The Business of Child Abuse
By Joshua Allen
A few days ago the author was approached by a social worker. The interview covered several topics. The worker wishes to remain anonomous.
We know, this is true for just about every source that speaks with us. There is a lot of fear out there. It shouldn’t be that way; we are writing about child abuse, and the individuals who try to do something about it, the brave ones on all sides who try to make a difference.
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The Young Social Worker got to know Rodolfo as a toddler, just when he was barely able to walk on his new legs. Originally, he was placed into foster care because of a head trauma that caused a subdural hematoma.
The Social Worker was very young and inexperienced, and was only vaguely aware that subdural hematoma was one of the classic symptoms of shaken baby syndrome.
Rodolfo’s parents were undocumented, and only spoke Spanish. Originally, the birth mother blamed Rodolfo’s injury on the babysitter who denied it. The County Department of Children Services did not know whom to believe, and in those days the policy was to remove the child and ask questions later. So Rodolfo was taken from the birth parents (who again, were here illegally) and placed into brand new, recently certified foster home.
The young Agency Social Worker visited the home faithfully once per week and spent a good amount of time getting to know the foster parents and Rodolfo. The worker liked the foster parents, who were always polite and friendly. The home was immaculate as the mother stayed at home with Rodolfo and her other toddler.
Over time, the young Agency Worker was puzzled because the County Social Worker (CSW) had never visited the home or seen Rodolfo. There were a few calls concerning some medical information but she eventually only visited the home one time in about 3 months. The Agency Social Worker continued to visit the home and see Rodolfo week after week, finding the toddler to be in good health, happy, and apparently well cared for.
After 3 months the Agency Social Worker (ASW) received a page (in those days people used pagers) from a doctor requesting permission to take whatever tests he found necessary for Rodolfo. At the time he said he was concerned about meningitis. Later however, Rodolfo was found to have another sub-dermal hematoma in a location different from the original injury, and the doctor believed it was from Shaken Baby syndrome.
Rodolfo was immediately transported to County USC Hospital for more tests. Rodolfo had actually had a seizure while being visited by his real mother and father and they along with the foster parents had followed the toddler from one hospital to another. Eventually, the birth parents, the foster parents, and the Agency Social worker all followed Rodolfo to the next hospital.
Rodolfo was found there to have finger marks on his leg. The young social worker had not seen this before and the marks were recent. The marks looked awful, as if he had been picked up upside down with one hand. Upon seeing this, the doctors became very angry and blamed the social worker for certifying the foster family who continued to deny that anything improper had happened in their home.
At one point the doctor said, "This is Shaken Baby syndrome until I say it's not!"
There was one slight possibility however. Rodolfo’s previous injury which occurred at another place on his head may have been the cause of this new blood clot in the brain. It would be necessary to compare the images from the first injury to the images from the second.
However, the digital images from the first hospital no longer existed and would need to be reconstructed. The county worker who visited once during the 3-4 month period was not anxious to facilitate this.
The birth parents being undocumented and fearful of making any waves did not press the issue. The agency, glad that the baby was now in another home and the case terminated made no further investigation and were happy to have their hands washed of the whole thing, (in those days the agencies did their own investigations) and the original foster parents were told to seek certification with another agency should they desire. They probably did.
The Agency Worker believes that no further inquiry was ever made and that the case was allowed to fade away. Weeks later the foster father who had always been polite and appropriate came to the agency and complained that the Agency Worker did nothing to defend them. He became extremely loud and lost his temper which was something never before observed.
The director of the agency put a stop to the meeting and asked the foster parents to leave.
The strongest image of that long night for the Agency worker was when Roldolfo’s quiet and fearful birth parents asked the Agency Social Worker at the County Hospital if they could have permission to see their baby. The Agency Social Worker had no authority and referred the couple to the angry doctor. Roldolfo’s parents then thanked the worker and seemed to believe the foster parents when they said they had done nothing.
Rodolfo may have brain damage; it is many years later and the Agency Social Worker does not know. Often, late at night, he wonders.