Munchausen syndrome

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Munchausen syndrome

Postby Marina » Sun Aug 26, 2007 9:42 am

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Judge: DCF Failed To Investigate Family Before Taking Children

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL (AP) -- A Broward County judge has found the state Department of Children and Families negligent in failing to properly investigate the medical histories of two children before accusing their mother of intentionally making them sick.

Sara and Donald Evans lost custody of their two children after the agency said they were victims of Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a condition where a person deliberately makes another sick.

The children had records from California documenting their legitimate medical problems, and the family's doctors had given sworn statements rejecting the abuse allegations.

But DCF failed to consider those records, continuing dependency court proceedings three months after the family provided the documentation. The agency later dismissed all abuse allegations in July 2006.

DCF had argued in court that the case was "a battle of medical experts."

Last edited by Marina on Sat Apr 26, 2008 8:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Marina » Sun Aug 26, 2007 9:50 am

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Threat to take new-born over emotional abuse

By David Harrison, Sunday Telegraph
Last Updated: 1:42am BST 26/08/2007

A pregnant woman has been told that her baby will be taken from her at birth because she is deemed capable of "emotional abuse", even though psychiatrists treating her say there is no evidence to suggest that she will harm her child in any way.

Social services' recommendation that the baby should be taken from Fran Lyon, a 22-year-old charity worker who has five A-levels and a degree in neuroscience, was based in part on a letter from a paediatrician she has never met.

Hexham children's services, part of Northumberland County Council, said the decision had been made because Miss Lyon was likely to suffer from Munchausen's Syndrome by proxy, a condition unproven by science in which a mother will make up an illness in her child, or harm it, to draw attention to herself.

Under the plan, a doctor will hand the newborn to a social worker, provided there are no medical complications. Social services' request for an emergency protection order - these are usually granted - will be heard in secret in the family court at Hexham magistrates on the same day.

From then on, anyone discussing the case, including Miss Lyon, will be deemed to be in contempt of the court.

Miss Lyon, from Hexham, who is five months pregnant, is seeking a judicial review of the decision about Molly, as she calls her baby. She described it as "barbaric and draconian", and said it was "scandalous" that social services had not accepted submissions supporting her case.

"The paediatrician has never met me," she said. "He is not a psychiatrist and cannot possibly make assertions about my current or future mental health. Yet his letter was the only one considered in the case conference on August 16 which lasted just 10 minutes."

Northumberland County Council insists that two highly experienced doctors - another consultant paediatrician and a medical consultant - attended the case conference.

The case adds to growing concern, highlighted in a series of articles in The Sunday Telegraph, over a huge rise in the number of babies under a year old being taken from parents. The figure was 2,000 last year, three times the number 10 years ago.

Critics say councils are taking more babies from parents to help them meet adoption "targets".

John Hemming, the Liberal Democrat MP and chairman of the Justice for Families campaign group, said the case showed "exactly what is wrong with public family law".

He added: "There is absolutely no evidence that Fran would harm her child. However, a vague letter from a paediatrician who has never met her has been used in a decision to remove her baby at birth, while evidence from professionals treating her, that she would have no problems has been ignored."

Mr Hemming was concerned that "vague assertions" of Munchausen's Syndrome by proxy - now known as "fabricated and invented illness" - had been used to remove a number of children from parents in the North-East.

Miss Lyon came under scrutiny because she had a mental health problem when she was 16 after being physically and emotionally abused by her father and raped by a stranger.

She suffered eating disorders and self-harm but, after therapy, graduated from Edinburgh University and now works for two mental health charities, Borderline and Personality Plus.

Dr Stella Newrith, a consultant psychiatrist, who treated Miss Lyon for her childhood trauma for a year, wrote to Northumberland social services stating: "There has never been any clinical evidence to suggest that Fran would put herself or others at risk, and there is certainly no evidence to suggest that she would put a child at risk of emotional, physical or sexual harm."

Despite this support, endorsed by other psychiatrists and Miss Lyon's GP, social services based their recommendation partly on a letter from Dr Martin Ward Platt, a consultant paediatrician, who was unable to attend the meeting.

He wrote: "Even in the absence of a psychological assessment, if the professionals were concerned on the evidence available that Miss Holton (as Miss Lyon was briefly known), probably does fabricate or induce illness, there would be no option but the precautionary principle of taking the baby into foster care at birth, pending a post-natal forensic psychological assessment."

Miss Lyon said she was determined to fight the decision. "I know I can be a good mother to Molly. I just want the chance to prove it," she said.

The council said the recommendation would be subject to further assessment and review. "When making such difficult decisions, safeguarding children is our foremost priority," a spokesman said.

• A recording of social workers threatening to take a newborn into care has been removed from the YouTube website after Calderdale Council in West Yorkshire started legal action, claiming the Data Protection Act was breached.

Vanessa Brookes, 34, taped social workers telling her and her husband that they would seek to place the baby, due next month, in care, while admitting there was "no immediate risk to the child."


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Postby Marina » Fri Dec 07, 2007 10:16 am

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Mother makes desperate plea to child welfare agency for return of daughter


Thursday, December 6th 2007, 4:00 AM

The mother of a 6-year-old girl in city custody on allegations that her parents are mentally ill Wednesday made an emotional plea directly to the head of the city child welfare agency.

More than three months after Amber James was taken from her South Ozone Park home, her frustrated mom confronted city Administration for Children's Services Commissioner John Mattingly at a public conference on the agency's ongoing reforms.

"ACS has kidnapped my daughter wrongfully!" Vanessa James, 41, said at the gathering at the New School in Manhattan.

A pediatrician reported Vanessa James to authorities over concerns that she may suffer from Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a rare disease where a parent believes the child is sick - or makes them sick - to get attention.

Vanessa James and her husband, Marvin James, 48, have been to numerous court hearings since Amber was placed into the foster care system on Aug. 23. But they have not been charged with any crime, and neither has been found to be mentally ill.

"They found us innocent," Vanessa James said to Mattingly during the question-and-answer portion of the panel discussion.

"My daughter's being held prisoner," the desperate mother said. "What do we do now?"

After she made charges that her daughter has been abused while in foster care, Vanessa James was interrupted by the panel's moderator, who asked Mattingly to respond.

"I can feel the hurt in your voice," Mattingly said. "I know about this situation. I know it's in court and hearings have been held and will be held. ... It is up to the court to make the future decisions."

Amber's case has become a public tug-of-war between her parents and the ACS since the Daily News first reported the family's plight in September.

Ironically, yesterday's forum was largely devoted to announcing an ACS pilot program to increase family services and reduce foster-care placements.

After Vanessa James' plea, several welfare workers attending the forum referred to Amber's case as an example of the ongoing problems at ACS.

"Children are being abused" in foster care, said Sharonne Salaam of People United for Children, an advocacy group. Yet ACS has failed to crack down on foster care abuse, she charged.

Susan Loeb, of Voices of Women, said the ACS hotline is often abused.

"Malicious reports are an epidemic in many communities," Loeb said. "Anyone with an ax to grind can call, without any real consequences."

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Postby Marina » Sun Mar 30, 2008 8:13 pm

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Medical drama

By Megan Irwin
Published: March 27, 2008

Jamie Peachey
Subject(s): Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy

Part of what makes Carol Dunlavy's case so complicated is the accusation of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy. The disorder is incredibly rare — rarer still, experts say, if properly diagnosed. And a proper diagnosis is tough. The syndrome is not officially listed in the DSM-IV, though it is mentioned in the appendix as needing more research before it can become a legitimate diagnosis.

Still, the condition gets attention because the image it conjures — a mother slipping poison to her child — is so horrifying.

Derived from Munchausen Syndrome (in which a patient feigns illness for attention, named for the 18th-century German Baron von Münchhausen, who was famous for making up outrageous stories about his life), Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy is a disorder in which an adult fakes an illness in a child, forcing the child to act as a "proxy."

The term was coined by British pediatrician Roy Meadow in 1977 as a way to explain "cot deaths," known in America as sudden infant death syndrome.

Meadow was famously quoted saying, "One cot death is a tragedy, two is suspicious, three is murder."

His testimony put people in jail. But 30 years after he published his first paper on MSBP, Meadow's reputation was destroyed by his allegations against Sally Clark, a British mother accused of killing two of her infant children.

At Clark's trial, Meadow testified that the chances of such tragedy striking the same family twice was one in 73 million. This statistic put Clark in prison for more than three years.

But Meadow was wrong. An appeal revealed gross errors in Meadow's statistical analysis and Clark was exonerated in 2003.

