Knowing How To Spot Munchausen Syndrome

Many of you have probably seen the show on Hulu called The Act. As an ex child abuse investigator, I have been pretty vocal on knowing what and when to report child abuse. This morning we are going to talk about learning how to report abuse and when normal isn’t normal.

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One of my most emotional cases dealt with a young mother who nearly mastered the art of deception. The case was centered around a toddler who was subject to multiple surgeries and needless test. By the time I entered the picture the mother had started keeping a visual log of photos detailing her abuse. I still remember seeing the enormous stack of photos and having a chill of sudden fear run down my spine.

I’ll never know why she kept so many photos of her son detailing every sick moment. My gut tells me that she was going to use those photos as a reason to assign death at a later date. We are talking about hundreds of photos with nothing but sickness and a detailed walk down torture lane. She knew the right words, she knew the right people, but she got a little too overconfident in the end.

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In the end I got my butt chewed off by our lawyers and the judge because I did something most investigators would never do, I went against the hospital by forcing their hand in learning the truth. When I got the case this child was slowly dying, he wasn’t gaining weight, and he was on a pure liquid diet. I had to threaten hospital social workers in order to keep him safe, but by the end of three weeks, I had all medical proof I needed.

His vitals rebounded, he gained well into the 50th percentile and he was now starting to eat by mouth. The child I saw weeks ago couldn’t sit up and he couldn’t wave at me. Now he was now able to walk around the hospital room and give me his toy trucks. We were awarded custody of him, but we couldn’t get the DA to sign off on charges of child abuse due to them not knowing much about the Munchausen Syndrome.

Two things could have saved this kid a lot of pain and heartache. The first thing is having a medical professional call in a case prior to him being nearly 4 or 5. By the time I stepped in, he had already been to quite a few hospitals. All of the doctors said they suspected something was off. They were taking notes, but the mother moved from place to place.

Correspondence is key when you are dealing with someone who suffers from this syndrome. If these hospitals would have linked up a year ago, this child would have been removed a lot sooner. Another provider stated that she felt like they were being forced into performing surgeries by the parent. The parent knew just enough medical terminology to fake symptoms and syndromes.

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This child was surrounded by medical personnel but it took years for someone to call in the abuse. Remember you work for the child. If you are an investigator , be diligent. I know the department presses you to close cases due to numbers, but life surpasses any number system. If you feel like something feels wrong, investigate it. Do not close that case until YOU are sure that child is safe.

Lastly, never assume that certain people can’t be abusers. If you saw little Todd walking and eating three months ago and now every time you see him he has a sippy cup in hand, ask why. If you babysit this child and he eats for you, but the mother swears that he can’t eat, ask why. If you still feel like something is off, call CPS. You just might be saving a life.

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How Are You Rating Your Quality Time

Families are made up of so many different things. With each family comes a set of unique illustrations that paint that family’s life from within. Trauma seems to add new details and sections to the dynamics which can ultimately alter how families are able to coexist among each other. It is at the end of the school year, and we have come to the conclusion that we are still dealing with the tremors of trauma from five years ago.

If the event would have been an earthquake, you would have expected to see small tremors that popped up some years ago. However, it seems as though the tremors are harmonic in nature and ever reaching. We were finally able to have a real heart to heart with our 13 year old. Yes, I said the 13 year old. She was 8 when her sister was attacked and my oldest was 16. In many ways we focused so much and so hard on the recovery process for one child that we nearly lost the other two.

My eldest has been living in Florida for nearly six months now. It makes me sad to write this because I don’t know how much I missed when it comes to being there for the 13 year old. For the past five years while I was trying to save one daughter, I was slowly letting the other two drift away. After having a real heart to heart, my baby finally opened up and told me how she felt.

She informed me that there were nights that she would just lay in her room crying because she felt like we didn’t see her. No parent ever wants to hear that, you do not want to hear that you were a shit parent. I think I did what my parents did in many ways. I tried to bring in things to make up for not being there. We had the season tickets to Six Flags, great hiking adventures, and even trips to craters. We were really trying to meet that quality time quota that so many of us play towards.

Now, we are looking at quality time in a much different way. It’s about those trips to markets that result in instant bright face appreciation as well as those moments of tenderness because some boy has broken her heart. It’s about telling her how much we love her each and every night and telling her no matter the outcome, she will overcome. In my mind, I still see her as

this little one. This picture was taken on some random day at the park. We decided to ditch the normal routine after school and have a play date. Don’t make the mistake that we made and think that quality time has to be something like below.

Hiking in the mountains.

Going to ballet.

Mining in dormant volcanoes.

It can be anything as simple as just watching your kids walk ahead of you at the park. If you are anything like my family, you are still trying to work out the kinks. We are moving in a better direction, but that direction now comes with open eyes. It’s not always easy after you take off the rose colored glasses, but it’s something that you can’t ignore. Don’t miss those moments.