Judge Reunites Family With Child Affected By Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome
This is another tragic story of couple charged with child abuse due to an Ehlers-Danlos related injury.
“It was the type of accident that could happen to any parent – in a split second, a young baby rolls off the bed and falls to the floor.
For most, the outcome is a few tears and some cuddles, but for one couple it was the start of a terrifying ordeal.
They were accused of child abuse and their little boy was taken away from them for almost a year.
His parents were only allowed to see him for two hours, three times a week at a council contact centre.
Last night the mother and father, finally reunited with their son, said they were treated like monsters by social workers and made to pay for previous failings in child protection.
‘In a flash we went from being proud first-time parents to being a part of this nightmare from which we could see no escape,’ said the child’s 30-year-old mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons.
The accident happened in June last year as the baby’s father was preparing him for bed at 6.30pm.
Having laid him on their double bed, he turned away momentarily when the nine-month-old went into a roll and fell on to the carpet. The boy’s reaction, however, was abnormal.
His cries quickly turned into something more serious, and by the time his mother had run upstairs, his eyes were rolling back into his head and he appeared to be having a fit.
An ambulance was called, but the paramedic became suspicious about the child’s injuries and by what he perceived as his mother’s lack of emotion. He made a safeguarding referral and the police were told.
‘At the hospital in Lincoln, we were told social services would be informed but that hardly registered as we knew we’d done nothing wrong and were both frantic about our baby’s condition,’ said the mother.
‘It was only when, a couple of hours later, the doctors decided to transfer him to Nottingham for surgery and we popped home to get some belongings that the implications began to dawn on us.
‘There was a policeman on our doorstep telling us our home was a crime scene and we would not be allowed in until we had given a statement.’
By the next day their baby was in an induced coma in intensive care. Tests had revealed an earlier brain haemorrhage and multiple haemorrhages behind his eyes.
The parents have now been cleared, but the judge took almost a year to make the decision, causing them to miss many big moments in their son’s life, such as his first birthday
The implication was that he had suffered severe shaking on more than one occasion.
‘We didn’t know what to think,’ said the father. ‘We were struggling to take in the horror of it all when a social worker came into the room where we were both in absolute pieces.
‘She looked us up and down like we were child abusers and told us that we were no longer allowed access to our son without supervision. From that moment on, it was like he did not belong to us.’
The following day, they were asked to attend a police station where they were arrested on suspicion of causing GBH with intent, questioned separately and held for nine hours.
‘I was scared to death,’ said the father. ‘Neither of us has ever been in trouble before.
It was clear that they thought someone had shaken our baby on more than one occasion in the previous two weeks.
The only other person who had been with him was my widowed mother-in-law and a few days later she was also arrested. She will never get over the shock. Our whole world had fallen apart.’
After three weeks, the baby was well enough to leave hospital and Nottinghamshire County Council placed him with a foster family.
‘It was unbearable,’ said his mother.
‘One of the hardest times was his first birthday. We were given an extra hour and allowed to take him to a farm but a contact worker was with us at all times.
In addition to the psychological torment, the parents were also faced with a significant monetary hit from legal fees
‘We were considered guilty and it just seemed inevitable that we would end up losing our treasured baby to adoption.
‘But knowing we were suspected of shaking him, I started researching it and found a lawyer, Rachel Carter, who writes a blog about such cases.’
At a High Court hearing last month, the medical evidence against the couple collapsed as experts agreed that the baby’s earlier brain haemorrhage had been caused during his birth by emergency caesarean and that the fall had triggered a dramatic re-bleed.
It also emerged that he had probably inherited his father’s condition, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome type 3, which makes sufferers prone to bleeding.
With none of the other common signs of abuse such as bruises or neck injuries present, Judge Jeremy Lea ruled that the boy should return home.
His mother added: ‘The council were convinced we had shaken him and they acted with a kind of hyper-vigilance.
‘We were made to pay the price of all the previous failings in child care and it ended up costing the tax payer a fortune in legal aid.’
Steve Edwards, Nottinghamshire County Council’s director for children’s social care, said: ‘Our overriding obligation as an authority is to protect children from harm.”
‘All the evidence in this case has now been fully tested by the court and we support the decision made by the judge.’
This family was finally reunited after a long struggle which eventually proved their innocence in this case.
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