Your toddler gets sick in the middle of the night and you have no idea why, so you rush them to the hospital. After a few hours and a little bit of care, you’re relieved to see that your child is getting better.
Then a doctor steps into the room and says that they believe your child is the victim of abuse. Maybe someone — you or your spouse — shook or hit your baby, they suggest. The next thing you know, Child Protective Services (CPS) sends a worker with emergency removal orders in hand. Your child is taken from your care and placed with strangers.
This is not, unfortunately, an implausible situation. In recent years, the number of “child abuse pediatricians” stationed in hospitals around the country has dramatically increased. These doctors combine their medical training with a combination of tests, investigative skills and additional training that’s designed to help them spot signs of child abuse into a unique practice. When they do their jobs correctly, they can save the lives of vulnerable children.
When they make a mistake, however, a family can be unfairly ripped apart — and mistakes happen quite often. A joint investigation by Houston Chronicle and NBC News looked at 40 cases in Texas where the child abuse pediatrician did things like:
- Overstated their ability to conclusively state that a child’s injuries were due to abuse by saying they were “100% certain” in their diagnosis
- Blamed a parent who, worried about possible abuse by a third-party caregiver, brought a child’s injuries to their attention for the injuries
- Failed to look deeper into a child’s medical issues when seeking a reasonable explanation for their injuries, blaming the parents instead
- Claimed to conclusively know whether injuries a child sustained were accidental or intentional without even looking at the particular circumstances of the case
It’s true that child abuse is a serious issue — but good parents can get waylaid by a doctor or caseworker who is a little too eager to see problems. If you’re fighting a CPS case, don’t try to handle the issue without help.