She wasn't the only woman falsely accused by Meadow. In 2003, he accused Trupti Patel of murdering her three children, but according to the London Times, his statistics were so bad, jurors found her innocent in 90 minutes. Meadow was banned from testifying in court, and many women who were put away based on his testimony began to get out of jail.

The U.K.'s General Medical Council took away his license in 2005, calling him, "naive, grossly misleading, incompetent and careless," though he did manage to get his license reinstated on an appeal.

In December 2007, British physician David Southall, who pioneered the use of covert video surveillance in MSBP cases, lost his license for falsely accusing a mother of drugging and killing her son.

A spokesperson for the House of Lords told the BBC that Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy is "one of the most pernicious and ill-founded theories to have gained currency in childcare and social services over the past 10 to 15 years."

At the same time, across the Atlantic, Carol Dunlavy was fighting her own MSBP charge. Eric Mart, a Boston psychologist and nationally recognized expert on MSBP, has seen more than 100 mothers like Dunlavy and says not one of them actually had MSBP.

"I think the mistake people have made with this is that they've taken something that is actually a bunch of different phenomena and treated it as if it's the same thing," he says. "It's a mistake to use that label because it brings so much baggage with it. There's all this clinical lore and no scientific basis. It's a principal of forensic psychology that you never diagnose when you can describe."

Description is important, considering there are over 100 MSBP "red flags." One is a "parent who appears unusually calm in the face of serious difficulties in her child's medical course while being highly supportive and encouraging of the physician, or one who is angry, devalues staff, and demands further intervention."

Another major sign is a parent with the medical knowledge to fake an illness. Dunlavy told doctors she was a child psychologist (she's not), leading them to believe she knew how to make Sarah sick.

Mart says there are too many contradictory warning signs to convict a parent based on any one by itself.

"Do you know anyone who wouldn't be associated with one of them? How many do you have to have? There are so many listed and they are not derived scientifically," he says. "No one bothered to do that in any real way."

He adds there's a huge difference between a parent who exaggerates symptoms, and a parent who poisons a child.

"Not everyone who exaggerates is a murderer," he says.


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Postby Marina » Fri Apr 04, 2008 3:29 pm

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Friday, April 04, 2008

Parents' 'personality issues' detailed



Two psychologists who have examined Chris and Angie Cox testified Thursday that the couple have "personality issues," but indicated they did not diagnose them with a mental disorder known as Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy.

Dr. Eric Nicely, a Bowling Green psychologist who is currently treating the Coxes, said during a hearing in Hancock County Juvenile Court that Angie Cox, who had been accused of having Munchausen's, and Chris Cox both have personality disorders.

Another psychologist, Dr. David Connell, who conducted a forensic examination of the couple, disclosed he diagnosed Angie Cox with a personality disorder and found Chris Cox to be bipolar.

The findings, while similar, are different than the Munchausen's accusation that led to the Coxes being named in an abuse, neglect and dependent complaint filed by the Hancock County Children Services Unit last fall.

That complaint was based in large on a finding of Dr. Randall Schlievert, a child abuse pediatrician from Toledo, who suspected Munchausen's after examining extensive medical records concerning the Cox's 13-year old son.

Munchausen's is a rare disorder that causes parents, usually the mother, to fabricate symptoms in their children, subjecting them to unnecessary medical tests and treatment.

The youth is said to have suffered from numerous medical conditions, including severe asthma, a seizure disorder and epilepsy, among other ailments.

His parents say their son's various medical problems are the result of poisoning from fumes that were created when the old Centrex plant on Western Avenue was torn down in 2006. However, the EPA found no environmental hazards at the site.

The 13-year-old and three other children, 2, 8 and 11, were ordered removed from the family home by Judge Allan Davis following a hearing Oct. 23, and have been in foster care ever since.

A fifth child, now 18, was allowed to remain in the home.

In January, Children's Services dropped the abuse part of the complaints after the Coxes pleaded to the neglect and dependent complaints.

A disposition hearing is currently being held to determine if and when the children should be reunited with their parents. Judge Allan Davis will make that call after hearing testimony from 20 or so witnesses, including about 10 doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists and caseworkers.

Nicely and Connell were the fourth and fifth witnesses to be called in a hearing, which begins its fourth day today.

Nicely, who was hired by the Coxes after the court ordered the couple to receive treatment, testified that he has had four counseling sessions with Angie Cox and three with Chris Cox.

He said he is focusing treatment on Angie Cox because of the allegations that she is the one who has made her son ill. He said Chris Cox's treatment is currently less of a priority.

"I'm not suggesting Chris hasn't played some role," he said. "Angie's behavior has been more instrumental."

Nicely said his evaluation of Angie Cox found her to be overly dramatic, abrupt, demanding and "prone to exaggerations," but didn't find her to be delusional.

"She showed signs of reactive depression," he said. "But I'd rule out major depression."

Connell, who has offices in Findlay and Toledo, testified that he been asked to do evaluations of Angie and Chris Cox by Children's Services in October.

As part of the process, he interviewed and gave psychological tests to both the Coxes, met with their five children, and talked with several doctors who had treated the 13-year-old in the past several years.

He also reviewed numerous medical reports.

Connell said he uncovered a pattern of abuse that showed Angie Cox had lied to doctors about the symptoms her son was experiencing, and overstated his illnesses when describing them to other doctors and others.

He said she sought treatment for him in Findlay, Toledo, Columbus and Cleveland.

During his inquiry, he said he had contacted the principal and teachers at the school the youth attended, and was told of concerns the school had about the youth's medical problems and related absences in 2006 and 2007.

Connell said the school had been told at one point by Angie Cox that the boy had cancer and that he was dying.

Connell testified he has determined that the youth does not have a terminal illness, and is on far fewer medications since being place in foster care.

Both Nicely and Connell, during their testimony, indicated they believed that the children could be reunited with their parents, if certain conditions were met.

While Nicely said the exact case plan should be left to others to devise since he is the treating psychologist, he felt the Coxes would need to undergo continued counseling and acknowledge the behavior that led to the complaint before the children are returned home.

Connell suggested reunification should not take place anytime soon.

He said a comprehensive case plan would have to be in place to guarantee the children would be returning to a safe home environment.

That should include a medical guardian to oversee all health matters involving the children, and continuing counseling and therapy for the entire family.

"I believe all the children need to be in counseling to determine what effect all this stress has had on them," he said.

The hearing will resume this morning.

Davis indicated Thursday that he believes at least three additional days will be needed before the testimony is complete.


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Postby Marina » Sat Apr 05, 2008 6:42 pm

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Saturday, April 05, 2008
Court battle focuses on boy's health



The focus of an unusual case in Hancock County Juvenile Court shifted Friday from a mother, who some suspect has Munchausen's Syndrome, to the mysterious medical history of her adolescent son.

Testimony dealt with the past and current health of the 13-year-old son of Chris and Angie Cox of Findlay. The Coxes are in the midst of a highly contested custody battle with the Hancock County Children Services Unit.

The teen and three other Cox children, ages 2, 8 and 11, were removed from the family home last fall after Judge Allan Davis found enough preliminary evidence to support Children Service's complaint of abuse, neglect and dependency against the parents.

A fifth child, now 18, was allowed to remain in the home.

Davis ordered the children into foster care following an Oct. 23 hearing, and is now in the process of deciding when and under what conditions the children should be returned to their parents.

This “disposition hearing,” a trial of sorts, completed its fourth day Friday, and is scheduled to resume April 24.

The premise behind Children Service's complaint is that Angie Cox suffers from a rare mental disorder known as Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy.

The condition is more common in mothers than fathers, and causes them to fabricate symptoms in their children and subject them to unnecessary medical tests and treatments.

So far, Judge Davis has heard mostly from pediatricians, psychologists and a psychiatrist who have examined either the Coxes or their children.

Only one witness, Toledo child abuse specialist Dr. Randall Schlievert, has made a Munchausen's-related diagnosis, but several psychologists have testified that Angie Cox has a personality disorder which leads her to lie or exaggerate things -- traits sometimes exhibited in people with Munchausen's.

Dr. Schlievert this week testified he made the Munchausen's finding based on a review of the 13-year-old's extensive medical file, but without ever interviewing the boy or his mother.

The bulk of the allegations against the Coxes involve the medical problems of the boy, who, depending on which witnesses you believe, is either a fairly healthy young man or a sick kid suffering from a variety of ailments.

Donnell Middle School Principal Don Williams described him as a “regular student” when he began the 2006-2007 school year. The boy had not had grade or attendance problems at Lincoln Elementary, and only asthma and allergies were listed on his medical file.

But Williams testified that the youth missed more than 60 days of middle school during the sixth grade and was apparently taking more than a dozen prescription drugs shortly after the 2007-2008 school year began.

