CPS Took My Nephew's Baby and Toddler
Hey there. I’m going to tell you a story, but it comes with a trigger warning for kidnapping. On Saturday, I shared this on Twitter:
My extended family has been thrown into a hellish nightmare. My nephew and his wife, who live in Boston, just had their two sons taken from them in the middle of the night by CPS. Their sons are 3 months old, and 3 1/2. A baby and a toddler, the baby still nursing.
Very late on Wednesday night, they took the baby into the emergency room because he had a high fever. In a scan, the hospital staff saw signs of a possible injury from 6 weeks ago. The parents weren’t aware of the injury at all. Had no idea how it could have happened. In cases like this the hospital routinely suspects child abuse, and they called CPS.
As you can imagine, my nephew and his wife were in shock. They immediately complied with all CPS requests, no hesitation.
At the request of CPS, the baby was seen by his usual pediatrician, who vouched for the parents and confirmed the baby was thriving in this family. The doctor confirmed that she as the family pediatrician, who had seen and examined the kids many times, had seen no signs or patterns of child abuse for either the toddler or the baby. (I can vouch for the parents too—though I understand it may not mean as much to you since I’m their Aunt.)
At the request of CPS, the hospital ran more tests on the baby to check for drugs in his bloodstream or other signs of abuse, and the tests all came up clean. There was a house visit by CPS where it was confirmed there were no red flags and that nothing was out of order at their home.
On Friday, because everything checked out, the hospital discharged the baby to my nephew and his wife, and they went home. That same day, the CPS agent assigned to their case told the family that there would be a hearing next week, but no charges would be filed. So the family relaxed a bit and hoped the worst of this nightmare was almost over.
And then, on Friday night at 1:00am (that’s very early Saturday morning), with no warning, CPS showed up at the house and took both the baby and the toddler. Just took them. Literally took the nursing baby from his mother’s breast.
Apparently in Massachusetts, CPS has five days from the time they are called, during which they can decide to remove children from their home. They can just show up and take your children any time during those five days, and give no information about where to find them. And if you resist, or try to fight it, that will be used against you in court as a sign that you are unfit to parent. CPS can also have the police remove your children if you’re being resistant.
When your babies are ripped from your arms, and those babies start screaming as they are carried off in the middle of the night by strangers, you are expected to do the impossible: remain calm and take no action.
This article in the New Yorker confirms the same thing.
My nephew and his wife begged to know what had changed since that afternoon. CPS said there was “new information.” When pressed, CPS said the “new information” was that a CPS agent on the night shift had looked at the paperwork and decided to reverse the hospital decision from earlier that day, and take the baby and the toddler. There was no actual new information. And because of the 5-day policy, CPS did not need to get any sort of warrant to remove the kids.
CPS could have placed the baby and toddler with their grandparents (who were very willing and available) keeping this family together as much as possible, but instead, CPS put them in a foster home with complete strangers.
The parents are absolutely devastated. And because this happened at 1:00am on Saturday morning, it’s the weekend, and there are no agencies or departments or courts that are open, where they can seek to be reunited with their children. So they’re just stuck, waiting and worrying.
They were told the paperwork won’t be filed until Monday, and the hearing will happen 72 hours after the filing. So that’s 5 or 6 days of family separation at minimum.
To make matter worse, both the baby and the toddler have serious food allergies, and the mother avoids lots of different foods in order to not pass any allergens through her breast milk. So now there's added worry that the foster home won't feed them safely.
The whole family has gone online to find hopeful stories, and to learn what this process is like and when my nephew and his wife might realistically get their children back. But the internet has delivered a steady stream of horror stories about CPS. So many tales of families torn apart without cause.
We’ve learned that they may not be reunited as a family for many months and that the parents have essentially zero recourse. And remember, these are tiny children. This kind of family separation will create lifelong trauma for these kids.
I ended the Twitter thread asking for recommendations for lawyers in the Boston area who have experience with CPS cases, and asking for general advice. I received contact information for lots of lawyers and immediately forwarded that information to my nephew. And yes, they were able to secure a lawyer. The Twitter thread also received hundreds and hundreds of comments from people who had similar nightmare stories with CPS. The comments are harrowing to read.
Yesterday I received some updates:
By 4:00pm on Monday in Boston, CPS/the Court still hadn’t granted the mother (my nephew's wife) visitation rights to nurse her baby, even with supervision. The baby and toddler have been separated from their parents all of Saturday, Sunday, and now Monday.
CPS filed the papers with the court Monday morning, and the parents were told the judge would see them that day. But they would not say what the parents were being charged with, so the parents couldn't prepare a response. The parents and their lawyer remained at the court since Monday morning and finally heard (at 4:00pm), that the case will be postponed "until later this week". They were still not told what the charges are.
They were also told that if they don't “win” this case when they see the judge this week, that the case will be ongoing for up to a year before the parents can take their kids home.
And the first bit of good news: At around 9:00pm in Boston on Monday, we heard word that my nephew's wife will be allowed to nurse the baby for 60 minutes once a day, starting today (Tuesday). My nephew is allowed to go with her.
It's a small thing but has given our family some hope.
UPDATE FROM JULY 20TH:
My nephew and his wife were able to read why CPS felt that the boys were in "imminent danger" (CPS says that has to be believed to do the child extraction). And remember, this is after the pediatrician vouched for them, and the hospital released the baby.
There were 3 reasons listed: 1) "Living in a neighborhood with not enough children." This is straight up punishing parents for not being rich. My nephew and his wife chose a "poor" neighborhood because they are trying to save up for a house, and it was convenient to their work. CPS did a house visit, and confirmed the house is safe for children, with food in the fridge, and with no red flags. So now they're punishing the parents for not being able to afford a better neighborhood? I mean, how many playdates does a 3-month old need? Especially when he already has a playmate at home in his 3 year old brother.
2) "The mother rolled her eyes when asked a question." Want to know what the question was? "How often does your husband neglect his children?" I mean... I would have 100% rolled my eyes. What a manipulative thing to ask.
3) The last "evidence" was that "the mother cried when they wanted to give the baby another blood test." CPS said, "Her crying indicated that she was guilty." Keep in mind, they had already done 12 tests on the baby! And he was distressed by it! He had cried himself hoarse from the earlier tests. The mother was crying because her baby was distressed by intrusive, painful medical care, and she couldn't do anything to prevent his further pain. Of course his mother cried watching her baby suffer!
The idea that these 3 things add up to "imminent danger" is so ridiculous that my brain can't comprehend it.
The parents were also told that there is no way they will get full, unsupervised custody at the hearing. By not getting full custody, the parents will have to wait for A YEAR to have a full trial where there is a better chance of getting full custody.
And yes, the media has reached out to the parents, but their lawyers don't want them to talk to the press until after the hearing. They fear it will make CPS more determined to not look bad.
What a broken system! In order for CPS to justify taking these babies away from their parents, they will do everything they can to prevent family reunification, in an attempt to prove they were "correct."
The hearing is set for next week. So they are spending any time they have working with their lawyer and gathering expert witnesses who can speak on their behalf. They have been told that character witnesses are not allowed. I’ll share any updates I can next week.
I’m going to turn comments off on this post, but if you have something you need to say, you are welcome to go to Twitter.
I just wanted to let you know what is happening.
I have other, happier things to tell you about too (like roof progress on the Small House, wakeboarding lessons for the whole family, how our house manages a heatwave without A/C, and an invitation to join my Book Launch Group), but I’ll tell you about those things in another newsletter, maybe tomorrow.
Design Mom is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.