Suranya Aiyar, a New Delhi-based lawyer, who has been working on a pro bono basis with families facing child protection proceedings in Western countries since 2012, submitted a report recently to the Government of India on Indian families whose children had been confiscated by US child protection authorities in the last few years. The Report included a survey of twelve families whose children had been taken in the US. Key points noted in some of these cases are here .The Report also contains extensive information on the US child protection system for young families planning to move there. A summary of this information is here. The text of the travel advisory suggested to the Indian Government is here.
Experience of families in US care proceedings (excerpts from Report).
“When we met her for the first time after a week, I think my baby consumed the food as if she hasn’t eaten for days. It is difficult to explain in words what we felt at that time.” About 2 year old daughter who was used to strict vegetarian food at home and could eat nothing but fruit in the American foster home she was sent to. “Anyone could make from my daughter’s eyes that she didn’t sleep for many nights, It was so bad that even CPS, who was good at hiding all issues, mentioned that she is having a little hard time in sleeping….”
““Father’s parents when they arrived from India were not allowed to take care of kids but were limited to visitation…..primary care giving request [of paternal grandparents]…. was never granted stating lack of communication in English, not used to living in United States, etc”
The younger baby fell on the ground, hitting her head when her brother (autistic 2 year old) accidently pulled her Moses basket (a small basket-like crib for newborns) from the kitchen counter when she was just 1 week old. At the time the parents rushed her to hospital, but were told that no damage had been done. However, a few months later the baby had seizures for which she was taken to another specialist hospital which saw intra-cranial bleeding in her MRI scans. Based on this bleeding, the mother was accused of abuse. However, the mother, and medical experts testifying on her behalf, believed that the seizures were the result of injuries sustained in the earlier fall which were not correctly diagnosed at the time. The family states that they were the “victims of medical incompetence”. Though the baby seemed “ok” after the fall, “[it had] created a minor fracture…. she had a slow bleed in the brain which became worse…leading to the seizure” “The system is very flawed and biased.” “authorities assumed [husband] was mean to me because of a stereotype of Indian men. They theorized that we had an unhappy marriage. During interrogation tried to get me to admit this.” “There was no criminal case against [husband] but prosecution tried to prove that the strain of having married a man from a repressive culture led me to abuse [their baby]. They looked through our computers and at a journal I kept to try to find evidence of this”
The mother writes: “my son [redacted], diagnosed with autism at 2 years of age, was very traumatized by the displacement and disruption.”
“The parents say their lives have been turned inside-out because overzealous doctors and agencies have let speculation trump medical science…..we conclude…[that the parents] have been thrust into a nightmare by well-intentioned, but misguided doctors and child protection specialists.” From Appellate Court’s unanimous judgment exonerating the parents of all blame. http://illinoiscourts.gov/Opinions/AppellateCourt/2013/1stDistrict/1123472.pdf
“We came to the US five years ago [from India] with a few dollars in our pockets with the dream of this country being the land of justice and peace. We have worked very hard in our IT job and been completely law abiding. Our daughter [M] has never had any issues and is a happy three-and-a-half-year-old. We proactively reported health issues in the first month of our son [Y]’s birth and even videotaped a seizure to show to the paediatrician. We feel the same helplessness, outrage and desperation that an illiterate farmer in a poor Indian village feels against a corrupt moneylender who has taken everything away from him.” From the book, “Flawed Convictions – Shaken Baby Syndrome and the Inertia of Injustice” by Deborah Tuerkheimer, Professor of Law, Northwestern Pritzker, School of Law. Prof. Tuerkheimer is quoting from an email to her by the mother of the taken children.
“Child was injured twice and rushed to hospital for medical emergency once [while in foster care with non-related American foster carer]”. “[Even after US Court ordered repatriation of the baby to India] Child protection always want to delay the process”. “Child protection agency is a big money-making racket which kidnap innocent children in the name of protection. Everyone should be aware of this racket and [be] careful about this”. “[Bengali-speaking Mother (prime accused as she was with the baby when he got hurt) had] no English communication skill…. faced a lot of challenges to communicate to the authorities/doctors.” “I was offered that if I tell to court that my wife abused my child, then child will be returned to me.”
“During the interview (kind of interrogation) we were asked about slapping kids in India and being harsh. Getting angry to kids etc.” “all the families to at least have basic things at home (Crib, car seat, stroller, baby food, enough cloths etc).” “I feel these are the first things Child protection team look for. We did not have crib at home and [baby] used to sleep on same bed with us. This was highlighted as a big mistake on us.”
Threat of adoption: “there was always a discussion about adoption/kinship to other parents… [Child protection agency] was always preparing to have the adoption option open all the time. Not sure if this is to have additional pressure on parents to go for ‘plea’ instead of fighting against [child protection agency’s abuse claims]”
“Get the child out of foster-care [with strangers]/[child protection services] as soon as you can. Place them with your relatives or friends. Its most important.” “Be careful and respectful when you are interacting with doctors/social-workers/[child protection services].” “Maintain good logs/records of your child growth.”