Looking back, Williams said, the youth's health seemed to go downhill after a Nov. 9, 2006 incident when he suffered an apparent seizure.

Williams said he responded after getting a call about a student who had passed out in art class, but found the youth “standing and talking” with a teacher when he arrived.

Later, Angie Cox arrived and took her son to Blanchard Valley Hospital to be examined.

“It was a great concern at the time,” Williams said.

Williams said that concern grew among teachers and administrators during the school year, especially after the youth began missing school for treatment of various medical problems, including asthma, allergies and seizures.

By early 2007, doctors were holding him out of gym class and warned that allowing him to view certain TV programming could trigger additional seizures.

Williams said the school decided, based on concerns about future seizures, that the boy would be prohibited from participating in band and choir. Later he was kept inside during recess.

“The thought was if he can't participate in gym, he probably shouldn't be taking part in band and choir,” Williams testified. “I didn't want it to be punitive to him, but we decided we needed to do that for his safety.”

By February 2007, school officials had learned that besides a seizure disorder, the youth had been diagnosed with Addison's disease, cystic fibrosis, “snapping hip” syndrome, and that he may have cancer.

By March 2007, the boy was reported to have experienced grand mal seizures, to have Pott's disorder, and was having panic attacks.

About the same time, Williams said, Angie Cox told school officials that her son was dying. She also told her son he had a terminal illness, according to the principal.

“She said doctors were sure that he had cancer,” Williams said. “She said he would not live past the age of 25, but that it (his life) could be shorter.”

Williams testified that the boy missed one-third of the 2006-2007 school year, and started out the seventh grade the same way, with excessive absences. By the time the Cox children were removed from their home, the teen had missed 20 out of the first 37 days of school.

Williams said he and others at the school became increasingly suspicious of the youth's reported deteriorating health as time went on.

Last summer, Williams recalled seeing the youth out riding his bike with friends on several occasions, and once talked to him briefly at Riverside Park, where he had gone to swim.

“I was kind of shocked by that,” Williams testified. “I thought swimming would be dangerous with all the conditions he had.”

On Friday morning, Dr. Stephanie Nociti-Dunphy, a Bowling Green pediatrician, testified about the youth's current health condition.

Nociti-Dunphy, who has served as the boy's primary care physician since Oct. 26, testified he is “quite healthy” and currently on only four prescriptions, all for asthma or allergies.

She said he is currently being “weaned” off steroid drugs that he reportedly had been taking for several years. His “current” diagnoses only include mild asthma and seasonal allergies, and “possibly” NCS (neurocardiogenic syncope), and pediatric condition falsification, a mental disorder.

During questioning by Kristen Johnson, the attorney for Children's Services, Nociti-Dunphy said there is currently “no evidence” he has Addison's, epilepsy, brittle bone disease, or cancer.

But during cross examination, Angie Cox's attorney, Lisa Miller, suggested that not all the boy's medical problems have gone away the past six months.

She noted, for example, that he had been taken by ambulance to Wood County Hospital for treatment after an asthma attack in November, and was seen by another doctor in January for an upper respiratory infection.

Miller also informed the witness that other doctors have reported the boy is still taking Keppra, a seizure medication, and has another prescription for acid-reflux.

Miller asked Nociti-Dunphy how Angie Cox could be blamed for overmedicating her son if the mother was following the instructions of the doctors and specialists who had prescribed drugs after diagnosing him with different health problems.

Nociti-Dunphy said it “was possible” the doctors weren't aware of what other doctors had prescribed, or that Angie Cox simply didn't follow directions for giving medicine to her son.

Some earlier witnesses, including Schlievert and Dr. David Connell, a psychologist who testified Thursday, have suggested the Coxes may have “doctor shopped” to try to build a case against the Centrex corporation.

The Coxes, who used to live near the Western Avenue company, have said their son's multiple illnesses are related to fumes created when Centrex tore down an old plant in 2006.

The Environmental Protection Agency investigated, but reported finding no environmental hazards at the site. The Coxes have never filed a lawsuit against the company.


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Postby Marina » Wed Apr 09, 2008 3:59 am

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Trial Begins for Mom Accused of Abusing Kids to Get Attention

Last Edited: Monday, 07 Apr 2008, 2:20 PM CDT
Created: Monday, 07 Apr 2008, 12:49 PM CDT

Mother on Trial for Abusing Kids
HOUSTON -- Opening arguments begin in the case of a mother suffering from a syndrome known as Munchausen by proxy, who is suspected of injuring her children to get attention.


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Postby Marina » Wed Apr 09, 2008 4:03 am

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Mom Accused of Putting Kids Through Unnecessary Medical Procedures
Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy May Explain Mother's Behavior

Last Edited: Monday, 07 Apr 2008, 6:05 PM CDT
Created: Monday, 07 Apr 2008, 2:19 PM CDT

Laurie Williamson FOX 26 News

Related Items

More Houston News

HOUSTON -- Opening arguments were presented Monday in the trial of a mother accused of abusing her children to get attention.

Laurie Williamson, 40, is charged with two counts of injury to a child.

Prosecutors said Williamson lied to doctors about her three children's health and authorized surgeries that her kids didn't need. They said she used the medical system to abuse her children, ranging between 8 and 12 years old, because she wanted money.

"She was fabricating symptoms lying about symptoms and ultimately caused them to have unnecessary surgeries by doctors who believed what she was saying," a prosecutor told FOX 26 News during a January 2008 interview.

Williamson's defense team did not present opening statements.

Jurors heard from Harris County Precinct 4 Constable's Office Sgt. Mike Johnson, who first took the abuse report. He said it was a pastor's wife who contacted him with her suspicions that Williamson was faking her children's illnesses in order to get donations.

Johnson collected more than 200,000 pages of medical records, which showed Williamson's children visited doctors more than 600 times in 10 years.

The jury also heard from Sarah Jones, a former Klein Independent School District teacher of one of Williamson's children from 1998 to 2000. She described Williamson's son as always hungry, underweight and lethargic, and testified that she never witnessed the boy having a seizure.

Prosecutors said on Jan. 5, 2001, Williamson's oldest son had surgery to get a pacemaker-like device implanted in his shoulder. The device was to control seizures the boy never had but were only reported by his mother.

A second surgery happened Dec. 5, 2001, when the same child had a gastric tube put in his stomach so he could be fed formula. Prosecutors said Williamson's son eats fine and did not need a tube.

Dr. Ed Reitman, a psychologist who's been practiciting for 45 years, has yet to treat a patient for the illness, but he said it's very real.

"It's a disease that is typified by an individual, who tends to take their children and to see them as sick, to view them as sick and to get them treated as sick," Reitman said.

Williamson's children were placed in the custody of Child Protective Services on March 17, 2006, before being placed in the care of their biological father. Since then, the three kids have only visited a doctor a combined four times. Three of those visits were yearly check-ups.

CPS workers told FOX 26 News that the children are no longer displaying the symptoms that they had while under the care of their mother, which means they're no longer being fed by tubes or wheelchair bound.

Defense attorneys claim Williamson, who previously worked as a nurse, suffers from Munchausen syndrome by proxy -- a form of child abuse in which a parent induces real or apparent symptoms of a disease in a child, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The judge in the case ruled prosecutors cannot mention any syndromes Williamson may suffer from until a hearing is held to determine if the doctors who are called to testified are qualified to make the diagnoses.


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Postby Marina » Sat Apr 26, 2008 8:12 pm

. ... story4.asp

Friday, April 25, 2008

Children 'want to be home'



Four of Angie and Chris Cox's children will be returned home if the Hancock County Juvenile Court adopts a proposed "case plan" and the parents meet certain objectives, a social worker testified Thursday.

April Allison, a caseworker for the Hancock County Children's Protective Services Unit, said the goal of the agency is to reunite the children, ages 3, 8, 11 and 13, with their parents.

"The children do want to be home," Allison testified. "We want to do that as soon as possible."

But Allison also gave the impression during her five hours of testimony Thursday that reunification wasn't imminent, and indicated the children, who are currently living with a foster family, could first be placed with relatives before going home.

Allison said if the "case plan" is approved by Juvenile Court Judge Allan Davis, the Coxes would have to meet six objectives before the children would be returned home.

The goal would be to complete the process by October, she said.

Allison's testimony came as a "disposition hearing" resumed in an unusual custody battle in juvenile court. The hearing has already lasted five days, with two more days of testimony scheduled over the next two weeks.

With five attorneys involved in the case and at least a dozen more witnesses expected to testify, the hearing could extend well into May.

Once the hearing is completed, Judge Davis will decide if the Cox children should be returned home and under what conditions.

Davis had placed them in emergency temporary custody last October after Children's Protective Services filed an abuse/neglect/dependency complaint against the parents.

