On a cool winter day, late afternoon casts a creepy, lonely light across a little girl's bedroom. Madeline sits waiting for a tea party. A row of Disney princesses lines a bed that's never been slept in.

Carol Dunlavy spends a lot of time alone in here, one of two bedrooms in an apartment in north Scottsdale. Sometimes she cleans. Sometimes she brings in a magazine and reads. Sometimes she just sits.

It's been more than five months since Dunlavy lost custody of Sarah, her 2-year-old daughter. She stopped counting at 134 days.

Brian Stauffer
Jamie Peachey
A fingerpainting made by Sarah for her mother, Carol Dunlavy.
Jamie Peachey
A fingerpainting made by Sarah for her mother, Carol Dunlavy.
Jamie Peachey
Jamie Peachey
Jamie Peachey

"I couldn't keep doing it because every time I woke up I would think, 'There's another day,'" she says. "I'd watch the clock for hours until it got to 8:30 and I knew she'd be getting down to sleep."

She tries not to watch the clock during the two hours a week she now gets with Sarah, visits held not at home but at the food court at Arrowhead Mall, halfway between her apartment and Sarah's father's home.

Child Protective Services took Sarah (not her real name) away after doctors suggested that Dunlavy might suffer from Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, an incredibly rare and fascinating psychological condition in which an adult makes a child sick — often leading to invasive procedures on the child — in order to get attention from medical personnel.

It's the kind of case you'd see on a Law & Order rerun, a mother sneaking into her baby's hospital room late at night to inject an IV with poison, then standing by, showing concern, as doctors and nurses swarm. But it's not the kind of case doctors see very often in real life, and it's almost impossible to diagnose.

And in this case, CPS didn't do even the bare minimum it would have required to prove Dunlavy had Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy — or, for that matter, that she was putting her child in harm's way at all.

In Sarah's situation, the concern began with feeding problems she developed when she was 8 months old. Instead of medical procedures, Sarah had many hours each week of therapy, much of it provided by the state's Department of Developmental Disabilities. In the end, CPS (both DDD and CPS come under the umbrella of the state's Department of Economic Security) said doctors claimed Dunlavy was trying to get a feeding tube surgically inserted in her daughter's stomach. In fact, medical records document that Dunlavy was adamant the tube was not necessary.

A pediatrician who'd spent just 20 minutes with Sarah and Dunlavy was the one who first suggested Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy. His colleagues ran with it. So did CPS.

When CPS came to Dunlavy's door to let her know they were taking Sarah away, they didn't have all the answers. That's not surprising, and technically, it's okay. When she took office, Governor Janet Napolitano made CPS a priority, and her mandate was — and is — to put the child's rights ahead of the parent's. Take the child first, ask questions later.

But later never happened.

The most basic questions still weren't answered, yet Carol Dunlavy lost custody of her daughter. Permanently.

The case was dismissed in January. No criminal charges were ever filed against Carol Dunlavy. But still, Sarah was sent to live with a father she barely knew, and Dunlavy never got her day in court.

While they didn't follow their protocol, CPS was obviously determined to get Dunlavy — for something. The charges against her changed four times in 10 weeks, from neglect (although Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy was suspected from the beginning) to MSBP to mental illness and, finally, "excessive care."

In the end, Dunlavy's greatest sin appears to be a lie she told long before Sarah was conceived, to a guy she was trying to impress. She'd claimed to have a degree in psychology (often, those who suffer from Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy are medical personnel).

Dunlavy and her attorney, Jennifer Morse, a former assistant attorney general who represented CPS for five years and is now in private practice, agreed to tell their story to New Times.

New Times is not naming Sarah's father, in order to protect the child's identity; the two share a surname. He did not respond to a letter asking for his comment. His attorney did not return a phone call or e-mail asking for comment.

CPS officials also refused to comment, citing confidentiality, although there is a law on the books that allows them to weigh in if a case has already been made public. Lauren Lowe, the assistant attorney general in the case, declined comment, as did Phoenix Children's Hospital and other doctors and therapists contacted for this story. And juvenile court proceedings are secret.

