Thursday, April 19, 2012


The other day I was directed via random web surfing to this news item about a couple who was being investigated for child abuse due to their daughter's rare genetic disease. The girl had a rare disorder than can cause weakening of the bones, leading to bone fractures from normal handling. The family didn't know she had this (she was only 3 months old and it was the first time they ever brought her to the ER) but the hospital alerted DHS and the child was placed in foster care for the investigation. In a very sad twist, the dad freaked and killed the mother and himself... only a couple of days before genetic testing revealed her disease and cleared her parents of any wrongdoing.

I couldn't help but think of our own situation, and wonder about other parents with special kiddos. Honestly, I have at least one incident a week where something happens with Geri in public and I think to myself, "I wonder if today is the day I get DHS called on me?" In fact, today I had a doozy. Geri has feeding issues. She's hype sensitive to texture, won't eat anything solid, only takes food from a metal spoon, and sometimes she just refuses to eat due to anxiety when she is, in fact, hungry. Her feeding therapist is aware of our practice of "priming the pump" - we force the first bite, when necessary. Typically, after that forced bite she eats like a ravenous wildebeast and all is well. If she continues to refuse after that first bite, we stop. Very often she acts very torn, opening her mouth for the food and seeming eager until the second it reaches her lips, then clamping shut and squealing and writhing violently.

Today, at Chik-Fil-A, I had to attempt to prime the pump with her. I'll admit, it doesn't look pretty. She's on my lap, one arm tucked against my body and me holding the other arm tight to her in a bear hug and I pin her head from thrashing by pressing my cheek against hers. She's mewling like a wounded animal, perhaps outright screaming, and trying to thrash and her legs are kicking. I effing hate to do this, seriously I do, but the other option is to let her starve herself because she's feeling anxious. We have to at least try. Today, however, the whole thing looked about a thousand times worse because her left eye, the recently operated one, looks like a mangled mess.

So here I am, in Chik-fil-A, trying to force food into my daughter's mouth while she screams and thrashes, and she already looks like someone punched her in the eye. And I think to myself "I wonder how long it will take for the cops to get here?"

Yet, I wouldn't be mad at the cops when they arrived. And I wouldn't get mad at whoever called them, either. Because while my kid has food issues and glaucoma, other kids don't. They just have parents that beat them up and force them to eat things they don't want for the power trip. Not for their health. Not for their wellbeing. For no reason other than to terrorize someone smaller and feel big. And those people have to be stopped.

If a baby shows up in the ER with 11 bone fractures at 3 months, an investigation has to happen. The hospital has to call and the DHS folks have to take that child because giving the parents the benefit of the doubt isn't usually in the child's best interest. I'm sorry, but it's true. And if someone had called in a mom force feeding a child who appears to have been beaten, they have to act for the child's safety. I understand that, I appreciate that. Would it be fun for me? Hell no! Would I be happy to see them? Not so much. Would I be scared and sad and hurt? Of course. But I would comply with the investigation, I'd give them the names of all the docs and therapists and social workers already involved in my kids' lives and work with them to figure it out.

While I have compassion for the family in the news story, and I'd hate to trade shoes with them, the reason this family was torn apart is because the dad decided to shoot his wife and himself. NOT because DHS was investigating him. NOT because his daughter was in foster care. If he hadn't done this awful act, the family would presumably have been reunited after their daughter's diagnosis. And while I can understand being scared and hurt and depressed over being investigated, I can't sympathize for a second with making the decision to rob my child of her parents rather than to fight for her. I wouldn't rest until we were reunited. And even if I somehow got so far down in my depression that I thought suicide was even on the table, I can't fathom the decision to kill my spouse so I don't have to go alone. It's one thing to take your life and leave your child with one parent, it's another thing to kill both of you and leave your child orphaned.

I suppose this will come off as a harsh judgement of the dad in question. Well, too bad. What he did was wrong, and I don't think anyone out there will try to argue otherwise. This isn't one of those "oh I'm sure he had his reasons..." sort of gray areas. Killing your spouse is always wrong, and leaving your child an orphan because you are distraught is selfish.

It's sad to think that a parent would be put on trial for trying to do their best with an unusual circumstance, but I'd rather face that then allow the alternative.

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