A fifth Cox child, now 18, was permitted to remain at home.

The complaint was based, in large part, on a report by Dr. Randall Schlievert, a Toledo child abuse pediatrician, who diagnosed Angie Cox with Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy.

The rare mental disorder can cause a parent, usually the mother, to fabricate or exaggerate medical symptoms in their children.

In the Cox case, it was thought that Angie Cox had "doctor shopped" and subjected the 13-year-old child to unnecessary medical tests and procedures in 2006 and 2007.

At the time the boy was removed from the home, he was taking a dozen medications and had been diagnosed with a handful of medical conditions, including severe asthma, a seizure disorder, epilepsy, and neurocardiogenic syncope, a condition characterized by a temporary loss of consciousness.

His parents have said they believed their son's various health problems were the result of poisoning from fumes created when the old Centrex plant on Western Avenue was torn down in 2006.

They took him to various doctors when he failed to get better.

In January, the Coxes admitted to the neglect/dependency portion of the complaint, and the abuse part was dismissed. The children have remained with a foster family in Wood County, with the Coxes having twice-weekly supervised visitation with them.

The disposition hearing, which has gone on now for five days, has gotten heated at times, with a handful of doctors and psychologists being called to the witness stand to offer "expert" opinions.

So far, three different psychologists have failed to support Dr. Schlievert's Munchausen's theory, and instead have found the Coxes to have personality disorders.

There have also been different opinions as to how sick the teenage son is.

While he currently is said to be on five medications, mostly for asthma and allergies, he still carries a neurocardiogenic syncope diagnosis, and has been seen by at least five different doctors or specialists the past six months as Children's Services tries to sort out his complex medical history.

Allison testified Thursday the four Cox children are doing well in foster care but have indicated a strong desire to go home.

"There are no huge behavior concerns," she said. "They are well-mannered children."

Allison said the agency filed a proposed "case plan" in February, which has yet to be approved by the court, that would allow reunification if six objectives are met by the Coxes: completing a psychiatric assessment, following through with counseling, providing a safe and stable home environment, engaging in a parental education program, and providing adequate medical and mental heath care for the children.

She said the parents have already met some of the objectives.

But Allison said, during questioning by agency attorney Kristen Johnson, that she still had concerns about the children's safety should they be returned home.

She suggested out-of-home placement would remain necessary until the Coxes took more responsibility for the neglect that had occurred in the home prior to the children's removal.

"I feel like we're still at the fighting stage," she said. "I need some sort of acceptance so we can move on from this."

During other testimony, Allison said she considered the Coxes "non-compliant" with the case plan because they had failed to provide certain medical releases to Children's Services, as the agency had requested.

The releases would have allowed the agency to receive and disperse medical reports and other information that are normally confidential.

But Angie Cox's attorney, Lisa Miller, indicated through a lengthy cross-examination of Allison that the Coxes had signed release documents on several occasions that would have allowed for the exchange of information.

At one point, Allison admitted that she was "confused" about the validity of the releases she had received from Dr. Eric Nicely, one of the psychologists who has treated Angie Cox, but never contacted Nicely in an attempt to straighten out the problem.


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Postby Marina » Sat Apr 26, 2008 8:24 pm

. ... 4.html?npc

Munchausen mom found guilty

02:46 AM CDT on Friday, April 25, 2008

Associated Press

HOUSTON— A Harris County jury has found that a Spring woman caused her young son to have at least two unnecessary surgeries.

Laurie Williamson, 40, was convicted Thursday of injury to a child in connection with her son undergoing surgeries for implantation of a nerve-stimulation device and insertion of a gastric feeding button.

She now faces possible life in prison. Testimony in the punishment phrase of the trial began late Thursday and is set to resume Tuesday.

State child welfare officials and prosecutors have said Williamson has Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a rare disorder in which a person fabricates or induces symptoms in others to gain attention.

Defense attorney Allen Isbell has denied that Williamson has the syndrome.

Prosecutor Mike Trent said Williamson manipulated doctors and her son’s condition to get the surgeries.

“Perpetrators of this type of child abuse are very clever,” Trent said. “She was very knowledgeable about the medical system. She was a nurses’ aide at one time. She simulated and fabricated the symptoms that appeared to make the surgeries necessary.”

Isbell has said that doctors told Williamson that her son needed the procedures.

Prosecutors said that over 10 years, Williamson took her three children to at least 500 doctor appointments. Prosecutors also said that she told the children they suffered from a rare illness and would not live past their teens.

When Child Protective Services took custody of the children in March 2006, officials said, they were malnourished. Two had feeding tubes and were in wheelchairs.

Expert witnesses for the prosecution testified during the trial that Williamson falsified her children’s conditions.

Trent said Williamson also fabricated her children’s conditions to solicit money from organizations and people, raising about $150,000 between 2000 and 2005.

“She was not simply seeking gratification through attention,” Trent said. “She was actively seeking donations for support.”

Isbell denied the allegations, saying, “She did not try to benefit from either her or her children’s illnesses.”

Williamson’s son is 13 now. Her other two other children are 11 and 8. Child welfare officials said they placed the children in the care of a relative. Their mother is not allowed contact with them.

Officials said the children are physically fine.


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Postby Marina » Thu May 08, 2008 6:11 pm

. ... c&psp=news

Woman Accused Of Poisoning 4-Year-Old Gets 15 Years
Prosecutors Say Woman Poisoned Daughter For Attention

POSTED: 4:10 pm EDT May 8, 2008
UPDATED: 4:48 pm EDT May 8, 2008

FREDERICK, Md. -- A Frederick County woman accused of poisoning her young daughter in a Munchausen-by-proxy case was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Thursday.

The woman pleaded guilty in March to child abuse. Prosecutors said the woman, the wife of an Army major, withdrew blood from her 4-year-old daughter to mimic symptoms of leukemia.

Prosecutors alleged that the woman also intravenously gave her daughter magnesium and withheld iron medication from her.

In return for her guilty plea, prosecutors dropped 14 other charges. In order to protect the child's identity, News4 is not identifying the woman.

Prosecutors said the woman's actions were consistent with Munchausen syndrome by proxy, in which one feigns or induces illness in another to draw attention to oneself.

Prosecutors said the girl underwent numerous blood transfusions, bone-marrow tests and other procedures during three years of treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where the woman's estranged husband worked.


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Postby Marina » Wed May 14, 2008 3:39 pm

. ... May,13&c=n

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Agency investigator questioned



An investigator for Hancock County Children's Protective Service Unit testified she had concerns of abuse about only one of Angie and Chris Cox's five children following her investigation of a suspected Munchausen's Syndrome allegation last fall.

Brianna Westrick, who investigated the complaint that was filed against the Coxes and led to the removal of four of their five children, was on the witness stand for more than five hours Monday as a custody hearing in Hancock County Juvenile Court resumed.

At the conclusion of the hearing, which began in April and could extend into July, Judge Allan Davis will decide if the Coxes will regain custody of their children. The couple currently gets four hours of supervised visitation a week.

Westrick was questioned extensively by Lisa Miller, the attorney for Angie Cox, about the Children's Services investigation that was conducted between Oct. 22 and Nov. 18.

She testified that Dr. Randall Schlievert, a Toledo pediatrician, had first contacted the agency on Oct. 22 about the suspected abuse and first raised the Munchausen's Syndrome claim.

Earlier testimony has indicated that Schlievert, a child abuse expert, had gained access to the medical records of the 12-year-old boy while he was being treated at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center for asthma.

“He (Schlievert) was consulted by other doctors in the hospital who had concerns,” Westrick said.

She disclosed that Schlievert examined more than 1,000 pages of medical records concerning the youth that Angie Cox had provided to other doctors at St. Vincent.

Westrick said doctors had cleared the youth medically, but continued to hold him at the hospital while the concerns were checked into by Schlievert.

After reviewing the records but without examining the youth or Angie Cox, Schlievert has testified he felt Angie Cox suffered from Munchausen's, a rare mental illness than can cause a parent, usually the mother, to fabricate or exaggerate medical symptoms in their children.

Schlievert believed Angie Cox had subjected her son to excessive medical treatments.

Westrick testified that on Oct. 23, Schlievert's report was reviewed by Children's Services Director Diana Hoover and Westrick's immediate supervisor, Jill Stonebreaker, and was told to file an abuse/neglect/dependent complaint against the Coxes.

Judge Davis approved an order the same day and the four youngest children were placed in emergency temporary custody. At a shelter care hearing three days later, they were placed with a foster family in Wood County. The abuse allegations in the complaint were dismissed in January, but as part of a settlement agreement, the Coxes entered no contest pleas to amended charges of neglect and dependency.