New Times did obtain hundreds of pages of documents — including Sarah's medical records from birth until her removal from Dunlavy's custody — as well as CPS and court documents.

The voluminous records in this case speak for themselves, and what they say is that CPS violated its own policies every step of the way:

• The agency never interviewed all Sarah's doctors and therapists from birth, and no one from the state interviewed Dunlavy until the middle of January, three months after Sarah had been taken.

• No one ever interviewed Dunlavy's family and friends, although that's required, too.

• CPS also dragged its heels on getting access to Sarah's medical records; it took the agency two months to get them.

• CPS never consulted a Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy expert. According to the agency's policy, an expert must be included in all critical decisions in the case, including the initial accusation and the removal of the child, and must be able to review the child's medical records from birth.

Phoenix Children's Hospital has some questions to answer, too. Although the hospital's final report on Sarah stated no feeding problems were ever observed in the child during her stay there (which would have been a key indication that Dunlavy was fabricating symptoms), the medical record states otherwise — time after time — in notes taken by PCH doctors and nurses. And while the medical records clearly show that Dunlavy repeatedly refused to allow a surgically placed feeding tube, PCH said she wanted it — another damning sign.

Then there's the court system. Dunlavy never received a hearing in the matter, and she still lost her parental rights.

Attorney Jennifer Morse was shocked. She was even more surprised that the court never called out CPS and Lowe, the assistant AG on the case. (Lowe passed the Bar exam in 2005; part of the problem, Morse guesses, is a lack of experience.) In any case, Morse worries the case sets a precedent for CPS' intervention in basic decisions that parents have a right to make about their kids.

"It's very subjective, how a parent views their child. For a new parent, a child with a 104-degree fever might be dying. For someone with a couple kids, they're not worried," she says. "Neither is better than the other."

But in this case, the state issued orders against a mother because of the medical decisions she made for her daughter. And it did so without the full story.

"The consequences for CPS are really dire," Morse adds. "The idea that CPS can go in and decide which parent they like better, it's really scary."

Carol Dunlavy was a young divorcée from Glasgow, Scotland — sweet-natured, with pretty blond hair and big, blue eyes — when she met the man who would eventually be Sarah's father.

The two met in the Valley. Dunlavy had moved here with her first husband. She was immediately impressed by her new boyfriend's upbringing and what she saw as his high-status career as a veterinary surgeon.

Dunlavy comes from a blue-collar, suburban family. Her dad is an engineer and her mom is a secretary. Worried this guy wouldn't be impressed by her job in customer service and her humble upbringing, Dunlavy lied. Though she never completed college, she told him she was a child psychologist. He seemed impressed. After the words were out of her mouth, Dunlavy thought they sounded pretty good — she continued to tell the lie to new people she met for the next four years.

"It was to impress him because he was of a higher social standing than I was. I didn't know it would play into anything later," she says now. "It did make me feel better about myself. I felt important and respected more."

They dated for two years. Then Dunlavy discovered she was pregnant. Her boyfriend was not happy, and they broke up. He agreed to provide her with a house, a car, and money to support the child while she was on maternity leave. He considered moving into the spare bedroom at the house to help her.

But after Sarah was born in July 2005, Dunlavy's life became more difficult. The father didn't move in to help out. Dunlavy's job was outsourced while she was on maternity leave. Sarah had colic and later, Dunlavy would learn, acid reflux — she cried and vomited all the time. And Dunlavy's family was a world away. The new mother was overwhelmed. On one occasion, frightened by two hours of nonstop crying by her 2-month-old daughter, Dunlavy took her to the emergency room.

Sarah was fine — just colicky and constipated — but Dunlavy needed someone to tell her so.

After the ER trip, there weren't many more visits to the doctor, outside of vaccinations and the occasional call for advice. Dunlavy joined three parenting groups and enrolled Sarah in all kinds of classes: swimming, music, Little Gym.

But the problems with acid reflux and feeding that surfaced when Sarah was a few weeks old persisted. She had trouble gaining weight, though she continued to grow taller. In December 2006, when Sarah was 17 months old, her pediatrician referred her to a pediatric gastroenterologist at St. Joseph's Hospital, to help manage her acid reflux.

