(Original post folllows)
Thank you to all of the parents who have contacted me privately about their own cases involving allegations of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy. This is very painful information to share and I am grateful for your trust. There are some common themes emerging, including school teams and medical professionals, all without specialized training in autism, jumping to the conclusion that the mother is to blame for the child’s behaviors. I also want to note one case in which the parent is grateful to her MCFD team for advocating in the face of unfounded allegations from a medical professional.
In the case ACT is engaged in, the allegations are that a parent subjected two autistic children with other complex disorders to a form of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy/Medical Child Abuse, that holds the caregiver responsible for physical or emotional harm to children. In this case, the claim is that the parent inflicted the abuse or harm by instigating “excessive and unnecessary” medical assessments and interventions. However, they refuse to say exactly which assessment and intervention was “excessive” or “unnecessary”, depriving the parent of the necessary information to put together a case to recover the children.
The lack of autism expertise on the part of the school team and the local child abuse team, which includes a pediatrician, is surprising. Most worrying, however, is that child protection workers, with the support of their supervisors, insisted on removing children from the family home without seeking advice from any autism specialists. For five months they have ignored attempts by ACT, and clinicians involved in autism diagnosis and treatment, to explain the process in B.C. – which has been developed by government ministries.
To clarify, these children each went through an orthodox multi-disciplinary diagnosis before they were six. They saw clinicians whom ACT has recommended to dozens if not hundreds of families over the years, in accordance with our previous contract with MCFD. These were proper diagnoses and the children have been diagnosed only once. Yet, the mother was told, in my presence, that unless she accepted that she has emotionally abused these children by taking them to see too many professionals, the legal process could go on for much longer. Now MCFD has grudgingly accepted that the diagnoses were carried out by a qualified professional but still the process drags on while the children remain in foster care, allowed to see their mother only one hour a week. ACT has contacted the Office of the Representative of Children and Youth but it has been of limited help both because this is before the courts and because they don’t advocate for parents.
Next Steps: Again, thanks to everyone who has contributed their insights both publicly and privately. Once this case is resolved, ACT will collaborate with other community organizations to focus government attention on the lack of training and accountability in our child protection system. Please provide personal information only to my email address to protect your privacy firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deborah Pugh, Executive Director, ACT – Autism Community Training
ALLEGATIONS OF MUNCHAUSEN SYNDROME BY PROXY?
ACT has been working with a family with two children with ASD where the mother has been accused of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy/ Medical Child Abuse. This is where the caregiver is accused of physical or emotional harm to children. In this case, MCFD is alleging the parent instigated “excessive and unnecessary” medical assessments and interventions.
While MCFD’s allegations have shifted over time, ACT has evaluated the multiple private diagnoses that the children have received from qualified professionals and we have found them to be within the normal range of those received by complex children with ASD. Given that the waiting list for publicly funded diagnoses is now over a year long, it is concerning that the mother has been accused of accessing private diagnoses as a means of gaining attention rather than finding early intervention for her children.
ACT is very concerned that both children, who are under 10, have been placed in foster care since January, as MCFD Child Protection tries to prove that their challenges are not related to their diagnoses but are a result of the mother’s alleged emotional abuse. There have been no allegations of physical abuse or neglect. The mother is only allowed to see them for one hour weekly.
Question: Is this case an aberration on the part of MCFD Child Protection services or have you seen similar situations elsewhere in British Columbia? Please do not post personal information on FaceBook instead email email@example.com. Your privacy will be protected.
Deborah Pugh, Executive Director