Paula became interested in helping people with DCYF problems when our daughter cracked her skull in a staircase fall. We were "lucky" in that the fractured skull wasn't diagnosed until a couple weeks later and that our pediatrician understood what can happen when mandated reporters report just to cover their tails.
So, we can sympathize with Stephen and his family in Rollinsford over this account of when his son fractured both sides of his skull early in 2000.
When my son was 5 months old, my wife was holding him while making dinner. She reached with one arm to grab something, while he was sitting on her other arm with his body against her. He suddenly "pushed off" and flipped over backwards to the floor.
My wife only remembers him hitting the floor. But anything could have happened. She was traumatized by the experience. He was rushed to the hospital and underwent x-rays and ct scans.
Thankfully he was ok. My wife and I however were extremely distraught, as this is our first child. However, the hospital staff, from the xray technicians to the doctors, from the nurses to the kitchen staff were extremely comforting to us. Each one had a story of when they were kids, or had kids, or knew parents who went through a trauma like this and the kids grew up fine. What a comfort that was.
It all evaporated, however, when we were told our baby had suffered two skull fractures, to opposite sides of his head. My wife, try as she might, could not recall if he hit the counter, or the dishwasher, or bounced at all. Her only thought was to pick him and and hold him as he screamed and she panicked. (When she called me, she was in hysterics and hyperventillating. It took me 90 seconds to calm her down enough to sputter "I dropped Patrick".)
We were informed that since my wife could not recall any other impact, that our son had an unexplained injury, and they were required by law to report it to DCYF. We were not surprised by this. We've known enough friends and family and had heard the horror stories. We had nothing to hide and had complete confidence that everything would turn out fine. We greatly underestimated DCYF.
When they arrived to interrogate us (they use the word interview, but it is nothing less than interrogation. The psychological abuse should be addressed by the Geneva Convention!), the investigator and the police chief from our small NH town took us into the waiting room in the hospital. The first words out of her mouth were, "I've been informed that your son has an injury that could not be explained by his fall."
The previous night, the pediatric doctor told us that the injury was MOST LIKELY as a result of his fall. We were shocked by this sudden accusation. I stopped her immediately, "We were told the exact opposite by the doctor."
"Oh," she responded curtly. "I haven't seen the doctor's report yet so I don't know if it is true." This person had not even familiarized herself with the case prior to coming in and laying down a blatant accusation against us. There is no innocent until proven guilty in these cases.
She decided to go read the doctor's report before continuing. Upon her leaving the room, my wife broke down into hysterics a hundred times worse than when the accident occurred. She was convinced that they had already decided to take our son away from us. The police chief (the only person who seemed to have common sense) spoke to her, encouraging her that right now she needs to pull it together for Patrick, and that they were not there to take him away.
Upon returning, she said "I see that the doctor wrote that it might be related to the accident. I will have to confirm this with her." She then proceeded with her line of questioning as if the doctor had ruled out the accident as the cause of the fall!!! It was preposterous.
The next day our son was cleared to leave by the doctor but DCYF called and said that we were not allowed to be discharged. WE WERE NOW DETAINED BY DCYF! I called a couple lawyers to find out if we could get a court injunction to allow us to leave, but the lawyers I spoke with said that by the time anything could be done, it would be the next day. They advised us to sit tight, and if we were not out the next day, to call back and they would work with us.
So, no miranda rights, no assumption of innocence, we were now detained no formal accusation, no charges against us, no promise of legal representation (we are not entitled to free counsel in these cases, since no "arrest" has been made, nor no charges levied). Oh, they told us that my wife and I could leave the hospital at any time, but our son had to stay. Like that was even an option. We were too afraid that if we left the room, he would not be there when we got back. If we tried to take him, we would be arrested. We no longer had parental rights to our son. This was the most intimidating, horrifying moment of my life.
The next day we were released.
2 weeks later I was called at my office by the investigator, who asked me continually personal questions about my wife. She also inquired about my mother, who was the only other person to care for my son in the 2 weeks prior to the accident. (There was no indication that this injury had happened at any other time than the accident.)
She then interviewed my mother, and my wife. When speaking to my mother, she asked a number of questions regarding our son's failure to thrive. YES! This was suddenly going towards his nourishment. Without any knowledge or warning, we were being investigated for a totally new issue. My mother called me immediately and told me what happened. I called the investigator and laid in on her. I had had enough.
"Are we being investigated for failure to thrive?" I asked. She seemed surprised that I knew, and stuttered for a response.
"No, that was not my statement to your mother at all." (I hadn't even MENTIONED my mother's interview!) "But Patrick IS small for his age, and his iron was low." NONE of the doctors mentioned the iron to us. Our son had been 25 percentile since he day he was born, and the time of the accident, he still was 25 percentile. He had grown steadily.
"Will you require a home visit?" I asked. She had been hinting at the possibility, and now I needed an answer, because now I knew I was going to need a lawyer. "Because I want to have our attorney present when you do." "No," she said suddenly "I believe that won't be necessary. I am going to be recommending that the case be closed with no finding of abuse or neglect." I pushed, and she responded. She knew I wasn't going to kowtow to the game any longer, so she was getting out. Just like that, it was over.
So I thought.
This was 7 months ago. To this day, the case is still open. I haven't received any calls about it. I have called numerous times to find out an answer, but my calls go unreturned. I finally called Concord to speak to a director of the Rochester area, and he assured me he would look into it and get back to me.
As a result, the investigator called me back and assured me that the case would be closed. She had made her recommendation, and was waiting for her supervisor to sign off on it. I told her that I wanted a letter soon, as we would be leaving the country (with our son) and we didn't need this hanging over us as we were traveling abroad. That was March.
The trip has come and gone, and so has winter, spring and most of summer. I called the director again, once more to get a response of, "We owe this to you, and you will get it." This time, I have received no response at all. I am ready to address the Director of the state Health services now to get a resolution.
The good news to all this is that our son fully recovered, there have been no sustained neurological injuries, and he is growing up as a perfectly healthy boy. But now I know we are under the watchful eye of the state, and one wrong move, even a "perceived" wrong move, and we could lose our son, and the child that is now growing within my wife's womb. No one deserves to live with that fear.
You may use my name (Stephen from Rollinsford) and my story in whatever way you can to expose this inhumane organization.
Contact Ric Werme or return to his home page.
Prepared 2001 August 4.