A couple of months later, other problems emerged. Though she was a year and a half old, Sarah said only three words, total. (By this age most children ask simple questions and form short phrases like "What's that?" or "No more.") She didn't close her mouth, causing her to drool constantly, and she had a hard time getting along with other kids. An instructor in one of Dunlavy's parenting groups suggested she have Sarah evaluated by the state's early- intervention program, designed to provide services for children under 3 who have a chance of winding up with developmental delays.

She followed the advice and, in March 2007, an evaluation indicated that, indeed, Sarah had significant developmental delays with regard to speech and feeding.

According to the state, Sarah needed therapy to prevent permanent problems. Dunlavy jumped right on it. Now she wonders whether she should have.

"They told me there was stuff wrong and I did everything I could to fix it," she says. "There's no way of winning. If I hadn't taken her to the therapies I would have been charged with what? Neglect. I take her to the therapies and what do I get charged with? Neglect."

But according to the therapists who evaluated Sarah, Dunlavy did the right thing. Between March and June of last year, Sarah was evaluated by speech pathologists and occupational therapists at six different agencies, including Phoenix Children's Hospital, and Effecti­Com, an agency run by highly regarded speech pathologist Robin Rudin.

Every report mentioned Sarah's low muscle tone, expressive-language delay, and feeding problem. Every therapist recommended six months to a year of therapy to resolve the problems.

Dunlavy was getting Sarah's five hours a week of therapy paid for by the state, and her mother helped her finance three more privately funded hours a week. She also set up a playroom in her house modeled after what she saw her daughter doing in occupational therapy.

"I can't tell you how many of those therapists told me the objective was to get the child okay by the time she started kindergarten," she says. "You know you have a window and you do everything you can."

Later, when Dunlavy was charged with "excessive care," the hours of therapy and the home playroom came back to haunt her. Though the state mandated, via DDD, that Sarah receive therapy, the state also later said, via CPS, that it was too much, a point that Dunlavy finds especially confusing.

"The therapy I got that was extra was because it was helping and she was getting better," she says. "I didn't want her to get picked on or end up with a speech difficulty. It wasn't like she was being electrocuted — it was speech therapy."

Trudy Norman-Murch (who does not know Dunlavy or the details of this case) is the director of services for children with disabilities at Southwest Human Development, an agency that contracts with the state to provide therapy services. She says it's impossible to say how much therapy is too much — it depends on the child — but early intervention is key.

"Children need a lot of practice and the job is to help the parent figure out natural opportunities," she says. "The speech pathologist isn't going to be there to feed your child every day. The goal is to figure out what strategies will help and use them every day."

And it's not unusual for a child to wind up in therapy these days. Michelle Macias is the director of developmental-behavioral pediatrics at the Medical University of South Carolina and chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics' developmental-behavioral section. She says there has been an increase in the number of children under 3 who receive some kind of therapy since 1987, when a federal early-intervention law was passed requiring states to set up programs like Arizona Early Intervention Program.

"We know it has increased. There's no question about it," she says. "It's increased because of better detection. The earlier you detect, the earlier the intervention, the better the outcome. The therapists are helping them to prevent bad patterns from developing."

Macias says those bad patterns are especially common in children, like Sarah, who have feeding issues — they can simply forget how to eat, especially once they get a percutaneous endoscopic gastronomy feeding tube — or PEG tube — such as the one Dunlavy was trying to avoid. According to Macias, a lot of confusion surrounds feeding problems, partly because they are subtle, partly because not enough research has been done on them.

But there's no doubt about it — more kids just like Sarah are in therapy than ever before. And it's sanctioned (and paid for) by the government.

"People think, 'Well, they'll just learn to eat.' You would be amazed at how fast kids who have feeding problems lose that ability," she says. "It doesn't automatically get better at all. You really have to start early with feeding issues. No question about it."

Sarah began to improve. Her speech was getting better, but her eating was still irregular.

"[She] tends to panic easily and will reject a food rather than sitting down and figuring out how to work with the food," speech therapist Robin Rudin wrote in June.

