Dealing with child abuse situations is difficult, especially when the officers of the court are parents themselves. Understanding why families can be torn apart by this type of violence is often impossible to comprehend. Police officers and prosecutors can become caught up in the emotion of the incident and fail to see evidence that is right in front of them. In other cases it can be just the opposite. The desire of the New York family court to take all steps possible to keep a family together can be counterproductive to a child who has been targeted for severe abuse in the family. Sometimes, services that are provided by the Administration for Children’s Services to rehabilitate abusive parents only applies a band aid to a gushing arterial injury.
That was the case of one family in 2004. The Administration for Children’s Services had already removed the children from the home once. They required the parents to attend parenting classes and other classes aimed at reuniting the family. Following the completion of these classes, the Administration for Children’s Services began returning the children to the home. The first to children to return to the home were ones that had been determined to have been derivatively abused under the statutes. These were the children who were not directly targeted for the primary abuse. They were the ones who witnessed or aided the parents in abusing the target child. The target child was the last one to return to the home. There were four children altogether at this time.
The target child had been only ten months old when she first became the focus of abuse in her family. Her mother testified that things just happened when the child was around. She repeatedly testified in different hearings that she did not know how this little girl continued to become injured. When the baby was only ten months old, the mother showed up at a local critical care clinic with the child. She stated that the child had been complaining of pain in her head, so she had applied a warm compress to the back of the child’s neck. She stated that when she removed the compress, she noticed that skin came off with it. The emergency care clinic looked the child over and transported her to the hospital where it was determined that she had suffered a severe burn to the back of her neck. She had bruises all over her body that were in varying stages of recovery. She had several broken bones that had not been cared for either. At that point, the parents were charged with child abuse for their torture of the little girl. All of the children were removed from the home and the parents were also charged with derivatively abusing the other children.
Derivative abuse is a charge that is preferred by the court when the court finds that a child has been exposed to abusive behavior that was not directly targeting them. The target of the abuse is another child who is either in the presence of the derivatively abused child, or in close proximity. The logic behind this type of charge is simple. If the child is in the home while the parents are abusing a sibling, then those actions will affect that child. The effects occur even though that particular child may not be the target of the abuse. Studies show that sometimes abusive parents only abuse one of their children. There is no definitive answer about why this happens in some homes. All that is known is that often the other, non-target children are encouraged to participate in the abuse towards the target child. In order to break this cycle of abuse, it is important that the children be removed from environment and exposed to positive role models and family behaviors so that they will not repeat the actions later in life.
In this case, the parents had attended all of the required training classes and the courts determined that they could reunite the family. ACS reintroduced the non-target children to the home first. When no problems were noticed, they determined that it would be appropriate to reintroduce the target child to the family. By this time, the target child was four years old. She would be in that home only six months before she would appear at the same urgent care clinic that she was taken to before with very similar injuries.
Her mother went to the urgent care center with her little girl. She told the medical personnel at the clinic that the child had burned her elbow when she fell into an electrical socket as she got out of the shower. The medical personnel could see that the burn was a severe burn with flesh hanging off of the arm. They also observed numerous cuts and bruises on the child. There were scratches all over her little body, a cut on her lip, a bruise over her eye, and a deep bite mark on her foot. The severity of the burn prompted the urgent care clinic to transport the child by ambulance to the emergency room at the local hospital. The police were notified.
When the police arrived at the hospital to interview the parents, the story had changed about how the girl was injured. The current story was that the mother had been styling the father’s hair in the living room. He was seated on the floor in front of the mother. The mother asked him to hand her the blow dryer. The girl, trying to be helpful ran toward the blow dryer. The mother stated that she grabbed the child to prevent her from reaching the electric hair dryer. She claims that the child was holding a glass of water and she did not want the child to get electrocuted. The mother stated that she went in to check on the child later that night and noticed that her elbow was swollen. She claims that she applied a warm compress to the child’s arm to reduce the swelling. When she removed the warm compress, she stated that she noticed that the skin came off with the bandage. She contends that she contacted her grandmother who told her to take the child to the urgent care center. The parents were charged and all of the children were removed again.
In court, the mother testified that the cloth was not hot, but only warm and that she had held the warm compress on the child’s arm with her own bare hand and she was not burned. A doctor who testified for the state, testified that it would have been impossible for the child to have sustained that severe of a burn from exposure to a warm compress. He maintained that the cloth would have had to have been extremely hot and that the child would have been screaming in pain. The court determined that the parents had abused the target child again and derivatively abused her siblings. During the time that this case was pending in court, the parents had two more children who were also removed as derivatively abused or neglected.
At Stephen Bilkis & Associates with its family crime Lawyers, have convenient offices throughout New York and Metropolitan area. Our domestic violence lawyers can provide you with advice to guide you through difficult situations. Without a child abuse Lawyer, you could lose precious compensation to help your family.