STOP taking OUR children – ALL children belong under the protective umbrella of loving parents.
They were young, and in love, and a few years into their marriage they started their family. Christina was 22, Jonathon 23, and Annabella Grace Hinote was born six weeks prematurely on January 17, 2014, weighing 4 pounds 8 ounces. Despite a complicated pregnancy, 72 hours of labor, and a premature birth, Bella was the picture of perfection. Her parents were overjoyed and as proud as could be. Any struggles related to Bella’s Severe Reflex were just starting to subside when Boston Children’s Hospital, (BCH), took Bella, and the young couple’s nightmare began. This was in May 2014, when Bella was a mere 3 months old, and almost a year later, Bella’s parents still fight to get their baby back, and bring her home – – – to Alabama.
“These are days I’ll never get back. I watched her first laugh through a video that had been posted on Facebook. Her first time standing with the support if her crib rails, I saw through a picture message on my cell phone.”
This is Part III of Another Boston Children’s Hospital Kidnapping: Below is the back story of how this tragic situation came to be in Bella’s case, but it is hardly unique. The most renown story of a medical kidnap was that of Justina Pelletier, a 14-year old teen from the state of Connecticut, also taken from Boston Children’s Hospital. She too was made a ward of the state of Massachusetts despite residing in another state. Justina’s, as well as multiple other stories of children being medically kidnapped from children’s hospitals around the country can be found here, but represents the smallest fraction of such cases. Too few people are aware of the fact that federal regulation 46.116 provides that wards of the state such as foster children can be used in clinical research trials, and that biological parents are being denied any knowledge or control of what is done to their children once their children are made wards of the state. Laws need to be changed and incentives that promote children being made wards of the state for these sinister purposes taken off the table.
Bella was born at just 34 weeks gestation, and for the first 70 plus hours after her birth she was fed intravenously due to an inability to hold down fluids. She was diagnosed with Severe Reflux, which caused her to vomit a good amount of any fluids that entered her system. After being discharged from the NICU, Bella underwent multiple formula trials and hospitalizations to determine whether there was a deeper cause for the rejection of fluids and difficulty to maintain a steady weight gain. It was discovered that a specially measured mixture of Gentlease served best to ensure a steady weight gain and her tiny body seemed to be tolerating it fairly well. Bella then began seeing a new pediatrician, Dr. Mark McDermott, at Northern Berkshire Pediatric in Massachusetts where her family was living at the time. This pediatrician expressed concerns that Gentlease could potentially constipate and upset a baby’s GI tract, so once again a new formula was introduced.
Almost immediately, Bella’s parents noticed a negative result with the Nutramigen formula. She was now vomiting more and her weight began to again decline. Upon expressing this concern to the doctor, the mother was told that “he was the one who held a medical degree, and she was a first time mother”. He, therefore knew better how to treat Bella’s condition, and therein, the nightmare would begin.
In addition to battling the pediatrician over formula, the family was facing problems with neighbors in their complex. They decided it was in Bella’s best interest to return to Alabama where Bella was born and doctors were more familiar with her care. They also had paternal family that Bella’s parents wanted to be near and would ensure Bella was raised in the best environment possible. After confirming the Alabama pediatrician was on board to see Bella, and informing the Massachusetts pediatrician that Bella would not be returning as a patient, the family gathered the majority of their belongings and headed back south.
Approximately two weeks after returning to Alabama, Kellie Perrault, an Investigator for the Department of Children and Families back in Massachusetts contacted the family stating they had received reports of concern for Bella’s well-being. The family informed the investigator from DCF that they no longer lived in Massachusetts. The investigator insisted that if “there was nothing to hide” they should have no problem meeting to “clear the air”. The investigator further informed Bella’s mother that if she refused to meet him, criminally charges could, and would, be filed against her.
Not knowing their rights, and unsure of what to do, the family agreed to meet the investigator to prove they had nothing to hide or done anything wrong. Bella’s maternal grandmother cared for Bella, while her mother headed out to Berkshire County to meet with the investigator. During this meeting, the mother was informed of the far-fetched allegations that prompted the investigation. As it turned out, the previous neighbors had filed false reports accusing the family of having 6 cats, 4 dogs, and feces all over the family home. The family did not own any pets at that time. Additionally, the neighbors claimed the mother would leave Bella alone for weeks at time, another accusation that was ludicrous, and easily proved false.
