Family accused of child abuse says evidence proves baby has tissue disorder

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by TONY BURBECK / NBC Charlotte

khou.com

Posted on December 4, 2013 at 10:23 AM

CABARRUS COUNTY, N.C. -- A Cabarrus County couple say they have been falsely accused of abuse and have a doctor's evaluation that could clear them and reunite their family, but say that information is being ignored.

Jennifer and Shane Kirk say Cabarrus County DSS removed their four children and placed them in kinship care in after X-rays showed their youngest had two hairline fractures.

The Kirks say a pediatrician noticed bruises on their infant son Caleb's body. That prompted a call to Cabarrus County DSS and a series of X-ray out of concern.

"They thought it was abuse from the fracture," said mother Jennifer Kirk.

The hairline fractures were on Caleb's rib and foot.

"A shock, yeah," she said. "We would never hurt our children."

The couple denies abusing their kids.

The Kirks say within hours of the X-ray results, DSS demanded the names of relatives their kids could stay with, and then later removed all four children from the home in late September.

Only 18-month-old Eli is back home now due to severe medical problems and a grandfather who also helps watch him.

The Kirks say DSS wanted them to sign yes to safety assessment which says "caregiver caused serious physical harm to the child or made a plausible threat to cause serious physical harm."

The Kirks refused.

"I'm not going to sit there and sign something that says I abused my kids when neither of us abused our kids," said father Shane Kirk.

The Kirks researched potential causes of hairline fractures in infants.

It let them to Boston and a specialist who examined Caleb.  Part of the doctor's evaluation says "it is with a very high degree of certainty that Caleb has Ehlers-Danlos/hypermobility syndrome."

Ehlers-Danlos is a type of connective tissue disorder.

The same doctor's diagnosis also says kids who have that syndrome "are at risk for multiple fractures with little or no trauma, even with normal handling."

Medical records show the doctor also examined Eli and says he too has a variant of the same syndrome. Jennifer says she has it as well.

The Kirks gave that doctor's diagnosis to DSS, but the response was DSS wasn't dropping the case.

"They went on the two pediatricians and radiologist on the report to make the decision and not the disorder they were diagnosed with," Shane said.

Neither parent has been charged with a crime.

Parents falsely accused of abuse is something the Center for Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Alliance says has happened at least a dozens of times, often because the syndrome is misunderstood and hard to identify genetically. 

"We would just like to have our children back and be a family again.  That's all we want," Jennifer said.

Officials says in general, state policy guides DSS investigations, case decisions are made by case workers and supervisors, they weigh all evidence submitted and make the best decision possible for the child and the preservation of the family.

Caleb is too young to speak with DSS himself about the injuries.
 

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