My name is Ashley Shannon and I am writing to you today to express my great concern with a violation of my civil rights.
On September 26th, 2017 I gave birth to my fourth child at South Shore Hospital. I was prescribed MAT medication during my pregnancy. The hospital filed a 51A report to the Department of Children and Families due to the medication I had been receiving.
The Department of Children and Families has a specific policy in place to respond to these types of reports. However, the Department did not follow these guidelines mandated by the state under Substance Exposed Newborn (SEN) 2013.
Instead, DCF threatened to take my newborn if I did not discharge myself from the hospital immediately to meet with a social worker in my home to inspect my home and the infant’s property and belongings. Under this threat, I was forced to discharge myself less than 48 hours after having my cesarean procedure, leave my newborn at the hospital, and comply with the demands of the social worker. This not only inflicted great emotional harm on myself, it also placed me in a dangerous situation medically which I did suffer permanent harm from.
I complied with the demands of the department, the social worker came to my home on September 29th and met with myself and my husband. At this meeting, the social worker documented she had no further concerns regarding my family. However, she then instructed me to bring my three children ages 6, 6, and 5 to the home on October 2nd so she could question them about sexual and physical abuse although at no point has there ever been an allegation of such things. Again I complied and agreed to do so.
On October 2nd my husband and I were confronted at the hospital on what was to be our newborn’s discharge day. We were cornered in our small room by 10 hospital employees lead by a pediatrician whom we had never previously had contact with. In a hostile discussion which occurred at 9 am that morning we were told our newborn would need a drastic experimental treatment and that it was not an option to decline. We had been told just 12 hours previously and in the days leading up to October 2nd our child would be released from the hospital that morning. Because of the drastic change in diagnosis which occurred so quickly without much of an explanation of why our child now needed an experimental treatment my husband and I understandably requested an hour to seek a second opinion. We also requested to transfer our child to a hospital with more services which would be better suited for the diagnosis the pediatrician was suddenly claiming our child had.
The hospital staff became enraged after we requested a transfer and refused to allow us to bring our child for a second opinion or to another hospital. It is important to note the diagnosis was *not* life-threatening. When my husband and I persisted in our request for a second opinion the hospital threatened to call the Department of Children and Families and use them as a tool to force treatment in the manner they wished. My husband and I then ended the discussion which had escalated to the point the pediatrician was screaming at us while we held our newborn. We excused ourselves and went to find a hospital advocate to medicate the situation. The moment we went to locate a advocate the pediatrican filed a false malicous 51A report stating we were refusing treatment, however we had not yet been able to fully discuss the treatment and the other options.
At 9:30 have we had a second meeting with the pediatrician with the hospital advocate present to mediate the conversation. In the middle of this meeting discussing our newborn’s treatment plans the Department of Children and Families called my cell phone informing me that they had immediately taken custody of our newborn. We were not given any opportunity to discuss the treatment with the pediatrician or hospital staff, another violation of our rights.
Within 40 minutes of being informed our child needed an experimental treatment our rights to advocate and be involved in our child’s medical treatment were stripped illegally. We were ordered to leave the hospital without saying goodbye to our child, and we were told never to return.
The Department did not follow the guidelines set forth in Medical Neglect of Infants DCF Policy #86-010, rather they just took immediate custody without following any of the provisions in their policy. DCF never obtained written consent from the parents, DCF never asked the parents if we were afforded an opportunity for a second opinion, in fact, DCF never even spoke to us about this matter.
The Department of Children and Families then immediately went to interview our older children while they were in school, denied the children their rights to have an attorney present, and refused the parents the right to be present. DCF, in fact, told us to “stay away from the school until we call you”. Ultimately the Department did not find a reason to take custody of our older children, however, they were left confused and scared. Our children ages 6, 6, and 5 were subjected to questions about sex and violence and were exposed to these topics without any reason to assume these topics applied to them. Our children now ask us about these topics – something that as mother infuriates me and saddens me deeply.
Our newborn was kept from us for days without any visitation or rights to be part of his medical care. While under DCF care the hospital administered morphine to our newborn, a powerful drug which is not approved for use in infants with his alleged condition. Our newborn had a cardiac event in which his heart rate immediately fell to a dangerous level following administration of this unapproved drug, which is noted in the hospital records. The hospital administered the drug a second time and again our newborn had an extreme episode of bradycardia which could have caused death. Our newborn clearly had a negative response to this “treatment” which again is not approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics for treating infants with suspected NAS, thus the hospital forced a dangerous experimental treatment onto our baby which almost killed him. The hospital finally stopped this “treatment” after realizing it was dangerous although the “treatment” was supposed to last for minimum 3 weeks. We thank God our child was not killed, however, he may have been left with permanent disabilities from the result of their experimental treatment.
