Thursday, July 15, 2010
Carmel on the Case: Cruel Intentions?
Did a hospital worker use the Department of Children and Families to get even with a mother she didn't like? The family thinks that's exactly what happened. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero with this special assignment report, Cruel Intentions?
WSVN -- Today, little Lydia Spencer is a thriving 1-year-old, but when she was just four months old, the State took her out of her home following several trips to the hospital for a mysterious breathing disorder.
Jacqueline Williams, Lydia's Mother: "Well we weren't sure, that's why we kept bringing her to the hospital because she looked like she was holding her breath."
At the hospital, Jacqueline Williams says a personality conflict developed between her and a social worker.
Jacqueline Williams: "She came back in the room and was furious, saying that I was a neglectful mother."
The family believes that social worker filed a complaint with the State, which led to a DCF investigation that was stacked against them. They say they learned of it when an investigator and police officers showed up at their home.
Bradford Spencer, Lydia's Father: "So, she came in and she started talking to me and she said, 'Do you know your baby can die?' and at the time, the doctor never said anything to us like that, the doctor, so I got upset."
The couple, along with Lydia's older brother, live with her great grandmother. She says from the start the investigator had an attitude with her family.
Maureen Becker, Lydia's Great-Grandmother: "Yeah, she had a real, a real arrogant and aggressive tone."
Maureen Becker says that visit was the beginning of a nightmare for the entire family.
Maureen Becker: "And then after that, the ball started rolling. We had lost complete control. They portrayed us to be the worst family on the planet."
Four-month-old Lydia was in the hospital when her parents learned they lost custody.
Jacqueline Williams: "For about four days I went, though not knowing where she was. Who had her. What she was diagnosed with. If she was OK. If she was alive."
Her parents say they would learn they were being accused of medical neglect because a sleep monitor was not being used, they say it malfunctioned. A prescription was weeks late being filled, they say it was only days late due to a recall. The mother did not stay overnight at the hospital, they say yes she did.
Jacqueline Williams: "It's clear that nobody ever investigated anything, because if they did, it wouldn't have gone this far."
Maureen Becker: "It was the most horrible experience of my life. I've been raising kids for almost 50 years, never had anything like this happen."
The family hired a lawyer and did get Lydia back after she spent weeks in foster care. Maureen complained to the State, which says it investigated how the case was handled.
Mark Riordan, Department of Children and Families: "We believe there was no investigative missteps. There were no legal missteps and there were no medical missteps. It passed on all levels."
DCF says state law prohibits discussion of specifics. The family attorney says there was never a legal finding of medical neglect and that the case was dismissed, but DCF says it's review upheld a medical neglect finding.
Carmel Cafiero: "Upheld by whom?"
Mark Riordan: "By the Quality Assurance Review Team."
Carmel Cafiero: "What about anybody outside of this team?"
Mark Riordan: "No."
The good news in all of this is that Lydia outgrew her breathing issues, but her family will never forget the pain of having her taken away.
Jacqueline Williams: "It just felt like your whole world came crashing down."
And her family remains convinced it all tracks back to the cruel intentions of a hospital social worker.
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