Her projectile vomiting had stopped, and Rudin thought that might be linked to her failure to gain weight.

"Mom has noted that [the child's] decline in appetite seems tied into her decreased reflux. It appears possible that [the child] has learned that her stomach feels better if she doesn't eat. Now that she eats very little she does not have trouble with vomiting," Rudin wrote in September.

This theory was never fully explored. Instead, worried that his patient gained only one pound between December 2006 and September 2007, the gastroenterologist suggested Sarah might need a feeding tube. The procedure places a PEG tube in the patient's stomach, allowing liquefied food to go directly into the body. The surgery can be performed two ways — through the mouth, using an endoscope to guide the tube to the stomach wall, or by surgical insertion of the tube through the skin.

Dunlavy was horrified.

"I didn't want the PEG in my child," she says. "I wanted to try everything else, I wanted [a more intense] feeding therapy program."

In an effort to avoid the tube, Sarah underwent minor surgery in early September that clipped the skin underneath her tongue. Before the surgery, it extended farther than normal, restricting her tongue's motion. The clip was performed by Dr. John Raines, who noted he didn't think it would help her gain weight and suggested Dunlavy talk to a friend of his, gastroenterologist Mitchell Shub at Phoenix Children's Hospital.

Dunlavy visited Shub on September 26 to talk about the feeding tube. She was still hoping to avoid it, but Shub thought Sarah was a good candidate for the PEG.

In his report, Shub writes, "I believe that placement of a percutaneous gastronomy feeding tube would be helpful in maintaining good nutritional support."

He spent 75 minutes urging Dunlavy to agree and suggested the child could be evaluated as an inpatient first. She remained unconvinced but agreed that an evaluation might be a good idea.

The report was sent to Sarah's pediatrician, Kevin Berger.

The family was new to Berger's office. Dunlavy had switched primary-care physicians in August because she'd heard he had a good reputation working with DDD clients. She was hoping he'd be able to guide her through Sarah's difficulties and help her get things like Pediasure — one of the child's main sources of nutrition — paid for through her insurance. They met for the one and only time at a new patient evaluation.

Dunlavy liked Berger. She describes it as a basic appointment. Sarah sang her ABCs and pointed out colors on the wall.

"He didn't give me any impression he thought there was something wrong," Dunlavy says. She briefed him on her daughter's medical history and he noticed Sarah had pinkeye. (Dunlavy hadn't see it because pinkeye can be difficult to detect.) He prescribed eye drops and the appointment was over in 20 minutes.

Dunlavy had no further contact with his office until October 10, when two of her daughter's therapists at Scottsdale Fiesta Pediatric Therapy noticed something unusual. Several times during the session, Sarah stopped what she was doing, stuck her arms out, and shook for about 10 seconds.

They reported what they called "shuddering spells" to Dunlavy, who wasn't in the room during the session, and suggested she have her daughter checked by a neurologist.

Dunlavy called Berger's office and left a message for him. Later that day she was told to bring Sarah to Phoenix Children's Hospital, where she would be evaluated for both the shuddering spells and also her feeding issues, as Shub had suggested at their consultation.

She followed their instructions, but she had no idea what was going on behind the scenes. Between her first phone call and Sarah's arrival at the hospital, Berger called Phoenix Children's and made a very serious allegation.

He wanted the hospital to evaluate Dunlavy for Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, though the note made in Sarah's medical records does not say why.

(Interestingly, the two therapists who first noticed the shudders — and who had been treating Sarah for more than six months, at that point — were never consulted when the MSBP diagnosis was made. Not by the doctors at Phoenix Children's Hospital, and not by CPS.)

Twelve days later, Dunlavy lost her daughter.

She never suspected a thing, but Carol Dunlavy and Sarah were under constant surveillance at Phoenix Children's Hospital.

The hospital would not comment on her case, nor would it answer questions about Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy. Debra Stevens, a spokeswoman for the hospital, did say the hospital has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to child abuse.

In Dunlavy's situation, it's difficult to determine from the records exactly what she was doing wrong.

