Child Abuse Pediatricians: What Happens When They Get it Wrong? (Pt 1)

October 2, 2019 Abuse and Neglect Attorney
A close up of a doctor, standing in a patient's room and holding a clipboard. They're dressed in a white lab coat.
Child Abuse Pediatricians serve a very important role in community healthcare. But what happens when they screw up and villify innocent parents?

Getting it wrong can have terrible consequences. When a Crime Scene Investigator gets it wrong, an innocent person might go to prison. When a doctor gets it wrong, you might be treated for a disease you don’t have (and the one you do have goes untreated!). And when a Child Abuse Pediatrician (CAP) gets it wrong, families are torn apart and dragged through the muck, being forced to spend thousands in lawyers fees to defend themselves, and facing the loss of their reputations and even jobs in the face of false allegations.

If this sounds overly dramatic, you haven’t been paying attention…

The Timmerman family in Houston, Texas, are a great example of how quickly a case can get out of hand, and how terrible the consequences can be for parents when a CAP screws up. The couple took their baby, Tristan, to the hospital in the middle of the night, terrified because they’d found her unresponsive in her crib. At first, they were assured it was a small brain bleed – the result of childbirth, the doctor assured them. But within a few days that reassurance turned into a nightmare, as a CAP arrived to inform them that she suspected their baby had been shaken!

How could a doctor assume that, when the parents did nothing wrong?

NBC News, who reported the family’s story, explained how this happened: “Unbeknownst to many parents who encounter them, these pediatricians, now stationed at virtually every major children’s hospital in the country, work closely with child welfare agencies and law enforcement, providing expert reports and court testimony in thousands of cases a year and helping to shield untold numbers of abused children from additional harm. But in their zeal to protect children, some child abuse pediatricians also have implicated parents who appear to have credible claims of innocence, leading to traumatic family separations and questionable criminal charges.”

The Timmermans spent almost a year fighting to save their family!

It was seven long months of agony for Tim and Anne Marie Timmerman. Based on nothing more than a CAP’s report and recommendation, CPS removed baby Tristan from them and placed him into the care of his maternal grandparents. The Timmermans fought for their right to keep their baby, but all a Judge allowed was for him to return home into the care of his mother, as long as his father wasn’t ever unsupervised in his company. In the end, the agency reversed their findings, admitting that there wasn’t enough evidence to support a claim of child abuse. But that doesn’t take back that lost time with their baby, or the incredible stress it placed on their family.

CPS workers often defer to CAPs when they’re not sure what to do.

CPS workers aren’t medical experts, and when the findings are inconclusive, but the CAP is certain the injuries are the result of abuse, CPS workers tend to defer to their expertise. As a result, a number of families have been forced to fight long and hard to stay intact, and the saddest part is, they don’t always win. But that’s what we do best – fight on a family’s behalf to restore their unity and protect their children. So if CPS is accusing you of child abuse, call 866 766 5245 immediately and talk to one of our aggressive child abuse defense attorneys. We’re available 24/7 to help.