The Department of Children and Families never contacted the parents to inform them of the dangerous events which occurred to their child while in state custody. It was not until reviewing medical records were we made aware of how serious this situation had become.
At the time of our 72-Hour Hearing which occurred 12 days after kidnapping our child, instead of returning our child to us, DCF insisted that now – without any allegations – that domestic violence was now an issue for all children in the family. DCF based this on an argument between myself and my husband from 2011. My husband and I have been living in peace since this incident, however, DCF has used it claim there is an existing danger to our children. DCF refused to return our newborn to us unless we signed an agreement in which DCF forced my husband, my greatest source of support and a committed father, out of the family home. My husband now can only see his children supervised by a third party. All of this was done based on no new allegations – relying solely on an event which occurred over seven years ago and predates the conception of our newborn by six years. Custody was returned to me, the mother, however, we were forced to sign this agreement.
These events are violations our families civil rights and due process. Although I am simply a stay at home mother in recovery I still have rights which are protected under federal law. I have been prescribed Suboxone since 2013 to manage my physical dependence on painkillers which were over-prescribed to me in 2012. I will have to battle this disease for the rest of my life. However, I am an example that there is a productive normal life after addiction.
Not only did the Department discriminate against me due to my status, the hospital did so as well. They input false information into my medical record and my child’s, including the false information that I was not prescribed this medication, that I was “taking it off the streets” as well as “an active heroin user” – statements which can be proven false by looking at the hospitals own medical records. The hospital had indeed already recorded that I was prescribed my medication and the hospital was, in fact, dispensing it to me while I stayed at their facility. South Shore Hospital not only recorded this false medical information, it also used it to file a malicious 51A report. After reviewing all the documentation I can only come to the conclusion this was intentionally done to gain full control of my newborn and force this dangerous experimental treatment without being bothered by parents whom show concern about their newborn’s well-being and may not wish to have their child subjected to this.
How can this happen in our state? How can this be done? Are our citizens in recovery somehow less of a human being and thus have fewer rights?
I have reached out to several individuals including the district attorney’s office all who have expressed great concern over this matter. However, no one wants to question DCF as to why my rights were violated. My family was not treated fairly. We were subjected to discrimination and not given the same opportunities that other citizens are afforded when making decisions in the care of their children.
We have been left to be subjected to a lengthy year-long court process in which I must allow a DCF social worker, the attorney for our newborn son, the attorney for our elder children, early intervention social workers, a probation officer, and a court investigator into our home at random and scheduled for the next year. We cannot move, cannot go on vacation, we cannot even live a normal life as we have now been further financially burdened now that my husband must live in a hotel for the next three months at a minimum.
This is unacceptable. Every right to enjoy our new baby in peace has been taken. My elder children are permanently scarred by this travesty of justice. It is mind-boggling to see how many state resources and funds are being used to harass my family. While I agree the Department of Children and Families plays a vital role in protecting the innocent – the power of this department of our government was not given their power to use it in this fashion. My family, my children, are not a paycheck or an experiment in civil assistance.
Look at all the people getting paid to harass my family. It is shocking.
Paychecks for social workers, judges, lawyers, early intervention workers, foster parents, probation officers, and more.
I just found out this week at DCF refers all children they come into contact with to early intervention. And early intervention admitted to me that their evaluation testing is setup to automatically fail any child under the age of 3 months irreguardless of whether or not they have a developmental delay, thus it’s an automatic paycheck for any child DCF refers to them fitting this age range.
In addition to this, our family has been forcibly torn apart. Our children will not have a normal Thanksgiving or Christmas this year as their father, who has done nothing wrong, has been ejected from the home. I have been promised by the DCF lawyer that if I divorce my husband by January 12th (our next court date) this case will be dismissed, this is illegal and no one should be using divorce as a bargaining chip while holding the future of my children hostage.
Our elder children miss their father and are suffering greatly from the removal of his love and care. I, on the other hand, am now raising four children while entertaining regular governmental guests in my home at their convenience and juggling the needs of a newborn 24 hours per day. This has also affected us financially as well, instead of getting ready to purchase our first home, we now have spent our entire lifesaving’s on legal representation and dealing with the fallout from this.
The government has been allowed to force their way into our private lives and irreparably damage our normal family life.
As a lifelong resident of the Commonwealth, I have grown to love our state. It is our home. However, our family has been targeted and attacked.
I like to think we are our children’s hero. That we protect them and care for them as no one else could. However, as parents, we find ourselves in need of a hero ourselves. Please, help our family.
You have our full permisson to share this story. I hope you do. Prehaps it could warn other parents and maybe prevent this from happening again.