The accusations made against her by CPS claim she wanted to expose her daughter to unnecessary medical procedures, like the feeding tube.

But Dunlavy made it clear she didn't want the surgery for her daughter from the moment it was brought up, a fact documented in reports from both GI surgeons she visited and the admitting physician at PCH who wrote, "Mom says she would rather not see her child get a PEG tube."

Yet on October 26, forensic pediatrician Jennifer Geyer wrote a report recommending the child's removal and accusing Dunlavy of pushing for the tube.

"I am concerned that [the child] may have progressed to surgery if there had been no intervention," she wrote, despite a report written only one month earlier from a GI doctor at the same hospital stating otherwise.

The doctors at PCH also accused Dunlavy of lying about seizures in her child. While Sarah was admitted to find out what caused the shudders observed by her therapists, the admitting documents show Dunlavy never said the word seizure. She still just calls them "shudders."

The hospital found no evidence of epileptic activity, though it did record two shuddering episodes, which have never been explained.

Because Sarah was hooked up to an EEG, to monitor her brain activity and detect seizures, the room was under video surveillance — though notes show this was used more to watch Dunlavy than to monitor the child.

During the hospital stay, controversy constantly swirled around Sarah's eating habits. She was put on a strict feeding plan — too strict, in Dunlavy's opinion. She worried her daughter wouldn't eat anything, and notes do show behavior typical of Sarah's fussy eating habits. Sometimes she would eat a few bites, but she was just as likely to throw her pancakes or use her fruit slices as building blocks. She did this whether or not her mother was in the room.

Dunlavy decided she didn't want to follow the strict plan and made it known that if her daughter asked for something to eat, she was going to give it to her, even if it wasn't on the menu.

"My view was, why don't you feed her what she normally eats? And then you can see what her normal intake is," she says. "When she didn't eat, I wanted to be allowed to give her other things like ice cream to fatten her up."

She was caught on camera doing so. A nurse's note from October 20, 2007, says, "RN got call from video monitor today said mom is feeding patient bagel and milk via sippy cup."

A note from the attending pediatrician that same day indicates there was no medical reason why Sarah's diet couldn't be expanded.

Another note accuses Dunlavy of throwing a diaper away. Under the feeding plan, Dunlavy was supposed to weigh and save all diapers. She acknowledges she put it in the trash but says she wasn't trying to hide it from doctors; she'd just forgotten. By this point, there was so much controversy over the plan, in general, that the diaper incident was regarded with great suspicion.

Boston-based psychologist Eric Mart, a national expert on Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, says this is common in cases where MSBP is alleged.

"One thing you see frequently is that these allegations often come up after there's an altercation between the parent and doctor," he says. "Next thing you know, it's Munchausen."

On October 22, the doctors decided they had enough evidence to remove the child from her mother's care. Up until this day, her father had not been very active in Sarah's life. He'd come by the house to see her on occasion, but medical records show he admitted in an interview with a PCH speech therapist his lack of involvement.

Records also show he became very concerned about Sarah after the allegations CPS made against her mother.

The thing is, nothing about the child's feeding behavior changed after Dunlavy was out of the picture.

Notes indicate Sarah was just as disinterested in eating with her dad as she was with her mom: "Secondary to dad's surprise arrival, patient lost all interest in food . . . as soon as patient saw cafeteria she started crying and said, 'No, no!' Sat on dad's lap and took one bite of grilled cheese. Patient was not interested in food.

But the final nail in Dunlavy's coffin was her big lie. For most of the time Sarah was in the hospital, the staff thought her mother was a child psychologist. To them, this meant she had the medical knowledge to fake an illness — a classic MSBP sign. Later, after the father was involved, he told them the child psychologist line was a lie. Lying or exaggeration are also MSBP red flags, and it made her look terrible in the hospital staff's eyes. Geyer reported there were concerns about her "deliberately deceitful" behavior.

Dunlavy never thought it would go so far.

"The only thing I ever said to the doctors that was not true was that I had a degree. I have self-esteem issues; I think that's pretty obvious. But I don't feel in my heart that because of what I told [her father] I deserve to lose my daughter," she says. "She was completely separate from that. It was 4 1/2 years before she was even born."