At one point Monday, Miller asked Westrick if the abuse concerns by Schlievert had ever been substantiated since three psychologists who later evaluated Angie Cox have not reached Munchausen's findings.

While Westrick indicated her investigation determined there had been abuse to the youth, who is now 13, she was unable to point to any specific physical harm the boy suffered. She said her investigation did not turn up any abuse of the three younger children.

Previous testimony has found the boy still has various health issues, including neurocardiogenic syncope, asthma, a seizure disorder and an adrenal problem, is taking at least five prescriptions and is still seeing several specialists.

Miller asked why the three younger children, ages 3, 8 and 11, weren't allowed to return home once Munchausen's was ruled out. Westrick said they weren't because they remain a part of the original complaint.

“When we filed an abuse/neglect/dependent complaint, the other children are removed so as not to put them at risk,” she said. “I didn't know if they would be safe (in the home) or not.”

The only other witness Monday, was local attorney John Noble, who had represented Chris Cox in a matter in domestic relations court last year after a family squabble.

Noble testified about a Children's Services complaint that had been opened last September after a relative complained the Coxes were giving their two youngest children Tylenol to help them sleep.

Noble said that complaint was closed after it was determined to be unfounded. He said he believed the complaint had been brought by the same family members involved in the earlier dispute.

“I felt it was a retaliation complaint,” he said.

At the end of Monday's hearing, Aaron Ried, the attorney for Chris Cox, renewed a motion he had raised earlier, calling for the children to be returned home under protective supervision, until the court makes its ruling.

Judge Davis again denied the request, stating it was premature.

The hearing, already believed to be the longest dispositional hearing in Hancock County history, will begin its eighth day when it resumes May 21. Five other dates are scheduled in June and July.


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Postby Marina » Sat Jun 14, 2008 6:21 am

. ... anges.html

Seek child custody changes


Tuesday, June 10th 2008, 9:03 PM

DelMundo for News

Amber James
State lawmakers have floated a bill to make it harder for the government to take custody of children from guardians who are suspected of suffering from a rare mental illness called Munchausen syndrome by proxy.

Bona fide cases of the disease - in which a caregiver deliberately makes a child sick to get attention - are exceedingly rare. But child welfare agencies have increasingly been citing it as a way to take custody of kids, experts and lawmakers said.

"I think nine times out of 10 it's an attempt to bootstrap a crummy case," said Eric Mart, a psychologist who is an expert on the disease.

State Sen. Owen Johnson (R-Babylon) introduced the bill in April after a family who lives in his district approached him about the removal of their two children from their home for more than two years on what they called baseless accusations.

Last fall, Marvin and Vanessa James of South Ozone Park lost custody of their daughter, Amber, now 6, after the city alleged Vanessa James to be suffering from the illness. Even after Vanessa had three court-ordered psychiatric evaluations and was involuntarily hospitalized for a week, the family said the city has found nothing to support the claim.

Johnson's bill would prevent child protection agencies from using Munchausen syndrome by proxy to justify taking kids away from parents in the absence of other evidence of abuse.

The Suffolk family - who could not be named because of a court gag order - "went through a similar experience," said Johnson's spokeswoman, Kathleen O'Neill.

"He wants to put the best interests of family and children first by putting safeguards in place, such as requiring a hearing be held before putting a child into custody based on an allegation," of the disease, she said.

"The senator met with the Suffolk family and was personally moved by their story. It's just sad," O'Neill said. "This is really attempting to do something that would protect children from this in the future."

The other provision in Johnson's bill would require courts to allow testimony by the family's doctor backing the family's decision to seek medical care. That would be used to rebut an agency's claim.

Amber James has been in various foster homes for nearly a year. Her father supports Johnson's bill.

Mart also supports the bill.

"There's a lot of confusion about this," he said of Munchausen syndrome by proxy. "It's ridiculous," Mart said. "Can you imagine going forward with a case of physical abuse and no evidence of physical abuse?"


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Postby Marina » Sat Aug 16, 2008 3:16 pm ... e.html?npc

3 abused Waxahachie girls may be returned to mom with Munchausen

08:31 AM CDT on Thursday, August 7, 2008
By JON NIELSEN / The Dallas Morning News
[email protected]

The three girls visited the emergency room more than 150 times in four years. Their mother told doctors that, among them, they had cerebral palsy, a seizure disorder and cystic fibrosis.

One child received surgery for a feeding tube she didn't need.

Another used a wheelchair and wore a safety helmet and leg braces. A pediatrician said she never needed them.

Testimony during a custody trial in Ellis County two months ago showed that the mother, Susan Hyde of Waxahachie, hurt herself and her children by treating illnesses they never had. The pattern of abuse was enough for a 12-member Ellis County jury to permanently separate the siblings from their mother and maternal grandparents.

But that separation has yet to come.

More than a month after the June 30 verdict, the children, ages 8, 6 and 4, are in legal limbo. Ellis County Court at Law Judge Greg Wilhelm has not signed the final order. If no ruling is made by Sept. 1, the girls can be returned to their mother and the case will be dismissed.

The judge's delays have frustrated Child Protective Services workers and jurors. And his recent order to appoint two new transition coordinators to the case prompted appellate judges to get involved.

Judge Wilhelm's court coordinator referred inquiries in the case to the county's public information officer. She said the judge doesn't comment on pending cases.

Experts said during the trial that Mrs. Hyde, once a licensed paramedic, exhibited characteristics that could be related to Munchausen syndrome and Munchausen by proxy, which is inflicted on others. It's a condition in which people exaggerate or create false symptoms of illness.

Mrs. Hyde, 31, does not face any criminal charges.

Ellis County prosecutors say they have forwarded information to the Dallas and Tarrant County district attorney's offices for possible criminal charges, but neither office could confirm any investigation when contacted Wednesday.

CPS began investigating after receiving a tip in 2005. The only issue in this civil case is who gets custody of the girls.

Judge Wilhelm, who is running unopposed for his seat in November, was appointed to the bench last year. One of his first decisions in this case was to order the children, who were then in foster care, to move in with their maternal grandparents. His order came despite the objections of the CPS attorneys representing the children.

Some jurors and attorneys involved with the case say they worry for the safety of the girls. They say that Brian and Patricia Andersen of Ennis haven't done enough to protect their grandchildren from Mrs. Hyde.

"This is going to be one of those cases you see on the news one night when the mother goes in and kills everybody," juror Cindy Lantz said. "You don't want to see the kids separated, but if they're dead, how good are they?"

Judge 'conscientious'

Mrs. Andersen said her grandchildren are safe in the Ennis home she shares with her husband. Both are registered nurses.

"It sounds like several jurors feel that they are in danger here. That's not the case," Mrs. Andersen said.

Mrs. Hyde's attorney, Mark Griffith, applauds the judge's delay, saying jurors are overreacting to "irrational fear" created by CPS attorneys that the grandparents would harm the children. Mr. Griffith said the judge has no plans to overturn the verdict but is taking his time to evaluate the best transition plan to separate the children from their grandparents and each other without creating emotional chaos.

"It is one of the most judicious and conscientious things I've ever seen a judge do," Mr. Griffith said. "What he's trying to do is avoid the obvious trauma that is coming for these three girls."

Under the jury verdict, the 6-year-old girl will go to live with her biological father, Jim Ehlers in Iowa, who sought custody. The other two girls, who have no father involved in their lives, will go into the state's care.

The judge has called for a hearing on Monday, when he could sign the jury's verdict.

Mrs. Andersen said the judge's delay to find the best transition plan is in the girls' best interests.

"The judge is thinking of the children first, and I have to hug him for that," Mrs. Andersen said. "These are precious children. They are fragile."

But jurors don't believe the grandparents should be allowed to have the children.

"The grandmother just had blinders on to what was going on," said Mrs. Lantz, who spent a month in the jury box hearing the case.

Mrs. Andersen said she never knew about her grandchildren's abuse.

"I wish I picked up on these things, I wished I would've," she said. "We wouldn't be losing our grandchildren."

Mrs. Andersen did, however, question those who said nothing about the abuse, specifically the doctors who treated the children.

"Did they do unnecessary procedures?" she asked rhetorically. "If they did, I have to think that is malpractice."

According to Ellis County Assistant District Attorney Sara Ruth Spector, the grandparents never acknowledged that their daughter showed signs of Munchausen or Munchausen by proxy, despite the testimony at trial of several medical professionals.

That played into juror Joe Clark's decision to not give custody to the grandparents.

"They haven't put the grandchildren's interests above their daughter's," Mr. Clark said.

Mr. Clark and Mrs. Lantz said they both believe that the jury's decision is being ignored.

