Category Archives: Child Innocence

TX Cares About Children And Families

.jpg photo of child abuse graphic
Some child abuse pediatricians have implicated parents who appear to have credible claims of innocence, an investigation by NBC News and the Houston Chronicle found.

Texas lawmakers want to protect families wrongly accused of Child Abuse

In response to an NBC News investigation, lawmakers want families to be allowed a second medical opinion before a child is taken from a home.

HOUSTON, TX  –  Texas lawmakers are calling for stronger safeguards in the state’s child welfare system after an NBC News and Houston Chronicle investigation found children had been taken from their parents based on disputed medical opinions from doctors trained to spot child abuse.

The reporting showed that child welfare workers removed some children from homes after receiving reports from state-funded child abuse pediatricians that were later called into question, leading to traumatic family separations and months-long legal fights.

Rep. James Frank, chairman of the Texas House of Representatives committee that oversees the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services, said the investigation exposed serious problems.

“I’m very concerned with the premature, unnecessary removal of children, and I think it happens a lot more than people in Texas understand,” said Frank, a Republican from northern Texas.

Frank said he plans to call for a series of legislative hearings in the coming months to explore potential improvements.  Some legislators have suggested creating a way for courts, child welfare workers or accused families to request a second medical opinion before the state removes a child from a home.

Texas provides $5 million in grants each year — including $2.5 million from the agency that oversees Child Protective Services — to support the work of child abuse pediatricians, a small but growing subspecialty of doctors who examine children who come into hospitals with suspicious injuries.  The Texas grants deputize some of the doctors to review cases on behalf of child welfare investigators, who then rely on their reports when deciding whether to remove children from parents.

Frank acknowledged that these state-supported physicians have a difficult job and that they play a critical role in protecting abused children, likely saving lives.  But he said he’s heard from numerous parents in recent years whose children were removed by Child Protective Services based primarily on a report from a child abuse pediatrician and despite contradictory opinions from other doctors.

In those cases, Frank said he thinks child welfare workers are sometimes too deferential to agency-funded abuse doctors and fail to complete a thorough investigation before taking children.

“In most cases, the doctors aren’t saying ‘This is child abuse,’” Frank said.  “They’re saying that they are concerned that it’s child abuse.  And so I don’t know there are enough checks and balances to make sure that we have confirmed that it really is child abuse.”

Rep. Harold Dutton Jr., a Houston Democrat and lawyer who has represented a mother who says she was wrongly accused by a child abuse pediatrician, said he has begun discussions with Frank to figure out potential improvements.

“We haven’t come up with anything yet, but we’re working towards it,” he said.  “One of the things that needs to happen is we need to better define when CPS should remove children.  We’ve got to do a better job of that.”

In a statement, Patrick Crimmins, a spokesman for the Department of Family and Protective Services, said the agency relies on the expertise of child abuse pediatricians when its caseworkers and other medical specialists are unable to determine if a serious injury is a result of abuse.

“We believe this process has worked well to detect abuse in complex cases and has protected children,” Crimmins said.  “But any process — particularly one with the lives of children and their families at stake — can be improved, and we want to work with legislators and stakeholders to do just that.”

In interviews, leading child abuse pediatricians said they are careful to rule out underlying medical conditions and accidental causes before issuing their opinions. The doctors acknowledged that a mistaken child abuse diagnosis can result in a child being taken from caring parents.  But overlooking warning signs, they said, could lead to a child being left in a dangerous home, with potentially fatal consequences.

To state Rep. Gene Wu, the issues raised by the NBC News and Chronicle reporting were familiar.  Wu, a Houston Democrat and lawyer, sometimes handles cases involving Child Protective Services and allegations of abuse.

“I have personally dealt with a couple of cases … where you had day-to-day physicians who said, ‘This is a typical type of bone break that is common in children of this age because they’re learning to walk,’” Wu said.  “Then the case gets looked at by the child abuse expert and they say it might be child abuse, and then everyone sort of freaks out.”

In those instances, Wu said, “CPS is sort of caught in this damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation.”

Child abuse pediatricians are trained not only to identify abuse, but to identify medical conditions that can mimic abuse.  The doctors say they rule out or fail to confirm abuse more times than not.

But Wu said when medical specialists are focused on finding and preventing child abuse, it’s natural that some run-of-the-mill injuries may appear more sinister.

“If you’re a hammer, then everything is a nail,” Wu said.

In many cases, the only doctor consulted by Child Protective Services and called to testify in court is the child abuse expert who initially flagged the concerns, in part because many families do not have the money to hire seasoned lawyers or outside medical experts.

