Cases & Experience

One Family's

Jay and Molly had a baby named Chip

At the age of two months, Chip was a little lethargic and had some trouble feeding. He had some episodes of vomiting and then Jay and Molly noticed Chip’s arm go limp for a second or two and he would stare off into the distance for a few seconds. Being new parents they weren’t sure what was happening so they took Chip to the doctor. The doctor told them he might be having a reaction to a shot he had a few days before and to try feeding him more often but less with each feeding and if the symptoms persisted to take him to the emergency room. The symptoms persisted and early the next morning Jay and Molly took Chip to the emergency room. They took him to the same hospital where Chip had been born.

At the hospital the doctor did a CT scan and found bleeding on the brain, the doctors told them it was a subdural hematoma. The doctors asked Jay and Molly about how the baby got the subdural hematoma and Jay and Molly had no idea how Chip got a subdural hematoma, that’s why they brought him to the hospital so that the doctors could figure out what was wrong with Chip. The doctors told Chip and Molly that since they couldn’t provide and traumatic explanation for the subdural hematoma like a 35 MPH car crash or a fall from a second story window, that the hospital had to refer the matter to the county child protective services. The doctors also decide to transfer Chip to the nearest children’s hospital.

At the children’s hospital the doctors and nurses act as if Jay and Molly have no right to know anything about Chip and treat them coldly. Doctors and social workers interview Jay and Molly separately and say that they are providing “inconsistent” stories. A woman from the county comes to the hospital and tells Jay and Molly that when Chip leaves the hospital he will not be able to come home with them. Additional x-rays and CT scans and an MRI are performed. The doctors say that Chip has other injuries, “suspected” fractures. Soon, a pediatrician that is supposed to be a child abuse “expert” interviews Molly and tells her that this is a clear case of abuse and that there is no other explanation for the injuries found in Chip. He asked Molly if Jay has abused her or Chip. Molly tells the truth; Jay never did anything to hurt Molly or Chip. The doctor writes a report that says Jay abused Chip and caused the injuries.

Two days later, the police come to the hospital, where Jay and Molly have been constantly since Chip was admitted, and arrest Jay. Jay is charged with assault, aggravated assault and endangering the welfare of a child. It is published in all the papers the next day. The police say the pediatrician who is the child abuse “expert” told them that Jay abused Chip and caused his injuries. When Jay is arraigned and bail is set, the police make it sound like Chip will not survive and the judge sets bail as if Jay was going to be charged with murder.

Molly stays with Chip at the hospital and never leaves Chip’s side. Chip gets better and is ready to be discharged after a few weeks in the hospital. Chip seems to be doing much better. A court orders that Chip be placed in foster care. The county protective services asks the court to take Chip away from Jay and Molly because they accuse Jay of abuse and Molly of knowing about abuse and failing to protect Chip.

And just like that, a Chip is taken away from Molly and Jay is sitting in jail without any real evidence or trial. There is no presumption of innocence and Jay and Molly are told they are guilty of abuse because they cannot “explain” Chip’s injuries. Jay and Molly thought it was the doctor’s job to figure out what was wrong with Chip but the doctors, nurses and the child abuse “expert” are all pointing the finger at Jay and Molly. Jay and Molly know that they did nothing to hurt Chip yet the doctors say they did as if it is a fact and everybody believes the doctors.

As it turned out, Chip’s injuries were not caused by abuse at all and, if the doctors had taken the time to do their job and not rushed to judgment, they would have diagnosed what caused Chip’s injuries. Instead, Jay and Molly had to defend themselves first in juvenile court to get Chip back and then in criminal court to acquit Jay of the criminal charges. In addition, Jay and Molly were ordered to pay child support during the time Chip was in foster care and Jay and Molly had to fight with the welfare department to get them off the list of child abusers in the state.

This story repeats itself many times each year with many variations. Variations in the precise injuries found in the baby, the age of the baby and who was present when the symptoms first appeared. Sometimes it is a boyfriend of the mother, a daycare provider, a neighbor or a grandparent that sees the symptoms in the child and alerts the parents or takes the baby to the hospital and is often subsequently accused. Tragically, sometimes babies do not survive and the police charge is murder rather than assault.

The names have been changed to protect the identity of the innocent parents and child.