"I'm sad that the jury felt that the 4 ½ weeks they gave up in their lives went in vain," said Mrs. Andersen, who said she plans to file an appeal in hopes of regaining custody. "But if they're so concerned about the children, why wouldn't they want what's best for them?"

Appeals court steps in

On July 25, Judge Wilhelm appointed two representatives, called a transition master and a transition coordinator, who would work on a plan for placement of the children.

Ms. Spector said the judge has no legal authority to appoint them.

She spent part of her vacation writing a writ of mandamus asking an appeals court in Waco to throw out the judge's latest order and ask the judge to make a ruling soon.

"There is no authority in the Family Code to inject two new persons to decide the best interest of the children when the children's duly-appointed ad litems have the knowledge of the facts, as well as ... a seventeen month relationship with these children," Ms. Spector wrote in the writ.

The appeals court issued a stay that keeps the judge's appointees from working on the case, but it must still rule on the writ. There's no timetable on when the appeals court will render a decision.

Mrs. Lantz, a registered nurse and mother of two grown children, said she can't stop worrying about the girls in this case, even though she's never seen them in person. She said she dreams about them at night. During the day, she can't stay focused at work.

She wants Judge Wilhelm to make a decision.

"I can't close it. This is still in my head," she said. "There's just no closure for me."

Mrs. Andersen said this case isn't about the jurors.

"It seems to be all about them and what they've sacrificed for four weeks," she said. "These children have their whole lives ahead of them."

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Postby Marina » Fri Feb 20, 2009 9:32 pm

Previous story ... ter-anyway ... aken-carol

Arizona Child Protective Services Never Would Have Taken Carol Dunlavy's Child Away If It'd Simply Done Its Job Correctly
By Megan Irwin
Published on February 17, 2009 at 6:18pm

Two years ago, Arizona Child Protective Services took Carol Dunlavy's 2-year-old daughter. It was alleged that Dunlavy was purposely making the child sick because Dunlavy suffered from Munchausen syndrome by proxy.

Like most parents caught up in the system, Dunlavy said she was innocent.

She was right.

Now, 16 months after she said goodbye to her daughter, Sarah (not her real name), Dunlavy finally has validation in the form of an investigation from the Arizona Ombudsman-Citizens' Aide that says what Dunlavy has said all along: that she doesn't have Munchausen syndrome by proxy, that CPS failed to follow its own procedures for removing her child, and that she and Sarah would never have been separated if the agency had actually done its job.

The report is bittersweet for Dunlavy. She's lost almost two years to the case — and the report has resulted, so far, in little more than the re-training of a couple of CPS employees.

Dunlavy's story came to New Times' attention in early 2008, when she and her lawyer came forward with her story.

It was clear something wasn't right.

The problems began when Sarah developed feeding issues as an 8-month-old, prompting Dunlavy to have her examined by the Division of Developmental Disabilities (an arm of state government that falls under the Department of Economic Security, also the umbrella agency for CPS). When she was approved for services, Sarah was seen weekly by a string of occupational and speech therapists.

It was hardly the type of Law & Order scene normally associated with Munchausen — the mom sneaking poison into her child's soup to fake cancer or other life-threatening disease.

But, in October 2007, a pediatrician, who was new to Sarah and saw her in his office for less than five minutes, called in the accusation to CPS. At the same time, he arranged for Sarah to be admitted to Phoenix Children's Hospital for observation.

Dunlavy thought she was checking her daughter in to monitor her eating habits and come up with a new therapy plan. She was also glad to be at the hospital because her daughter had recently suffered from unexplained "shaking fits," observed by her therapist, and she was worried there was something else going on.

Turns out the hospital was doing an observation, but not of the child. They were watching Mom.

Throughout Sarah's medical records, which New Times has reviewed, one thing is very clear: Sarah's mother did not want a feeding tube inserted to help with nourishment, despite a recommendation from a doctor. In fact, Dunlavy had taken her daughter to a new doctor to try to avoid it.

But somewhere along the line, that message became twisted, and when CPS came knocking, the complaint was that she was trying to force her daughter to have an unnecessary medical procedure by advocating for the feeding tube.

Though CPS arrived without having done any of its homework — as Dunlavy and, now, the ombudsman report both say — the case still had to wind its way through the system.

The child was placed with her father, hearing dates were set, and the allegations against Dunlavy kept changing.

In February 2008, Dunlavy's dependency hearing — something every parent in the CPS system is entitled to — was thrown out by a juvenile court judge who kicked it down to family court as a custody matter. Dunlavy never got to present her evidence or try to prove that CPS had failed to do its job.

Ever since, Dunlavy and the father, who is not being named by New Times (to protect the identity of the child), have been fighting the case in family court. Reached earlier this month, Dunlavy declined to talk about the progress of the case because final orders will not be issued until June. But court records indicate that she now has overnight unsupervised visitation with the child.

Holly Bartee, the attorney for the father, did not return a call seeking comment.

As the custody case winds its way toward a conclusion in family court, Dunlavy has the ombudsman report to back her up. It's a set of significant accusations against a state-run department usually protected by secrecy.

The report accuses CPS of four key things — all of which were first mentioned in the March 2008 New Times article. CPS failed to:

• Conduct interviews as part of the investigation process.

• Obtain collateral support — Sarah's medical records, from birth through her hospital stay — in a timely manner.

• Provide the mother with services that would have alleviated the circumstances that brought the child into care.

• Obtain a Munchausen expert to collaborate on their investigation.

The final message is clear: "We conclude that the department failed."

The Department of Economic Services declined to comment, referring New Times to its five-page response contained in the report.

The department disagrees with the findings in the report. Tracey Wareing, director of DES, spends five pages defending CPS' conduct.

He's just plain wrong when he tries to discuss Sarah's medical records, raising the question: Has CPS still not reviewed them?

"The mother had informed the medical staff that the child suffered from an extensive history of serious seizures," Wareing writes, justifying the decision to take Sarah in the first place. "Finally, a concern was shared by medical staff that the mother was requesting the insertion of a gastrointestinal feeding tube for the child."

It's clear from the agency's response that the feeding tube was the reason for removing Sarah from her mother's care, yet nowhere in literally hundreds of GI records and notes from nurses does it say Dunlavy wanted a tube. In fact, there are documents that clearly say she did not want one.

If CPS had followed even one of the four policies it violated in this case and read the records, Dunlavy never would have lost her daughter.

But, as the ombudsman's report makes clear, CPS didn't.

Tom Ryan, who represents Dunlavy in the family court case and has worked on a number of Munchausen syndrome by proxy cases in the past, counts the report as a victory, though he acknowledges Dunlavy still must win in family court.

"The taking of this child was entirely unnecessary. Had CPS followed its own internal policies and procedures, this child would have never been taken and they would have determined this wasn't a case of Munchausen syndrome by proxy," he says.

Still, like his client, Ryan sees the report as ultimately unfulfilling, and he balks at the idea that the ombudsman's findings indicate a one-time breakdown in policy.

"I truly appreciate the work the ombudsman put into the report, but it's really just a slap on the wrist," he says.

Change isn't likely.

CPS reform was a big deal to former Governor Janet Napolitano, and in the past two legislative sessions, bills have been introduced to make the agency more open, but with a new governor and a budget crisis, legislators don't expect major policy reform this year.

New laws won't necessarily make things better, says former state Senator Laura Knap­erek, who has long been an advocate for CPS reform and says the agency and the Legislature would need to work together to really change the systemic problems highlighted in the Dunlavy report.

"There are many policies the Legislature could pass that would make a positive difference," she says. "However, the reality is: No matter what is passed, CPS is in control of correctly implementing the policy."

Though it's been a long year for Dunlavy, she is happy the report is out, and she looks forward to the ordeal ending in court so she can get back to just being a mom. She spoke on the phone to New Times recently while grocery shopping with Sarah. Toward the end of the conversation, the girl, who turns 4 this summer, got a little fussy. The classic my-child-is-pitching-a-fit-at-the-grocery-store moment wasn't lost on Dunlavy, but she sees things a little differently than most parents now.

"I never thought I'd enjoy temper tantrums," she says. "But there you go."

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Postby Marina » Wed Mar 11, 2009 9:48 am ... public_rss

Mum won't see son for 18 years

By Jane Hansen

January 25, 2009 12:00am

THE happy baby in the photo has dimpled cheeks, glowing skin and scrumptious fat thighs that scream good health.

This is the child whose mother has been accused of a now-discredited disorder and labelled as a dangerous person intent on harming her own children to gain attention.

They are also photos of life on the run. The child, born on December 12, 2003, had been kept in hiding by his mother to stop the authorities taking him away, like they have with three of her previous children.