Shortly after this meeting, the department contacted the mother to inform her that the initial allegations were UNFOUNDED, however, after speaking with the Massachusetts’ pediatrician’s office, there was concern for Bella’s weight. A worker from the county where Bella was with her Grandmother was sent to the Grandmother’s home to “put eyes on the baby”. During this home visit, the worker contacted her supervisor in front of family members and informed her that Bella was “understandably small due to prematurity, but her color looked good” and no issues were seen. The worker informed the Grandmother that based off the report she received, she expected to see a severely emaciated, malnourished child that was ready for removal.
It was relayed to the case worker that the pediatrician had expressed grave concern over the infant’s weight. He believed the parents meant well, but were simply “not feeding their child”, citing this as their understanding of the slow weight gain. The grandmother was instructed to bring the child to the WIC office to have a weight check performed immediately. At this visit, Bella weighed in at 7 pounds 1 ounce and the case worker relayed to the investigator that there were no issues. She recommended the case be closed.
Despite these findings, the investigator contacted Bella’s mother and informed her that her supervisor was “ordering” her to be seen at an emergency room for medical clearance before they were permitted to return home to Alabama. The mother insisted she did not wish to take Bella to an emergency room where she would needlessly be exposed to germs of sick patients, and didn’t want to compromise her daughters underdeveloped immune system. For the second time since the first initial contact with the DCF investigator, the family was threatened with removal of their child if they chose to not comply.
At this time, they reluctantly took their daughter to Beverly Hospital to satisfy the department’s request, and avoid any possibility of their child being taken by DCF. Because it was after normal business hours, the hospital could not contact DCF. Unclear as to what they were supposed to be clearing her for, Bella was admitted to a pediatric unit for testing to be conducted. During this 48 hour stay, the pediatrician started Bella back on the Gentlease formula and her weight immediately improved. In a 24 hour period, Bella gained 3 ounces which greatly impressed the medical staff. She was ultimately diagnosed with failure to thrive due to lack of calories which was clearly being rectified by the switch back to Gentlease. Prilosec was added to alleviate some of the reflux.
At this point, the doctor informed the family that Bella was medically cleared and they were preparing discharge papers. Moments later, they returned to the room, and informed that despite the medical clearance received, the DCF investigator insisted on transferring Bella to Boston Children’s Hospital, (BCH), for “further testing.” Once again the family was threatened, for the third time, that the child would be taken by DCF if they did not comply. The doctor at Beverly Hospital apologized and told them “her hands were tied”, “it was DCF’s call”.
Bella’s mother tried to insist that Bella be transported to Tufts hospital, but this request was denied by DCF. A paternal family member stayed with Bella and her mother for the duration of the stay at Boston Children’s. During this stay, not a single test was performed. Additionally, the mother was informed that, despite having a family member present and willing to assist, nobody else was allowed to help with Bella’s care.
The torture begins
A new plan was implemented for Bella to be on a three hour feeding schedule around the clock. Special instructions were in place that diaper changes were to take places immediately before feedings, and afterwards. Bella was to be placed upright in a bassinet and left still to alleviate any reflux for a minimum of one hour. During this time, there was to be no playing or physical contact to prevent vomiting. Bella always fell asleep during this quiet time, so it became increasingly hard to incorporate any play time with her.
Unlike at Beverly Hospital, where the formula was kept in the room for mother to prepare, BCH utilized a “milk lab” that prepared and delivered the formula. Often times, the formula was late being delivered, even by just a few minutes, resulting in the mother being accused of “not following a feeding schedule”. When family members attempted to assist with feeding or diaper changes, they were reprimanded by hospital staff and reminded that they could not touch Bella, it was her mother’s responsibility. This meant that she had to constantly be by Bella’s side and was unable to leave to take showers or retrieve food from downstairs. Only breastfeeding mothers were allowed food trays from the cafeteria, so she was only eating once per day at best, and did not sleep during the stay.
