These Parents Wrongly Lost Custody of Their Baby Over a Misdiagnosis

Siblings
Gina 'Amelia' Hodgkins/Facebook

When Gina Hodgkins gave birth to her second child, Teddy, she quickly learned that her newborn was colicky. To help ease her baby boy's discomfort, this mom from the United Kingdom would sit him up after every feeding and hold under his chin with her fingers cupped to support his jaw. Then she'd pat his back as he sat upright in her lap to help the milk go down. This is a common routine for many moms, but it's this ritual that also got Hodgkins and her partner, Joshua Sparkes, arrested.

  • When Teddy was 6 weeks old, his mom took him to the doctor for a checkup

    Hodgkins first noticed something was potentially wrong with Teddy immediately after his birth when his body looked bruised. "The nurse reassured me it was normal, and was a result of him getting a bit squashed during delivery," Hodgkins told the Daily Mail. "But it hadn't been a forceps birth, so I was surprised."

    Weeks later, he still had two marks on his cheeks, so she brought up her concerns at his checkup. "I was taking him to be weighed at 6 weeks old and the health visitor asked if I had any concerns," she said. "I showed her the bruises and she said: 'Yes, I was about to ask you what they were.'"

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  • The doctor called social services and told Hodgkins to go home and wait.

    According to Hodgkins, two social workers and multiple police officers arrived at her house an hour later. "When they arrived, I was on the sofa with Teddy on me, asleep," Hodgkins said. "The female officer asked me to turn him round, so she could see him. As soon as she saw his face, she told me she was arresting me on suspicion of ABH [actual bodily harm]. Joshua got upset and tried to intervene. I was hugging Teddy to my chest as they were coming closer."

    They allowed her to strap Teddy into his car seat and said that they wouldn't handcuff her if she didn't put up a fight. "I cried all the way to the police station," she said. "All I could think was, 'What the hell is going on?'"

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  • Teddy and his sister were removed from their parents' care as Hodgkins and Sparkes were arrested.

    After Hodgkins was arrested for ABH, 6-year-old Amelia was placed in emergency foster care and Teddy was taken to the hospital. Sparkes was allowed to accompany Teddy, but upon further investigation, doctors found found additional bruising on his legs and wrists that they classified as possible evidence of abuse. 

    "I told them Teddy was born with red marks covering his limbs and that he had a bleed on the eye when he was born -- another symptom of easy bruising -- but they didn't listen," Sparkes said. ".... They put me in handcuffs in the hospital and walked me out through A&E. It was horrible. People were staring at me. In the police car back to the station, I was shaking with anger and shock."

  • The distraught parents missed out on months of their young kids' lives.

    After they were released on bail, Sparkes and Hodgkins were allowed to see the kids once a week for an hour during supervised visits. 

    "It was awful," Hodgkins said. "We didn't want to cry in front of the children, but when they left, we blubbed our eyes out. I was always worried Teddy wouldn't recognize me the next time he saw me, and Amelia would kick and scream when it was time to go."

    Amelia was allowed to come home after five weeks, but Teddy was moved to a relative's care. "[Hodgkins] would say, 'I can't do this any more. I can't live without my children,'" Sparkes said. "She'd recently given birth and now her baby had been wrenched away from her. Trying to explain to Amelia why she couldn't come home was very hard. We just said the authorities had to find out where Teddy's bruises came from and when they found out, she'd be able to come home."

    As investigators were still looking into the case, Hodgkins's mom realized that there might be a different reason for the bruises found on her grandson's body that had nothing to do with abuse. There was a family history of bruising, and Hodgkins and her siblings had been diagnosed with a rare genetic condition -- Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, or EDS.

    This connective tissue disorder is typically characterized as joints and skin that can be stretched further than normal as well as fragile tissue. According to The Ehlers-Danlos Society, a common symptom includes skin that tears easily with bruising that can be severe. 

    The family had to wait weeks for the judge to approve their request to have genetic testing done, and the results came back four months after Teddy was originally removed from his home.

  • Both Hodgkins and Teddy were diagnosed with the rare genetic condition, and charges against the family were dropped.

    A doctor wrote to the Surrey County Council explaining that both Hodgkins and Teddy likely carry the EDS gene, which is "the most plausible explanation" for the baby's bruising. The charges were dropped and Teddy was reunited with his parents. The judge involved in the case also apologized for the ordeal.

    "My son and daughter were taken away from me when I did nothing wrong," Hodgkins said. "I lost five months' bonding during a formative time in their lives. I can never get that back," Hodgkins said. ".... When Teddy came back, I didn't know his routine. It took a while, but we found it again together. He'd got used to a different mum putting him to bed, another voice tucking him in and saying, 'Good night.' I don't think I’ll ever truly recover from that."

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  • Hodgkins doesn't blame social services or police and is just happy to have her babies back.

    Local police also commented on the parents' arrest. "We understand the significant impacts that these cases have on all those involved," Surrey Police said in a statement. "Our priority is always to protect children and ensure their safety when alerted to potential risk. These decisions are not taken lightly and we work closely with children services to ensure the best outcome for the child."