They believe she suffers Munchausen's syndrome by proxy, a scientifically dubious condition, shrouded in controversy, that was levelled at her 15 years ago.

"I've been branded,'' the woman said last week, distraught after losing her appeal to regain custody of the boy they took away last year.

In October, the Department of Community Services tracked the mother down to Moree and took the child, now five, into custody. He was placed in foster care, where he remains today.

Despite a barrage of tests performed on the boy, from blood and urine tests to anal swabs and a hair analysis, there is not a shred of evidence this child has been harmed by anyone.

But he is now officially a ward of the State, and his mother has lost her battle to keep him after an appeal in the Children's Court failed last week.

"I'm really struggling with the fact I have made it harder for him,'' Fiona said. ``Perhaps if they'd taken him at birth, he wouldn't miss me so much.''

The child does miss his mother very much, according to Department of Community Services contact reports.

"He just tells me he wants to come home with me each time I see him,'' Fiona says of her once-a-week, one-hour contact visit.

She is either a very good liar, or an injustice of mammoth proportions has been perpetrated not only against her, but against all four of her children.

"There is not a doubt in my mind she is innocent,'' says medical anthropologist Dr Helen Hayward Brown, who completed a PhD on Munchausen's syndrome by proxy (MSBP), an "illness'' that has led to the removal of many Australian children.

Fiona's case was one of 31 in Australia Dr Hayward Brown studied.

"I think the judgment shows shocking ignorance of the recent developments overseas in relation to the discrediting of MSBP,'' Dr Hayward Brown said after Tuesday's decision.

Munchausen's syndrome by proxy was named by leading British pediatrician Professor Sir Roy Meadows in the 1970s. The disorder, he argued, compelled a mother to harm, poison or even kill her children, just to gain attention for herself.

Over the past three decades, Professor Meadows' evidence has put thousands of children into foster homes in Britain.

His theory - "One death is a tragedy, two is suspicious, three is murder'' - helped to wrongfully jail three British mothers.

All three convictions were quashed and Meadows was temporarily struck off the medical register.

Sally Clarke - whose two sons died of SIDS, not infanticide, as was alleged - was found dead in her home in 2007.

Despite being pardoned, she never recovered from her crippling grief and died of alcohol-related illness.

Back in 1993, Fiona was just 17 and the mother of a healthy toddler who has remained in her care without incident.

Her second child, born prematurely, had difficulty putting on weight and keeping milk down. He failed to thrive.

The child had severe reflux and sleep apnea, and she brought him to hospital time and time again.

Such behaviour could be interpreted as that of a caring mother, but for believers of MSBP, it's a dead give-away. A pediatrician accused her of MSBP.

"I already had a happy, fat little 20-month-old at home,'' Fiona said of her first-born son.

"Why would I feed one baby and not the other?'' she asked the doctor, only to be told: "Maybe you wanted a girl.''

Lord Frederick Howe, the British Opposition health spokesman, is a vocal critic of the disorder claims.

"It is one of the most pernicious, ill-founded theories to have gained currency in child care and social services in the past decade,'' he said.

"I've heard of diagnoses taking place by email, on the strength of a few pieces of paper, with no further questions asked.''

And that is what happened to Fiona. After viewing her file in Britain, and without ever meeting her, Professor Meadows confirmed she had MSBP.

Not only was the child taken from her and put into foster care, the tag has stuck and devastated her life.

"There is not a shred of evidence that she ever harmed any of her children,'' Dr Hayward Brown.

Fiona admits the original report "reads badly''.

A doctor accused her of sticking her fingers down the baby's throat to make him vomit. She was also accused of withholding food.

"The only thing I did wrong was treat the premature baby like a normal full-term boy, which was all I knew,'' she said.

"Verbally, they tried to say she poisoned the child at one point, while he was in hospital, but the only written report says they couldn't find any evidence of that,'' Dr Hayward-Brown said.

In court in 1994, a magistrate found there was no evidence of MSBP. A year later, the Department of Community Services successfully appealed to the District Court.

Two more subsequent children were taken off her on the basis of the original diagnosis. By 2003, she knew the only way to keep her child was to go into hiding.

"I just know they would take him away from me, like they have the others, and I won't see him again,'' she says on a video she made, newborn protectively nestled to her chest. She sent the tape to me at my request, and it aired on national TV.

There were people in medical authority who knew of Fiona's pregnancy, of her past and who believed in her innocence.

One source close to the case, who asked not to be named, said: "The bottom line is that the person who put this tag on her, like what happened in Britain, put it on too freely - and it has stuck.

"A label was put on her at 17, and what assessments have been done since to measure her competence? It amounts to a degree of injustice.''

When Fiona's story broke last year, several medicos came out in support of her.

"The whole MSBP phenomenon smacks of a witch-hunt,'' Wollongong University forensic psychiatrist Dr Robert Kaplan said.

"I am at a loss to see how something with no scientific basis can be used to justify the removal of a child.''

Dr Michael Barratt, a pathologist and a foster parent of 25 years' experience, also came out in support of Fiona, whom he has met in the past.

"She presents as nothing but a competent mother,'' Dr Barratt said.

He called for a royal commission into the removal of children on the grounds of MSBP, believed to have affected as many as 70 Australian families.

In the Children's Court last week, magistrate Paul Mulroney conceded the boy had a strong attachment to his mother but refused to hear new evidence on the original diagnosis of MSBP and admonished Fiona for not accepting her condition.

"I will not admit to what I have not done. I am not in denial, I am innocent,'' Fiona said afterwards.
DoCS refused to comment on the particulars of the case, but said in a statement: "Community Services child protection case workers make very difficult decisions and must weigh up whether it is better to leave a child with his or her natural parents or take them into care.

"Those decisions must then be justified before independent courts, which determine whether the evidence was sufficient to determine that the child was in need of care and protection.

"It is only if Community Services staff consider the child is at greater risk of harm by staying with his or her natural parents they will apply to the court to have the child taken into care.''

Last week, DoCS officers told the boy he would be staying in foster care for a long time because his mother "wasn't well enough to care for him''.

An officer related the conversation with the boy to Fiona. "They told me he said: "I just want to live with mummy forever','' she said, heartbroken.

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Postby Marina » Wed Mar 11, 2009 9:56 am ... 6.html?npc

Doctors believe mother has Munchausen syndrome by proxy, has medically abused children

08:17 AM CST on Monday, January 26, 2009
By JON NIELSEN / The Dallas Morning News
[email protected]

The three girls sat in a room, bandaging their dolls' arms and pretending to call 911. Nearby, a therapist watched as they re-created the physical and emotional abuse their mother inflicted on them over several years.

Child advocates call it a heartbreaking display that leaves them wondering why Susan Hyde hasn't faced criminal charges for harming her girls, ages 8, 6, and 4.

In June, a jury terminated Hyde's parental rights in an Ellis County civil case. Doctors testified that the 31-year-old mother medically abused her kids in what's known as Munchausen syndrome by proxy, in which people exaggerate or create false symptoms of illness in others. After the investigation began, the Texas Board of Health stripped Hyde of her paramedic certification.

But no criminal charges have been filed. District attorneys in Ellis, Dallas and Tarrant counties are grappling over jurisdictional boundaries. Meanwhile, medical professionals continue to debate whether Munchausen syndrome by proxy, also called factitious disorder by proxy, is a clinical disorder at all.

It's been nearly five months since a district judge affirmed the jury's order and permanently separated Hyde from her three daughters.

Court records show more than 150 emergency room visits over four years. Doctors treated the girls for cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, headaches and seizures. Hyde convinced doctors that one of her daughters needed a feeding tube. Another used a wheelchair and wore leg braces and a safety helmet. A pediatrician testified during the monthlong trial that the girls needed none of the treatments.

The 6-year-old now lives with her biological father in Iowa. The other two girls, who have a different father, live together in foster care.

Hyde's attorney, who declined an interview request, has filed an appeal in the civil case. Attorneys for Hyde's parents have also filed paperwork on their intent to appeal and get custody of the two grandchildren in foster care.

Criminal charges?

Last summer's civil case addressed only the girls' custody. But with thousands of pages citing medical abuse, criminal charges against Hyde should be easy to come by, said former Harris County Assistant District Attorney Mike Trent.

"By the time you have that evidence in family court, a lot of what you have to do to support probable cause for charges is already done," said Trent, an experienced prosecutor in Munchausen by proxy cases.

But the Ellis County case is complicated because Hyde is accused of doctor shopping. Her daughters saw several different doctors in North Texas counties and in Nebraska and Iowa. Hyde would change doctors before anyone could trace a pattern of abuse. Each time, the new doctors accepted Hyde's word that the children suffered from a variety of illnesses.

