Jennifer's Story

A Family Caught in the System

After her daughter Liana was born prematurely, Jennifer stayed with her fragile baby constantly. After two months, she felt comfortable leaving the baby with her husband Fred, a loving father to their two older sons, and went to dinner with her sister. That night, Fred left Liana with her 8-year-old brother Joshua for a few minutes while he heated up a bottle. In that time, his 4-year-old son Michael jumped on the bed near the baby and accidentally fell on her. Fred rushed back when he heard Liana crying. He had no cause for alarm, however, as she calmed down and later went to sleep as usual. Neither of his sons told him about the accident.

In the next few days, Jennifer and Fred noticed that Liana was fussier than usual. They called their pediatrician, who told them not to worry. But when Liana stopped moving her legs, they took her to the emergency room, where an x-ray showed a fractured femur. Because Jennifer and Fred had no idea how Liana had been injured, hospital staff believed she was the victim of abuse. Although their two older sons were well taken care of and the family had no history with child protective services, the hospital contacted the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), which immediately removed all three children. Jennifer and Fred were devastated.

Jennifer was assigned a CFR team in the Queens Family Court, who advocated for the children to be placed with relatives to minimize the trauma of separation, and for the children to be able to visit their parents as much as possible. Jennifer and Fred never missed their daily supervised visits and completed every service that ACS asked of them with help from their CFR social worker. But because the fracture still remained a mystery, ACS would not allow the children to go home.

During a supervised visit, Joshua suddenly told his parents that he knew how Liana had gotten hurt and related the story of Michael falling on the baby. With this new information, the CFR attorney immediately asked the judge that the children be returned to their parents and called in a doctor to testify that Joshua’s explanation was consistent with the nature of the fracture and asked the judge to allow the children to be returned to their parents. The family was overjoyed.

Today, Jennifer and Fred live together happily with their children and recently welcomed a new baby boy. With the steadfast advocacy of their CFR team, their case has been dismissed entirely.