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  • Family Justice Resource Center

Article: After The Hotline Call

In January 2019, the FJRC Board President, Diane Redleaf, wrote an article featured in The Atlantic. "After the Hotline Call" goes into detail about the wrongful allegation from Dr. Channing Petrak against FJRC Executive Director, Michelle Weidner, concerning her son Jacob in 2010. The article discusses the need for due process and evidence-based medicine in child welfare.

Redleaf writes about the disproportionate impact that race has on the outcome of a state investigation, saying, "The Weidners had many advantages over most other families on the receiving end of a child-abuse allegation. For one thing, as white, middle-class professionals with graduate degrees, they fell on the privileged side of the color line that disproportionately brings minority families into contact with CPS. Indeed, an analysis of 2015 data showed that Peoria County took children into foster care from African American families at rates nearly eight times as high as those of the non–African American population. The Weidners also had better luck than many other families—they received quick, definitive proof that they were innocent. Ten days after the hotline call, on October 18, a neuroradiologist reported that he did not see a skull fracture. On the strength of that opinion, the next day, the police closed their case. The day after that, the Weidners were released from the safety plan."

Redleaf continues about the Weidner case, sharing, "Michelle asked her caseworker whether the investigation was now over, but as she recalls, the caseworker told her that Petrak wanted the investigation to remain open. (Petrak refused to comment for this story.) Exasperated, the Weidners took Jacob to a well-respected out-of-state children’s hospital, which confirmed the nonexistence of any skull fracture."

Redleaf goes on to reveal, "Even then, CPS refused to budge. Operating under guidelines stating that investigations should take no more than 60 days, the CPS caseworker requested an extension on the 55th day, claiming that more time was necessary to complete file notes. Only after 97 days under the CPS microscope did the Weidners receive a mailed notice deeming the abuse allegation “unfounded.'"

Read the full article in The Atlantic here.


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