To address that, Frank and other lawmakers have suggested requiring Child Protective Services to seek additional medical opinions in some instances before removing children.  Another fix, Wu said, might be to create a mechanism for courts across the state to bring in independent experts to evaluate medically complex cases and offer a second opinion.

“We could create a pot of money that courts could dip into,” he said.  “One party could make a motion to the judge to request an independent expert, and the state could have a list of medical experts to take a look at it.”

There are no “easy solutions,” he cautioned.

“I’ve described the CPS system as a very finely balanced seesaw,” Wu said, “and if you tip it too much you’re going to take kids away from good parents, and if you tip it the other way, you’re going to have dead kids. …  Whatever we do, we need to make sure that this policy solution doesn’t tip the balance.

Michigan Man Denied Bond In Death Of Toddler

.jpg photo of man accused of child abuse and murder of michigan toddler.
Damian A. Garrett, 23, of Augusta, Michigan.

Man charged with murder, Child Abuse in Midland toddler’s death

MIDLAND, MI  –  A Kalamazoo County man is charged with murder in connection with the death of a Midland toddler.

Damian A. Garrett, 23, of Augusta, on Friday, Sept. 20, appeared in Midland County District Court for arraignment on charges of first-degree murder and first-degree child abuse.  Both are life offenses, with the former mandating no possible parole if convicted.

The arraigning judge denied granting Garrett bond.

Police had arrested Garrett in the early morning hours of Thursday, Sept. 19.  Two days prior, at about 3:05 p.m., police responded to an apartment in the 5200 block of Hedgewood Drive for a report of a child not breathing.  They arrived to find emergency medical responders in the process of rendering CPR to an unresponsive girl.

The 21-month-old girl, identified by Midland County Prosecutor J. Dee Brooks as Skylar N. Papple, was transported to Mid-Michigan Medical Center where staff pronounced her dead.

Garrett was in a dating relationship with the child’s mother, police have said.
Brooks said Skylar died due to drowning and also suffered some secondary head trauma.  Garrett had been home alone with Skylar, giving her a bath, Brooks said.

At some point, he ran to neighbors’ homes seeking help, then flagged down a UPS driver, who called 911, Brooks said.

Garrett is to appear for a preliminary examination at 2 p.m. on Oct. 15.

Aborting Two 13-Year-Olds Led To Misdemeanor Charges

.jpg photo of Doctor whose home was found containing over 2,000 aborted fetuses
Dr. Ulrich Klopfer

2,246 fetal remains found in Illinois home
of abortion doctor

After Dr. Ulrich Klopfer died in rural Crete, Illinois, on Sept. 3, authorities found “2,246 medically preserved fetal remains” in his home.

Klopfer performed thousands of abortions in northern Indiana clinics before his medical license was revoked in 2016.  But it’s unclear where the fetal remains came from, though the Will County, Illinois, Sheriff’s office said in a news release there was no evidence that Klopfer performed abortions on his Illinois property.

Public records show that Klopfer had not been licensed to practice medicine in Illinois since 1990, when he failed to renew his license.  Records do not show Klopfer holding any other state’s medical license after the Indiana suspension.

Authorities are not saying if they think Klopfer, 79, transported the remains from Indiana, how the fetal remains had been preserved or why the remains may have been in his possession in the first place.

Kathy Hoffmeyer, Will County, Ill., Sheriff’s spokeswoman, on Monday called this a sensitive investigation and declined to release details.

Indiana records allege the doctor, first licensed in 1979, had a history of bad record keeping in his clinics.

According to a complaint filed by the Indiana Medical Licensing Board, Klopfer worked in clinics in South Bend, Gary and Fort Wayne from 2012 to 2015.

The board in 2016 found that Klopfer failed to properly file paperwork regarding abortions performed at the clinics, including some that were dated the same day as the procedure, a violation of Indiana’s 18-hour waiting period.

The licensing board found he performed abortions on two 13-year-olds without filing paperwork within three days as required by law.

The allegations regarding the 13-year-olds led to misdemeanor criminal charges in two counties, which Klopfer was facing at the same time he fought to keep his medical license, records show.

He was charged with failing to timely file a public report and admitted wrongdoing in St. Joseph County in 2014 and Lake County in 2015, according to the licensing board’s complaint.  Under terms of the pretrial diversion agreements, the misdemeanor charges were later dismissed.

None of the Indiana allegations against Klopfer were related to fetal remains.  How such remains ended up on Klopfer’s property are a mystery.

