was reported that the mother of the child had lost custody of her due to severe mental health problems, but that her parents were willing to take on special guardianship, against the recommendation of social workers.
The UK is the only country in Europe, and one of a tiny minority of countries in the world, that participates in so-called ‘forced adoption’. This fairly self-explanatory procedure means taking a child away from its family without and sometimes against- the agreement of all family members. This is very much a last resort in a desperate situation, undergone when there is no safe way for children to stay with their immediate family. However, there’s no denying that it can feel extremely brutal for those involved.
In the last few years, the number of children with an Adoption Order has dramatically fallen. What this means in practice is that there are just as many children in the care system, for instance, being fostered but fewer who have been recommended by local authorities to be placed for adoption with a new family. This year alone, the number of children in care with an Adoption Plan fell again, by 37 per cent. For many of these children, cast adrift in a sea of uncertainty, this is a depressing state of affairs.
The key reason for this results from judgments made by the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal which reminded local authorities and courts of the huge significance of adoption. Adoption legally and permanently severs the child’s legal relationship with their birth family. Again, the UK is the only country in Europe to do this, however often contact does continue with both siblings, grandparents, and sometimes birth parents. ‘Forced adoption’ is more accurately referred to in the care sector as ‘contested adoption’.
Make no mistake about it: most children who are embroiled in the care system are there because of serious abuse or neglect. One of the reasons that contested adoption is legal here and illegal elsewhere is because UK law puts the welfare and rights of the child first, above those of parents and any associated relatives. It’s not always in the child’s best interests to stay with their birth family.
‘Kinship carers’ defined as relatives and close friends of the birth family often become special guardians of a child. This allows children to leave the care system and remain within their immediate family, minimising disruption to that child’s upbringing, and can often provide a knowledgeable and loving new home. By law, kinship carers must be the first port of call for social workers. However, there are some difficulties with these arrangements.
For instance, kinship carers do not receive access to legal aid, which means it can be difficult for them to contest a child’s adoption through the courts. Neither do they enjoy the same benefits as adopters do if they look after a child, such as the legal right to adoption leave from work. Some have fallen foul of the Bedroom Tax.
Sadly, finding a loving home for a child can often be harder than anyone imagined. What is needed is a more holistic approach to adoption and fostering by the government. The £19.2 million for the Adoption Support Fund providing therapeutic support for adoptive children was recently pledged, but this fund doesn’t extend to children placed with kinship carers. Meanwhile, too many children remain in the care system without any promise of a permanent and stable home.
The pain of losing a child is profound and very difficult to explain to anybody who hasn’t been through that experience. Our experiences range from miscarriage, stillborn, genetic conditions, adoption, accident, murder, disappearance, and other reasons.
My personal experience is forced adoption which people find difficult to get their heads around. My son didn’t die, he went to adopters and has grown up but I still lost my baby, I can never get my baby back. know he is alive but we connected 23 years later so as him being an adult. That void can never be filled.
One niece lost her second child due to being stillborn. She and her husband knew he died at 36 weeks and chose to let the pregnancy continue until it’s natural end. I can’t imagine the pain of going through that and knowing my child would be born dead. Another went through miscarriages before finally having two daughters. After a miscarriage, she suddenly started talking to me about it so whilst I haven’t had a miscarriage I was able to draw on my own experience to show I cared. A third niece found out her daughter had Trisomy 18 (Edward’s Syndrome) about 8 weeks before the due date. That was difficult for her and her husband as they didn’t even know if she would be born alive. Their beautiful daughter survived a day but it hasn’t made it any easier.