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February 14, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

A small but persistent movement insists that, against all the evidence, family courts routinely take children from fit, loving mothers and hand them to fathers who abuse them. The movement usually cites cases in which the only abuse is that imagined by the mother, but, since its adherents take all allegations as true, they’re able to claim that 58,000 times per year, family courts take children from “protective” mothers and give custody to abusive fathers.

A good many red flags fly over those claims. First is the fact that only about 18% of custodial parents are fathers, so judges rarely order paternal custody at all. How likely is it that so many of those fathers are abusive? Indeed, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, only about 2.3 million fathers have primary or sole custody of their children. Given that the question of custody usually ends when the child turns 18, that would mean that, on average, about 130,000 fathers per year are given custody. How likely is it that 58,000 of those fathers (about 45%) are abusive?

Plus, the Administration for Children and Families reports every year that children are about twice as likely to be abused by a mother as by a father. Given that about 745,000 mothers are given sole or primary custody each year by divorce courts, the statistical probability is that, if judges give custody to abusive parents at all, they do so to mothers far more than to fathers.

Then of course there’s the fact that every family court in the country is charged with investigating allegations of child abuse when deciding custody or parenting time. Despite those legal requirements and the fact that judges are taught to always err on the side of believing allegations of abuse, the “protective mother” movement wants us to believe that judges make a habit of ignoring both the law and their own training.

Finally there’s the fact that the cases the movement cites all but invariably turn out to be those in which there was either no abuse or the abuse was perpetrated by the mother.

Undeterred, they soldier on.

That brings me to the case of Kaylene Bowen, Ryan Crawford and their son Christopher (Fort Worth Star Telegram, 12/8/17). It’s a case not only of severe child abuse by Kaylene, but of a legal system that actively contributed to that abuse. It’s a case of criminal wrongdoing and of a father who tried to put a stop to all of it but was sidelined by a judge who unquestioningly believed the false claims of an abusive mother. It’s a case of doctor shopping and of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy. It’s a case of perjury and fraud. And finally, it’s a case of Child Protective Services abetting the marginalization of the father. It is, in short, a case the “protective mother” movement needs to explain, but never will because it can’t.

Even before the birth of their son, Ryan Crawford suspected that something was wrong with the boy’s mother.

A pregnant Kaylene Bowen would call Crawford in the middle of the night from random hospitals, reporting that she had been admitted for various reasons. Once, she claimed she’d had a fever of 110 degrees for seven consecutive days, Crawford said.

Crawford began to wonder if this woman he’d dated briefly and unexpectedly impregnated, was just trying to gain attention.

That of course is a key element of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy. With MSP, a parent, usually a mother, incessantly demands medical attention for a child who doesn’t need it. She does that, not for the child, but for herself. She needs the attention and uses the child to get it. Forcing a child to undergo unnecessary medical procedures is plainly a form of child abuse, but the parent does so anyway, her needs superseding the child’s. Kaylene Bowen took that to extremes. Over the first seven years of Christopher’s life, records show that he made 323 visits to doctors - one every eight days on average - and underwent an astonishing 13 major surgeries.

Now, the fact that MSP is mostly about Mom’s need for attention that she gets by feigning a child’s illness, doesn’t mean that’s its only use. In this case, Bowen used her son’s supposed medical condition to keep a skeptical Ryan Crawford out of his son’s life.

“She was always saying Christopher was sick. Every single week. Every single month,” Crawford said. “She would always say, ‘Something’s wrong. He has this. He has that.’ ”…

For years, Crawford said he tried to convince Dallas County family court judges that his son was not sick but they believed Bowen, who would eventually claim that their son was dying, initially from a rare genetic disorder and later from cancer.

Crawford said a Dallas County judge even blocked him in late 2012 from visiting his son, who was then 3.

“It was always the same story: Christopher is dying. The father doesn’t need to be around because he doesn’t know to take care of him,” a tearful Bowen would tell the judges, according to Crawford.

Crawford never believed his son was ill, and he was right. As of now, Christopher has been taken off all medication except those for allergies. But Crawford could never convince Dallas judge Lori Hockett of his doubts, even when he had medical records to back them up. She eventually removed him from Christopher’s life altogether.

Until recently, Crawford’s last visit with his son had been Dec. 7, 2012, when he took the boy’s great-grandmother to Kaylene’s Dallas apartment to see Christopher.

“We went to court two weeks later and Kaylene told the judge that Christopher went into cardiac arrest due to my visit,” Crawford said.

He says at a subsequent hearing, 255th District Family Court Judge Lori Hockett said she was taking away Crawford’s visitations with his son since he refused to believe the boy was dying.

Convinced Bowen was medically abusing their son, Crawford hired a lawyer and demanded a change in custody.

When they went before Judge Hockett, Bowen cried and claimed Christopher, then 4, was in a coma.

“Lori Hockett immediately stated she’d heard this case and she can’t believe we would drag Kaylene back to court when the child is dying,” Crawford recalled. “She wouldn’t hear the new evidence that included doctor reports that Christopher was not ill.”

Amazingly Hockett, who is no longer on the bench claims this:

“Of course I would like to respond [to questions from the Star Telegram reporter] but don’t feel that I should as the judge who heard the case in 2014 along with my associate judge,” she wrote. “We both ruled on the evidence that was presented to us at the time.”

That may be true in the narrowest technical sense. What’s also true is that the evidence on which she based her ruling lacked the evidence Crawford and his attorney brought to court, evidence Lori Hockett refused to admit at trial or examine.

In short, this case looks very much like one of a family court judge who ignored the pleas and the evidence of a father attempting to protect his son from his abusive mother. So what about it, “protective mother” movement? Care to comment?

 

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National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

#childabuse, #medicalchildabuse, #MunchausenSyndromebyProxy

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