A family member, or on occasion parents of roommates would deliver coffee to the room so the mother could stay awake and be able to function to satisfy the hospital’s requests. At one point, Bella’s mother had consumed 17 coffees and stayed awake for 48 hours to fully comply. A nurse at the hospital had told Bella’s mother that due to limited space, parents often slept in bed with their children. She refused to do this due to Bella’s age and advisories against co-sleeping.
The DCF investigator permitted the mother to travel 30 minutes to the closest family member’s home to take a shower and a “quick nap”. She was later reprimanded for leaving hospital grounds. On the evening of May 1st, the paternal family member who had returned to the hospital as moral support suffered a medical emergency and was transported to Brigham and Women’s hospital for emergency treatment. The overnight nurse encouraged Bella’s mother to “go check on” the family member and had just asked that she come back in time for feeding. Due to Bella’s age, and the mother not wanting to leave her unattended in the room, she asked the medical staff if they could take her into the nursing office to ensure she was being watched. They agreed, but apparently left her unattended in her hospital room. When the Mother returned less than one hour later, 30 minutes before feeding time, she found Bella alone in the hospital room, and no nurses in sight.
A nurse returned with a bottle approximately 10 minutes before scheduled feeding and insisted she would pass a note along to ensure the milk was to be delivered early to avoid any late feedings. When the next scheduled feeding time approached, the mother patiently waited for formula to be delivered, and approximately 10 minutes past feeding time, rang the nurses station to find out what was going on. When the morning nurse entered with the bottle, the mother was reprimanded and told the formula was not to be delivered automatically as that is “prompting a mother to do their job”. She was encouraged to be more proactive and call ahead for the formula.
Finally drained and exhausted, the mother decided to lay down and set an alarm on the phone in case she were to fall asleep, which by this point she feared due to the expectations laid out by the hospital. Knowing that the treatment team always came in by 9:30am to discuss the day’s plan, the mother set her alarm at 8:43 AM to go off at 9:15AM. She ended a phone call with Bella’s grandmother at 8:48 and kissed her sleeping baby before lying down on the pull out couch to rest. Moments after closing her eyes, she heard the door open and assumed it was the nurse coming to check vitals, or assist the patient adjacent to Bella. Feeling as though she was being watched, she opened her eyes to the social worker hovering above her, holding a still sleeping Bella and was asked “what’s the matter? You don’t hear your baby when she cries?” At this time, the phone said 9:06 AM and Bella had not even woken up.
At 9:20AM on May 2nd, the treatment team entered the room with a plan for the day. It was decided that Bella would continue to be monitored for weight gain throughout the weekend and they expressed satisfaction with her current weight gain. The plan was to be discharged home the following Monday. Later that day, a nurse entered to inform the mother that the clinical social worker was looking to meet with her. Shortly thereafter, the mother entered the hallway which was adjacent to the nurses’ station to request formula as the calls from the room went unanswered. There she found the social worker who was explaining to a nurse that she had immense concerns for the well-being of a patient and unbeknownst to mother, they were discussing Bella. The Social Worker noticed the mother standing beside her and told her she wanted to meet with her before 5 o’clock. Wanting witnesses present at this meeting, Bella’s grandparents and aunt and uncle headed over to take part in this meeting.
The family was informed that the hospital’s child abuse team had met and we’re concerned that mother had left the hospital twice during the duration of Bella’s week long stay. Despite an incredible weight gain, the clinical social worker foresaw a great deterioration in the child’s health if she were to be discharged home. Family was informed a new 51A had been filed and DCF was on their way to meet with them.
Shortly after 6pm, two social workers from DCF arrived at the hospital and informed the family they would be taking emergency custody pursuant to Chapter 119 Section 51B meaning the the child was at risk of imminent danger, or immediate death if not removed from mother’s care promptly. Though Bella was gaining weight rapidly, the hospital changed her diagnosis from failure to thrive due to lack of calories to failure to thrive with no medical cause in a further attempt to support the bogus claims.
So began the battle for Bella.
Please familiarize yourself with how much this is occurring in America, and continue to follow the many similar stories occurring every day, across the country. Just as the Pelletiers could not take on this Goliath alone, neither can ANY of these other families.
SIGN the Parental Rights Petition HERE . . . BEFORE they come for you, and do what you can to share this story, and raise public awareness so these families don’t fight this Goliath alone.