A friend or family member has a child that is a few months old, maybe even a year or two old, and the baby was having some problems. Maybe it was some vomiting or seizures and the concerned parents take the baby to the hospital. The doctors start asking questions about what happened to the baby and the parents know of nothing that would have caused the vomiting or seizures. The doctors tell the parents that the baby has bleeding on the brain, a subdural hematoma, and that only a fall from a high height or a car accident above 35 MPH can explain the injury as accidental. Doctors start saying that they will have to report this to the local child protective services agency and a social worker approaches the parents and interviews them separately. Although they don’t explain how, they say the parents’ statements are inconsistent. Soon the police are involved and ask to speak with the parents and they even want to search the house. The child protective services agency tells the parents that if the baby survives, the baby will have to be placed in foster care or with relatives. The parents, in addition to having to deal with their child being in intensive care, now understand that one or both of them are being accused of abusing their young child.
The doctors and the hospital staff treat the parents differently, as if they are criminals. They act as if the parents don’t even have a right to be in the hospital with their baby. The parents continue to ask if there can be another explanation for the injuries and they are told by a child abuse “expert” that there is no other explanation. The doctor writes a report that says the “injuries are not consistent with the history provided by the parents.” The doctor says the only explanation is that the baby was “shaken” or squeezed and that until the parents admit to abuse the baby cannot go home with them. When the baby is discharged from the hospital there is a hearing where a social worker testifies that the hospital’s diagnosis of the injury is that there is no other explanation for the baby’s injuries other than shaking or shaking and impact and since the parents have no accidental explanation, one or both of the parents is guilty of abuse or knowing about abuse and failing to protect their child.
And just like that, a baby is taken away from his or her parents without any real evidence, or trial. There is no presumption of innocence and the parents are told they must “explain” the baby’s injuries. The parents thought it was the doctor’s job to figure out what was wrong with their child but the doctor is pointing the finger at them. The parents know that they did nothing to their child to injure it yet the doctors say they did as if it is a fact.
This story repeats itself many times each year with many variations. Tragically, sometimes babies do not survive and the police charge a parent with murder rather than assault. Sometimes it is a daycare provider that sees the symptoms in the child and alerts the parents or takes the baby to the hospital and that daycare provider is accused. Sometimes a boyfriend of the baby’s mother is accused.