In the news release, the sheriff’s office said a lawyer for the Klopfer family first told officials about the discovery of the fetal remains.  IndyStar left a message on Monday for the attorney, identified by WMAQ-TV (Channel 5) Chicago as Kevin P. Bolger.

Klopfer’s family had no idea the fetal remains were inside the doctor’s rural home, Bolger told WMAQ on Saturday.

“No one has any answers,” Bolger told the station.  “The family is cooperating 100%.”

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill told IndyStar on Monday that the discovery of the fetal remains “shocks the conscience.”  Hill said his office will work with the office of Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul on an investigation into the “grisly” findings.

Is Your Baby In Danger?

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Nancy Cowles, executive director of Kids in Danger.

Recalled Sleepers Linked To Infant Deaths Are Still Being Used in Daycare Centers

Earlier this year, Fischer-Price issued a recall of nearly five million Rock ‘n Play sleepers after the popular product was linked to at least 30 infant deaths.  Not long after, Kids II recalled 700,000 of its own inclined sleepers due to similar concerns.

Several months later, one mom was shocked to find that these dangerous sleepers are still being used in some daycare centers, which could be putting their kids at risk.

Sarah Landis, a mom from Philadelphia, told Consumer Reports that in June, she came to her one-year-old son’s daycare and discovered that a Rock ‘n Play Sleeper was in the infant facility room.  Landis told her husband, Adam Garber, who works in product safety.  Garber gave the daycare a call to see if they were aware of the recall.

“Our daycare provider, who cares deeply about the kids, was really confused,” says Garber.  “She said she thought there had only been a warning about the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper and that as long as the product was properly used, and babies were buckled in, it would be fine.”

Garber informed the daycare director that a full recall had been issued, something that the director says they were never informed about the extent of the recall and so they believed they were not putting children in danger by keeping theirs.  William Wallace, the manager of home and safety policy for Consumer Reports, says that this can be common if companies give mixed messaging about a recall.

“Recalls don’t work well unless people get a clear and consistent message.  And they especially don’t work well if manufacturers and the government fail to fully warn people about the risks of a product,” Wallace explained.

Fortunately, in this case, no infants were harmed as a result of the sleeper but considering the popularity of these products, it’s hard to imagine that there aren’t still daycare centers that are unknowingly using a product that has been proven to be dangerous.

What can you do if you are a parent who is unsure if your kid’s daycare is using one of these items?  Garber says the most effective thing you can do is reach out.

“One of the things we’re telling folks is to just go in and ask what the center’s plan is to check for and remove recalled products—and then ask about specific products,” Garber says.

Ben Hoffman, M.D., chairperson of the American Academy of Pediatric’s Council on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention’s executive committee, agrees, adding that the safest thing for parents is to ensure that no inclined sleepers are being used.

“I would encourage parents to talk to day care providers and make sure their babies are put to sleep in a safe way, and not in a recalled product—but ideally not in any inclined sleeper,” Hoffman says.

Parents Be Very Careful Who You Let Babysit

.jpg photo of man accused of murder of child he was babysitting
David Marvin Hass Jr., 34

Man charged with fatal Child Abuse of
girlfriend’s son

ESSEX, MD  –  A man has been charged with the murder of his girlfriend’s 2-year-old son in Maryland.

Baltimore County police said they received a call on June 29 for a cardiac arrest in Essex, Maryland.  The caller, identified as David Marvin Hass Jr., 34, was babysitting his girlfriend’s son and 5-year-old daughter while she was working when the child stopped breathing, police said.

The boy, identified in a probable cause statement as Damien Landrum, was taken to MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center where he was pronounced dead a half hour after arriving.

Hospital investigators noticed the child had multiple bruises on his face, arm, stomach and back, the probable cause statement said.  Due to the age and injuries observed on the child, the Baltimore County Police Homicide Unit was asked to investigate.

According to the probable cause statement, Haas told investigators that the boy had “pooped himself,” and that he placed the child in the shower.  Haas told investigators that he was gone for approximately 4-5 minutes, and when he returned, he found the boy face down in the tub, not breathing, the statement said.

An autopsy returned to police on July 8 revealed the boy’s bowels were torn and his pancreas was split in two pieces from the force used to inflict the injuries, that statement said.  The cause and manner of death was determined to be multiple injuries and homicide.

Homicide Unit detectives determined that the injuries the boy suffered were inconsistent with the account of events given to police by Haas.

Haas was arrested Tuesday and is charged with first-degree child abuse resulting in death and first-degree murder.  He is held without bond at the Baltimore County Detention Center pending trial.