Fight To Reunite
The Honorable Patrick T. Murphy of the Circuit Court of Cook County headlined the FJRC’s virtual benefit in November. As the former Public Guardian of Cook County for over two decades, Judge Murphy represented abused and neglected children, as well as seniors with disabilities. He repeatedly sued Illinois DCFS when children were attacked in the state’s emergency shelters. He won a landmark case in the U.S. Supreme Court regarding fathers’ rights in 1972. A longtime colleague (and occasional courtroom foe) of FJRC co-founder Diane Redleaf, Judge Murphy praised Redleaf and the FJRC for its work in exonerating innocent parents facing medically-based wrongful allegations of child abuse.
In his remarks, Judge Murphy spoke about the economic disparities in cases involving allegations of medical child abuse. While the state has free and unfettered access to resources, parents must spend tens of thousands of dollars just to prove their innocence. He said, “In criminal cases, the state has to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s getting it down to the 10-yard line, if we’re talking about football. In civil cases, they only have to get it to the 50-yard line plus one inch. If that’s the playing field and I’m the referee, I’m looking for expertise on both sides so I can make a valid decision. I really support the FJRC because you are doing what needs to be done, you are helping level the playing field for parents.”
Protecting Children by Promoting Science and Common Sense
A PLACE TO TURN
The Family Justice Resource Center is a place to turn for families facing wrongful allegations of abuse and neglect, with an emphasis on medically-based allegations. We also advocate for family-centered reforms of the child welfare system. We do this by:
Completing a professional intake and referral process
Helping to identify experienced legal counsel
Serving as a liaison between families and medical experts as appropriate and under the direction of the family’s legal counsel
Educating attorneys, healthcare providers, and the public about the prevalence of medically-based wrongful allegations of abuse and about the impact of being wrongly accused upon children and families
Advocating for policies and practices of child protective services system participants that advance the exoneration of innocent parents and the protection of families from wrongful separations and restrictions on their family life.
EVERY FAMILY DESERVES PROTECTION
Children need to live with and be raised by the people who love them the most. If child welfare authorities become involved with a family, children need a fair system that protects them from mistaken assumptions.
The FJRC works with the child welfare system to protect children from the grievous harm that comes when innocent, loving parents are wrongly accused of abuse and neglect. Wrongful allegations have devastating effects on children, families, and society:
Children are traumatized, sometimes permanently, by child welfare system investigations, surveillance, and removal from loving homes. Even short-term removal can result in lifelong trauma and attachment issues.
In addition, to being wrongly separated from their children, families often face the loss of employment, extreme legal costs, and loss of public standing.
Child welfare resources are wasted on wrongful allegations, resulting in fewer financial and human resources dedicated to investigating cases of actual abuse and neglect.
As the public has become more aware of the prevalence of wrongful allegations, there has been a general loss of faith in the child welfare system.
MEDICAL MIMICS OF ABUSE
In an effort to protect children from potential harm, health care professionals and others who come into contact with children are increasingly pressed to call Hotlines even when they do not believe child abuse has actually occurred. In fact, sometimes healthcare providers rely on outdated information that equates certain medical findings with abuse, even when research has demonstrated this assumption is false.
For example, if an infant has intracranial bleeding, retinal bleeding, and/or brain swelling, it is commonly considered to be definitive proof of abusive head trauma, also known as shaken baby syndrome— despite the fact that there are dozens of medical conditions that can cause such findings. Such snap judgments of “abusive” causation not only lead to unnecessary child abuse investigations but also result in substandard medical care by thwarting the process of diagnosing and treating the true medical condition.
IF YOU ARE FACING A WRONGFUL ALLEGATION
The process of overcoming a medically-based wrongful allegation is exceedingly difficult. Most parents and attorneys don’t know where to turn for such help.
Sarah, FJRC Client
“We brought our infant son to the pediatrician because there was a small bump on his arm. An x-ray showed that he had a broken arm, so we were sent to the hospital where additional scans showed that he also had a rib fracture. A radiologist called the DCFS hotline and the hospital’s child abuse pediatrician told investigators that we had abused our son, even though there weren’t any external injuries. The next day, DCFS and police came to take away all three of our children. Words can’t express the trauma of that moment. A friend suggested that I contact the Family Justice Resource Center, who guided us through the investigation process, connected us with an experienced attorney, and helped us get a second opinion with a top pediatric orthopedic surgeon, who, after extensive testing, diagnosed our son with a metabolic bone disease. With their help, we were able to overcome the allegation, get our children returned to us, and shift our focus to addressing our son’s actual medical condition. The entire experience really took a toll on our family, but we are so thankful for the FJRC for helping us through the worst experience of our lives.”
SERVING THROUGHOUT ILLINOIS
Headquarters: 411 Hamilton Blvd. Ste. 1928, Peoria IL 61602