Officials in the Dallas, Tarrant and Ellis county district attorney's offices said it would be difficult to prove that felony child abuse occurred within their boundaries. Jurisdiction has become the primary issue, so much so that one Tarrant County prosecutor questions whether the laws need to change to make Munchausen by proxy, or factitious disorder by proxy, easier to prove.

"Our laws are not written to prosecute cases such as these," said Alana Minton, an assistant district attorney in the crimes against children unit. "It is a problem, and there should be some way to incorporate these cases in our laws to be able to protect children from situations such as this."

Ellis County District Attorney Joe Grubbs said his office is working with other counties to possibly pursue criminal prosecution. But he, too, says it's out of his jurisdiction because the girls' serious injuries occurred elsewhere.

The bureaucratic hand-wringing is nothing new in cases alleging Munchausen syndrome by proxy. Among medical professionals, there's no clear definition. Is it psychologically based? Or is it a medical condition that can be diagnosed by pediatricians and doctors? Reports show the mothers tend to deny they have a problem and are vocal about their innocence.

'Planning, deception'

"It's infrequent that these cases get to the criminal system ... which is very frustrating to me," said Dr. Marc D. Feldman, clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa who has studied Munchausen.

He said these women know what they're doing when they make their children sick or allow them to undergo medical procedures they don't need.

"In some cases [there is] significant planning and deception in carrying out the ruses," Feldman said. "That's evidence that they're not psychotic."

"It's child mistreatment, undeniably," he said. "It may be the single most lethal form of child abuse there is."

But prosecutors typically have a difficult time gathering the evidence and proving that abuse took place. And doctors in such cases don't usually testify that they performed procedures that were unnecessary, experts said.

Munchausen by proxy is generally attributed to women more often than men. The person usually has a medical background and is overly attentive to the sick child, is solicitous of medical staff and craves the attention.

But even those characteristics are challenged, said Dr. Eric Mart, a forensic psychologist in New Hampshire who said he believes much of the literature out there on profiling Munchausen is "folklore."

Mart said he realizes there are mothers out there who medically abuse their children. But he questions the court's overzealous use of Munchausen by proxy when medical professionals are still debating it.

"There's not a lot of hard science on this," he said. "How can somebody have something when we don't know what it is?"

Regardless of the debate, it doesn't lessen a mother's culpability, said another psychologist.

"It's not considered a psychological disorder," said Larry Bramlette, a Houston-area doctor who has testified in Munchausen cases. "In my view it's just child abuse."

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Re: Munchausen syndrome

Postby Marina » Fri Apr 23, 2010 6:47 pm

. ... st-parents

CPS Makes More Disturbing Allegations Against Parents
Updated: Wednesday, 14 Apr 2010, 9:47 PM CDT
Published : Wednesday, 14 Apr 2010, 9:47 PM CDT

Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - Ask 4-year-old Landon Weber where he lives and he will likely say, "the hospital."

"He thinks of himself as a sick child. He thinks of the hospital as his home. That's really sad," said CPS attorney Valerie Brock.
What is even sadder, according to Childrens Protective Services, is the reason behind all of Landon's surgeries and hospital stays -- his parents.

In a recent court hearing, a CPS caseworker testified she has no doubt about that.

"She feels confident this is a case of medical child abuse," said Brock.

But Landon's parents say it is not them, but a rare medical disorder called mitochondrial disease that has caused their young boy to spend the majority of his life in hospital rooms.

"They won't let us see him, even though he lights up when we walk in the room," said Landon's father, James Weber.

"They say we did all these horrible things. We didn't perform the tests the doctors ran. We're not the ones who suggested all these treatments, we trusted what the doctor's we're saying."

But CPS contends that doctors were diagnosing the boy based on symptoms from his mother; symptoms that CPS alleges were far from accurate.

The latest bombshell from CPS is court testimony that a doctor in Tennessee also treated Landon. That means doctors in three different states have treated the little boy and CPS said that number could grow.

When asked how many unneccessary surgeries she thought Landon may have had, Brock replied "I think it's very hard to tell at this point."

According to CPS, Landon's health continues to improve by leaps and bounds. He is even starting to walk without a walker.

"They are unfortunately using the fact that he's getting better again, which is typical of this disease as proof the parents were doing something to him before and that's just not a logical connection you can make," said Chris Branson, the Weber's attorney.

CPS has denied visitation for Landon's parents and grandparents.

"None of us parents, grandparents get to see him," said Marilyn Weber, Landon's grandmother.

This August, a jury will decide if the Weber's parental rights should be terminated.

"These people are not hard-hearted. You have to have a heart to be hard-hearted. They have no heart at all," said Charles Weber, Landon's grandfather.

The possibility of never speaking to her son again is more than Landon's mother, Jennifer Weber, said she can even bear.
Landon's parents also remain the targets of a criminal investigation.


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Re: Munchausen syndrome

Postby jw6565 » Wed Apr 28, 2010 5:18 am

THat story you posted is my son. It's so heartbreaking! I have never in my life seen so much false crap! DId you know that L was diagnosed by 2 different drs having this disease. We have MULTIPLE genetic tests results confirming this! This is truly is not about my child, it is about one hospital being better than another! One hospital diagnosed him, the state couldn't stand that the dr's backed us up, and sent him to a different hospital who then said that his reflux must have been a "learned" behavior , but guess what.... The CPS worker states in front of the judge that L's Surgery for reflux was necessary because of postitive test result.

Oh, and lets not mention the positive GI manometry study he had done showing there was not much GI motility which put him on IV nutrition.

If you read on Mitiochondrial Disease you find out that 40% of parents that have a child with this are accused of MSBP! It's a sick epidemic!

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Re: Munchausen syndrome

Postby Dazeemay » Wed Apr 28, 2010 12:27 pm

My heart goes out to you. We have been victims of cps concerning our granddaughters rare disease. The disease is genetic in our family. The dr. said that it is not a rare disease only that it is rare that drs. know how to test for it. He said many people have our disease and don't know it because of the lack of educated drs in this field.

If you notice on my signature it is about judges. Ultimately, the law is only as good as the judge" --- D.X. Yue, 2005, in "law, reason and judicial fraud" ... loc=Site:1 What makes judges think that they are smater and better than qualified drs????

You would not be going through this if the judge was more objective. When he/she listen to cps it makes them lower than cps in my estimation. Judges could stop this cruelty if they weren't so tied to politics and greed.

I sat and watched Dr. G Medical Examiner last night and low and behold it was about cps. She got absolutely upset with CPS and told the judge she was there to right an injustice. He wanted to know if she was being paid to testify!!! They accused her by saying she lost her objectivity concerning this case. She lashed back and said that they lost their objectivity and common sense.

"It isn't very often that Dr. G is called on to investigate a skull fracture of an infant but in this case this is exactly what happens. Why would this make this case so unusual? The baby isn't dead! Where Dr. G works with the dead this time she has to work on the case where the person is alive. A couple is trying to adopt a baby. While getting photographs done the baby is injured. At the hospital it's revealed that the baby has a skull fracture. The hospital claims abuse. Dr. G is brought in to testify how the baby suffered the skull fracture without abuse. An intersting case since Dr. G only had x-rays to go on. Even more interesting since she took the time to devote her attention and unravel the mystery of a live being instead of a dead on. Exactly why I watch this show devoutly." ... de;reviews
This is not legal advice;hopefully wisdom

To put it in simple terms…when the authorities ARE the perpetrators and the perpetrators ARE the authorities, there is no earthly justice or recourse, at the end of the day (unless the American people wake up).

Therefore, those who have achieved the highest levels of power seek to ‘enjoy’ the most grievous and extreme injustices. For many of those in the highest circles of power, the greatest statement of power is to perpetrate the greatest possible injustice…the savage, brutal traumatization and abuse of an innocent child. MattTwoFour

"Ultimately, the law is only as good as the judge" --- D.X. Yue, 2005, in "law, reason and judicial fraud";site_id=1;objid=45;curloc=Site:1

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Re: Munchausen syndrome

Postby jw6565 » Wed Apr 28, 2010 7:57 pm

I watched that segment of Dr. G also! I just couldn't believe that they were trying to discredit her! You are right about the judged! And our juvenile court system here is horrible! We are actually telling our story to a Grand Jury and praying that it helps. This system all together is just unjustice! What i find so hard to believe is that these judges are pursuaded by them all because it's about money! In our childs case they talk about Landon being worth over $80,000 because he is subject to all their research. When in reality too it is about the judges, CPS, and 2 conflicting hospitals! Give it up already and think about the child! UGGH! And heaven forbid you actually know something about a rare disease... if you do, you suffer from Munchausen!

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