Are Child Protective Services Alerted Immediately If Shaken Baby Syndrome Is Diagnosed?
To understand whether Child Protective Services (CPS) will be alerted for a Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) diagnoses, it is important to have a scope of what commonly happens in these cases.
Nearly every SBS case involves a referral from a hospital. The common scenario involves a baby appearing at the hospital, typically with a caregiver, and the baby is crashing (having seizures, difficulty breathing, and is non-responsive). In their attempt to treat the infant, medical professionals will ask the caregiver what happened. If the caregiver’s explanation does not pass certain preset parameters about injury causation, a referral to the child protection team is made.
As an example, let us say a caregiver brings in his 3-month-old son. The father explains that he was just performing a routine diaper change, when the baby started seizing. If asked why the seizures began, the father explains he does not know, the baby just went limp and had trouble breathing. The child protection team will be called in, and the father (or both parents) will be pushed by medical professionals who are pressing for a different answer. Very often, doctors and nurses in ER’s and child protection teams are trained not to accept an explanation for these events that does not involve the parent admitting to abuse.
These situations are very stressful and overwhelming – the infant is struggling for his/her life, so panicked parents will typically say anything in an effort to try to help their sick and injured child. After giving their initial explanation, the parents will be interviewed over and over again. First by the triage nurse, then the ER doctor, followed by the radiologist, the neurologist, the new nurse, and finally the child abuse pediatrician. At this point, social workers are called in to talk to the parents. They begin to look for inconsistencies in the stories the parents have told whether new details were ever added, and whether the parents begin to contradict themselves.
Because each of the people asking you questions at the hospital is a mandatory reporter, police are called in immediately. Law enforcement then separates the parents, putting them (and any other suspected caregiver) in separate rooms for individual interviews.
Unfortunately, the people being interviewed in these situations are frequently lied to. The police tell them things like,” The doctors have said that the only way the child could have been injured like this is if you violently shook them.” It is extremely common for an individual who is interviewed under these circumstances to start thinking that any normal thing that they had done was the cause of the infant’s trauma. From burping the baby, to attempting to revive the baby when he seized – any routine handling or reaction to the baby’s crash can snowball into a perceived act of violence. Caregivers may think of any time they did something even remotely similar to violently shaking, and tell the police. At which point, they commonly end up saying something that will serve as the basis of a confession or admission. This is where these accusations are born.
One of the real dangers of SBS or AHT cases is that generations of medical professionals have been trained in the idea that, unless an infant has been in a car crash of at least 45 mph, or sustained a fall of 10 feet or more, SBS or AHT are the only possible cause of the combination of these three injuries: Subdural hematoma, retinal hemorrhaging, and edema are seen as diagnostic abuse, to the exclusion on any other injury mechanism.
For that reason, if an infant has subdural hematoma, retinal hemorrhaging, and edema, any story will be discounted as SBS or AHT, unless you go into the hospital claiming that your child sustained a traumatic fall or a massive car crash.
How Can Hiring An Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Help Me In My Shaken Baby Syndrome Or Abusive Head Trauma Case?
Hiring our multidisciplinary team can allow us to get started as early as possible before the avalanche of SBS allegations starts rolling downhill. Additionally, it is incredibly important to have a lawyer acting as a buffer between you and the police, and you and the medical team at the hospital.
These cases are typically not charged immediately. A baby does not show up to an ER on a Tuesday, and then on Wednesday, the caregiver is charged. It takes a lot of time for the police (working with the hospital) to conduct an investigation. It takes time to gather medical records, and interview the doctors and nurses, in order to put a case together. During that time, law enforcement, social workers, and medical professionals will be trying to talk with you. Having an experienced lawyer to help you handle these interviews behalf is invaluable.
In these cases, the suspect becomes clear very early on. If you are a parent who was out of town when these events occurred, then you will not be assumed guilty just because you are the child’s parent. However, the person who is being investigated will be very obvious, and that person will need a buffer with the police. It is important to know what buzzwords investigators are looking for, and what responses they will be trying to elicit with their questions.
It is also important to begin accumulating all available medical records for the child, starting at pregnancy, labor, and delivery, and working through early pediatric records. These records can help illuminate alternatives to the narrative of abuse. Do the growth charts of the child match up? What were the vaccination records of the child? Are height, length, weight, and head circumference measurements consistent with healthy growth patterns? Or does the child’s head circumference get suddenly bigger because they have a chronic subdural hematoma that may have been related to birth?
These cases are wholly dependent on a timeline. All events need to be plotted on a timeline with as much detail as possible. If, for example, there is an injury that occurred in the past where the child acted as if they were fine immediately after, but then became lethargic and goofy the next day, it is very important to have a record.
We can ask questions such as: Was the child irritable? Was the child lethargic? Did the child have any episodes of vomiting? Did the child start having seizures? Was the child inconsolable at night? Was there any evidence that the child was experiencing headaches? Putting all these pieces of information together as soon as possible is incredibly important. You cannot wait until charges have been made to begin this work.
A good lawyer can work with the authorities and even avoid charges against you if they can find the right information. Even when that is not possible, preparing a multidisciplinary defense with an experienced attorney as soon as possible is paramount to the outcome of your case.
Additional Information On Shaken Baby Syndrome/Abusive Head Trauma Cases
SBS and AHT cases are a nightmare.
Prosecutors bring into the courtroom a case wherein the star witnesses are doctors who went to school for years. These doctors then testify with such an air of authority and confidence that, to a jury, it may seem that what they say must be true.
The idea that shaking can cause the triad of injuries associated with SBS/AHT cases has become so ingrained in the medical and legal community that it is almost accepted as a truism.
It’s so easy for someone accused of SBS or AHT to become overwhelmed. It is not uncommon for good. well-meaning lawyers to fail spectacularly in these cases because they simply cannot grasp the science, medicine, and biomechanics behind these accusations.
These cases and the multidisciplinary understanding of the factors that inform them are so complex that it takes even great lawyers many years of extra study and experience to be successful.
Fortunately, there are many law review articles and examples of innocence projects throughout the country that have worked to vindicate and free persons who falsely accused and convicted under junk science theories of SBS or AHT.
If you go to the hospital because your infant has arrested or seized, and you are being questioned about what you did to cause these injuries, then you need to immediately stop and do your research.
Look for a lawyer who is experienced in handling these cases with an understanding of the science, the medicine, and the biomechanics that form these cases. Then hire that attorney as quickly as possible.
The assumptions around SBS/AHT cases are so severe that even an experienced multidisciplinary attorney is not a guarantee for a positive outcome. However, they will be able to provide you with the incomparable resources you need to defend yourself against these accusations.
For more information on Shaken Baby Syndrome/Abusive Head Trauma Cases, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (248) 509-0056 today.