These Parents Were “Guilty Until Proven Innocent.” Could It Happen To You?

We are likely all guilty of making small judgments about others – their appearance, their mannerisms or way of doing things – even though we know it is not right to do so.

There are many old adages out there like, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” or “Innocent until proven guilty,” but we often form impressions and render conclusions about people before we really find out what is going on in their lives.  And sometimes these judgments can have negative consequences.

Such was the case with a family in the U.K. whose physician made a snap judgment about their child during a routine checkup.  But this rush to judgment led the family down a long and dark road of emotional trauma — and a violation of the most basic of rights.

Café Mom reported:

Gina Hodgkins first noticed something was potentially wrong with [her second child] Teddy immediately after his birth when his body looked bruised. “The nurse reassured me it was normal, and was a result of him getting a bit squashed during delivery,” Hodgkins told the Daily Mail. “But it hadn’t been a forceps birth, so I was surprised.”

Weeks later, he still had two marks on his cheeks, so she brought up her concerns at his checkup. “I was taking him to be weighed at 6 weeks old and the health visitor asked if I had any concerns,” she said. “I showed her the bruises and she said: ‘Yes, I was about to ask you what they were.'”

According to Hodgkins, two social workers and multiple police officers arrived at her house an hour later. “When they arrived, I was on the sofa with Teddy on me, asleep,” Hodgkins said. “The female officer asked me to turn him round, so she could see him. As soon as she saw his face, she told me she was arresting me on suspicion of ABH [actual bodily harm]. Joshua got upset and tried to intervene. I was hugging Teddy to my chest as they were coming closer.”

They allowed her to strap Teddy into his car seat and said that they wouldn’t handcuff her if she didn’t put up a fight. “I cried all the way to the police station,” she said. “All I could think was, ‘What the hell is going on?’

With no explanation, and without trying to get further information from the parents, their physician took it upon himself to call Social Services.  Hodgkins tried to explain that she was the one who brought up the concern about Teddy’s bruising – first, to hospital staff immediately following his birth, and then again at his checkup.

Teddy was taken to the hospital, and Hodgkins’ six-year-old daughter, Amelia, was placed in emergency foster care.  The parents were put in custody on suspicion of ABH, or Actual Bodily Harm.  After they were released on bail, the parents were allowed to see the kids once a week for an hour with supervision.

Café Mom continued:

“It was awful,” Hodgkins said. “We didn’t want to cry in front of the children, but when they left, we blubbed our eyes out. I was always worried Teddy wouldn’t recognize me the next time he saw me, and Amelia would kick and scream when it was time to go.”

Amelia was allowed to come home after five weeks, but Teddy was moved to a relative’s care. “[She] would say, ‘I can’t do this anymore. I can’t live without my children,'” Sparkes said. “She’d recently given birth and now her baby had been wrenched away from her. Trying to explain to Amelia why she couldn’t come home was very hard. We just said the authorities had to find out where Teddy’s bruises came from and when they found out, she’d be able to come home.”

This tragic story is every parent’s worst nightmare – having our children ripped away from us because of one rash judgment on the part of another, not even being given the opportunity to be heard or to explore other reasons.

Gina’s mother turned the case around when it occurred to her that other family members had a history of abnormal bruising.  In fact, Gina and her siblings had been diagnosed with a rare genetic condition as children – Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, or EDS.

The Ehlers-Danlos Society lists the very symptoms Teddy was experiencing on their website:  fragile skin that tears or bruises easily (bruising may be severe); severe scarring; slow and poor wound healing; development of pseudo tumors (fleshy lesions associated with scars over pressure areas).

The family had to wait several long weeks for the case judge to approve genetic testing.  Once Teddy was tested, the family had to wait again — an agonizing four months — for the results, during which time they were still not allowed to see their children without supervision.

Once the test results were in confirming that not only Teddy but also Amelia, had the syndrome, the charges were dropped and an apology was issued by the judge. Apparently, nothing in the way of comment or apology was ever heard from the reporting physician.

It was all too little, too late for these parents who were separated from their very young children for months, and treated like criminals without being given a chance to defend themselves.

Café Mom concluded:

“My son and daughter were taken away from me when I did nothing wrong,” Hodgkins said. “I lost five months’ bonding during a formative time in their lives. I can never get that back,” Hodgkins said. “…. When Teddy came back, I didn’t know his routine. It took a while, but we found it again together. He’d got used to a different mum putting him to bed, another voice tucking him in and saying, ‘Good night.’ I don’t think I’ll ever truly recover from that.”

This is the kind of traumatic event that no family really ever gets over.  No one can imagine living in a free and developed country like the U.S. or U.K. and having your children taken away for no reason – being “guilty until proven innocent.”

This family’s tragic experience should serve as a lesson that everyone should be given the benefit of the doubt and that figures in authority positions should be held accountable to others for making uninformed decisions that damage lives.  If this physician had done his job, he would have explored other options and referred them for a second opinion before condemning them.

Even if the parents file a civil suit for punitive damages, in this case, no amount of financial compensation can ever replace the time they lost with their precious children.

What do you think of the outrageous way this family was treated and the way their parental rights were violated?  What do you think should happen to the reporting physician?  Leave us your thoughts.

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