A study conducted by reporters from the Houston Chronicle and NBC News, who worked for nine months examining over 40 cases of reported child abuse and spoke with more than 100 lawyers, doctors, and current and former state employees, shows a huge gap between the medical and legal system in terms of differentiating abuse from accidental injuries a child may sustain, says Houston-based family legal counsel Kersh Law Firm.
The disparity in conclusiveness is evident, with those interviewed struggling to come up with certainly on what child abuse entails. As a result, there are instances wherein children are taken forcibly from parents who claim to be innocent and caring. The separation, if wrongly assessed, can bring much devastation to both the parents’ future and that of the child, Kersh Law Firm adds. Some families sink into financial ruin or lose their jobs and marriages after a child abuse report. Children who spend time in foster care come out of it with health issues and depression.
Kersh Law Firm says that the problem seems to center around the medical rule, which states that child welfare investigations are confidential. There’s no way to verify the specifics of the said reports, as well as the number of parents who have lost custody (whether temporary or not).
At its heart, this medical subspecialty exists for the noble and needed reason of protecting children. From studying suspicious injuries to avoiding overreporting abuse or outright missing it. Texas has been supporting these physicians with $5 million grants annually. They are, in turn, deputized by the Child Protective Services, allowing them to step in and make a diagnosis on behalf of actual child welfare investigators.
But while typical medical doctors may report potential abuse to the authorities, child abuse pediatricians are given the power to conduct their own investigation and confirm or deny any abuse. The point is, even though they are not allowed to take children away from their parents, their final, submitted report heavily informs how Child Protective Services will handle the case, explains Kersh Law Firm.
Child abuse pediatricians know that they cannot be too quick to label something as child abuse. But there’s always the possibility that they are being blinded by a heroic sense of advocacy. It’s been happening more often in recent years, says Dr. Eli Newberger, who founded the child protection team at Boston Children’s Hospital in 1970 and helped lay the groundwork for child abuse pediatrics as well know it today.
Again, the issue here is how to deal with doubts regarding child abuse doctors’ diagnosis of child abuse. Some doctors who are given this huge responsibility are just pediatricians in training, too. It must be stressed here that the credibility of these specialized pediatricians, in general, is not being questioned, adds Kersh Law Firm. What one should worry about are instances when the evidence is not clear or too flimsy for them to get the diagnosis right. Because naturally this will severely cause trauma and ruin families in the long run.
Some Texas lawmakers are now calling on the National Academy of Sciences to study the validity of these diagnoses. They believe that a healthy skepticism must be maintained to ensure that allegedly abusive families are given the same fair grounds to dispute the initial findings, particularly in terms of soliciting a second opinion, adds Kersh Law Firm.
On a side note, Kersh Law Firm acknowledges Slate & Associates for being one of the primary resources for this article.
Kersh Law Firm, P.C., is a legal family law counsel established in 2013 with offices located at the Alabama Suite in Houston, Texas. It is the firm’s mission to provide each handled case comprehensive legal advice and strategy, as well as offer every client exceptional customer service. More on the firm and the various family law services it offers here.
Tags: pediatrics, child abuse, child abuse law, misdiagnosis
Image source: houstonchronicle.com