Early in 2014, it was just another day for a family and their 11-week-old baby, until the baby slipped off the father's lap and he caught her by the face to stop her from falling on the gorund. The family acted quickly, as any family would, and drove the baby to C.S. Mott's Children's Hospital to be checked for injury. The hospital found that there was bleeding on the baby's brain, and hemorrhaging in her eyes, which they thought was consistent with Shaken Baby Syndrome. Child Protective Services was called and suspicion that the child was abused rose. In April 2014, a petition was filed in the Juvenile Court that alleged that the father abused or neglected his young daughter, which he was eventually found responsible for. Criminal charges were then filed against the father for second-degree child abuse, which requires that a defendant knowingly or intentionally commit an act that would be likely to cause physical or mental harm to the child and is a 10-year felony. (For more information on child abuse allegations click here.) The father was found guilty and convicted for the abuse of his daughter. It is unknown at this time whether the father's parental rights will be terminated as a result of this case.
The testimony given by medical experts was the only evidence given at trial. Some experts stated the baby's injuries weren't injuries at all and they were not consistent with child abuse, but instead a condition that she was born with due to a traumatic birth. The other experts opined that the baby had been abused. Unfortunately, failure to fully investigate the circumstances, in combination with flawed medical evidence at times can lead to terrible false allegations like these.
This week, protestors gathered outside of C.M. Mott's Children's Hospital to show support of the father and his separated family. The protestors carried signs that said, "Taking Child to ER? Bring Your Lawyer" and " Child to ER. Dad to Jail." They also protested to raise awareness that Doctors in the University of Michigan Health System are paid to consult with CPS on suspected child abuse allegations.
Many accidental situations, like the one that happened in this case, are misconstrued to be child abuse by doctors in the ER and by Child Protective Services. Doctors and CPS workers have certain indicators they look for while examining a child and making the determination whether the child was abused. However, these indicators, such as bruising and hemorrhaging, could be related to an accident, an unintentional fall or a number of other actions, and aren't always related to abusing a child.
Child abuse proceedings can be scary and turn from bad to worse in a split second. It is important to have an experienced legal team by your side from the very beginning when you are being investigated by CPS, or are facing child abuse allegations. Some child abuse allegations result in the termination of parental rights and criminal charges, especially when the allegations involve the sexual abuse of a child. The Law Offices of Shannon M. Smith has experience in dealing with Child Protective Services and with investigations if they should give rise to the filing of a petition for the termination of parental rights or criminal charges. Our office is highly experienced when it comes to sexual abuse allegations within a family unit that give rise to CPS proceedings and criminal charges. If you or a loved one are being investigated by Child Protective Services, or a petition for termination of parental rights has already been filed against you, contact our office to set up an appointment.