UK – Social workers accused parents of bone disease baby of child abuse

Two children who were taken into care after social workers mistook a baby’s brittle bone disease for evidence of abuse have been reunited with their parents.

Social workers accused parents of bone disease baby of child abuse
Harrison (right) with parents Paul Crummy (left), sister Bethany and mother Amy Garland

The team of social workers accused a mother of abusing her baby son, when in fact he was suffering from a rare bone disease.

Parents Paul Crummey and Amy Garland were horrified when doctors told them their baby son, Harrison, had eight fractures in his arms and legs just weeks after he was born.

But they were devastated when social workers accused them of shaking their son by the legs and took him and their daughter Bethany, now five, into care.

The terrified couple were arrested, and banned from seeing their two children without supervision.

It took 18 months for social workers and doctors to realise baby Harrison was suffering from a rare form of brittle bone disease meaning the slightest touch could snap his bones in two.

Now, the family, from Bristol, have been reunited, after prosecutors decided to drop the case when they realised Harrison was suffering from Osteogenesis imperfecta.

Their nightmare began when Harrison was just six-weeks-old.

Miss Gardland, 26, said: “For the first weeks he was bringing up blood with his milk and he was irritable.

“I knew something wasn’t right so I took him to the hospital. They did tests on him but everything came back absolutely normal.”

But when she got home she noticed his legs were swollen.

X-rays later showed Harrison had several fractures in his arm, feet and legs.

Miss Garland said: “We obviously had no idea that this condition was in our family so when they asked us how they happened we were left with the answer that we didn’t know.

“They said they needed to investigate it and we were happy for them to do that.”

Tests showed Harrison’s vitamin D levels were abnormally low so he was given injections.

As soon as the fractures were discovered, South Gloucestershire Social Services were called in to speak to the couple.

Police arrested Miss Garland while she was in hospital with Harrison and Mr Crummey, who was recovering from an operation at home, was also arrested.

They were questioned separately under caution by police. Neither of them had been in any sort of trouble before.

“The police and social services asked us a lot of questions. They asked me if there was any family history of violence,” said Miss Garland.

“We found out the police were speaking to all our neighbours asking them what we were like. They went through our house. I was in absolute shock. I was shaking. I felt like a criminal,” she said.

While Harrison was in hospital, Miss Garland was not allowed to be alone with her son.

“I wasn’t eating and I couldn’t sleep because I was worried they would take him from me,” she said.

“Paul and I weren’t allowed to be alone together. I never for one second questioned Paul. Neither of us needed to ask each other. We just knew.”

At the time, Bethany was just 20-months-old and was placed in the care of Miss Garland’s father.

The case was brought before Bristol County Court, where a judge ordered the family to live in a family placement centre.

“The judge didn’t want to separate me from Harrison because I was still breast feeding,” the mother said.

“We were watched 24 hours a day and there were cameras in every room. It was like a prison because even when we were allowed to go out we had to have staff with us.”

After three months, staff could find nothing wrong and recommended the family should stay together.

But social workers applied for an interim care order and the children were placed into foster care with their grandfather.

They were only allowed to see the children for six hours each day under supervision for over a year.

“It was horrible. When I went home at night and the kids weren’t there, I just broke down,” said Miss Garland. “There was so much going on in our lives. We were a mess. We took things out on each other.”

In January 2009, Miss Garland found a medical expert who believed Harrison had Osteogenesis imperfecta after looking into the family’s medical history.

Six months later, the two other doctors involved in the case agreed he could have the condition after reading the expert’s report.

South Gloucestershire Social Services then dropped their case.

Miss Garland, who has another daughter, Juliet, 18 months, with current fiance Kai Howell, 29, said: “When I heard the news, I couldn’t even speak. I was sat in my mum’s garden in tears.

“Straight away, we took them to the park. It felt so right to finally be together as a family.”

A month later, Harrison was diagnosed with Osteogenesis imperfecta. Doctors also tested Bethany, who was found to have a lesser type of the condition.

Harrison is still having vitamin D injections to help strengthen his bones and sees a physiotherapist to help build the muscle surrounding his bones.

Mr Crummey, 41, said: “All we wanted to do was help our sick child but we were treated like criminals. We had to sit and watch Harrison in pain.

“We’ve missed out on so much of our children’s lives. They’ve been through so much. It tore Amy and I apart because we didn’t know how to handle it.”

“We’ve never received an apology from social services. It makes me feel very angry.”

A spokesman for South Gloucestershire Council said: “While we cannot comment on individual cases, we do have a legal duty to protect children and young people living in South Gloucestershire and we always put the welfare of the child at the heart of how we deliver our services.”

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