On the morning she lost her daughter, Dunlavy left the hospital, planning to go home, do some laundry, and get back to Sarah's bedside by afternoon.

Instead, at 10 a.m. there was a knock on her door. It was a CPS case manager, there to serve Dunlavy with a notice to remove her child. The official accusation: neglect.

Dunlavy doesn't remember the first moments after finding out. She says she stayed in a state of shock for days; she lost 16 pounds in two weeks.

She barely got to say goodbye. She was allowed to visit Sarah for one hour with her father's supervision.

According to hospital notes, when visiting hour was over, the child began to cry and say, "Don't want mommy and daddy to go." She was used to spending every night with her mom. She was in a new room where the hospital was using a pseudonym so Dunlavy couldn't find her. She had an ankle bracelet on — the kind that people on house arrest wear — so she couldn't leave the room.

"Do you know how horrific it was to see her like that? With an ankle bracelet on her?" asks Dunlavy.

Dunlavy began to cry.

"Can't I just stay with her until she calms down?" she asked the nurse.

She couldn't. She didn't see her daughter again for three weeks.

Though she was first accused of neglect, by October 30, CPS had changed its allegation to Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.

It's a loaded accusation. In the past few years, there has been some debate over the legitimacy of the diagnosis. Roy Meadow, the British pediatrician who coined the term, even lost his license in 2005 (see "Medical drama").

Eric Mart says first-time, worried moms such as Dunlavy are prime targets to be accused.

"There are a lot of single mothers who don't have anyone to help them with their baby, and the emergency room is always open," he says. "If no one else will help, they'll help."

The charges against her: taking the child to the doctor frequently, reporting her weight in the 16th percentile when it was in the 50th, testing her for allergies, withholding food at the hospital, and pushing for a feeding tube.

A review of the child's medical records — including those from PCH — shows the allegations are false or wildly exaggerated.

CPS granted physical custody to the father, with a court order to establish paternity through a test. There are hospital notes that indicate CPS intended for dad to get sole custody even before the first dependency meeting.

Dunlavy's court-appointed lawyer was Jennifer Morse, a veteran of CPS dependency cases.

On Halloween, instead of taking Sarah trick-or-treating, Dunlavy attended her preliminary protective hearing, the first step toward a dependency trial, where the state submits its probable cause evidence against the parent. In Arizona, hearsay is enough for probable cause — no hard evidence against Dunlavy was submitted at this hearing.

Morse says she assumed CPS had all Sarah's medical records, or at least her DDD file, on which to base their decision to remove Sarah from her mother's care.

They didn't. No one possessed any evidence beyond allegations at the first hearing, and in the coming weeks, no effort would be made to collect any.

According to the state's own policy, specific steps must be taken before a child is removed from a parent because of MSBP, including finding an expert to perform an evaluation, providing the expert with the child's complete medical records, and interviewing the parent, family members, friends, and the child's medical-care providers from birth.

Most of those steps never happened. When they did, it took months for CPS to perform them.

Morse needed medical records to help her build a case. She still hadn't gotten them from CPS, so Dunlavy collected them herself. Phoenix Children's Hospital would not release the record of Sarah's stay because Dunlavy no longer had custody.

"I requested them from the assistant attorney general. This was four weeks into it. Finally she called me and said she didn't think they had anything," says Morse. "I was stunned. I said, 'I don't understand. You have to have something. You at least need to have the file your sister division has.' She said no. She thought they had based their dependency on talking to people. They don't have any records."

Morse, who has litigated cases for CPS in the past, knew this was a gross breach in policy.

"What the AG was telling me was they hadn't talked to anybody or looked at any of the records," she says. "And then they made a decision to take the most extreme step, to take the child from her mom."

Morse says that without reading that medical history, it's easy to miss Sarah's complex difficulties. Failing to interview Dunlavy added to the confusion.

"They [didn't] know anything from October to January about her parenting," says Morse. "They completely violated their policy. If they had followed it, I don't think they would have filed."

Morse decided to file a motion to return the child, based on the notion that CPS hadn't done its job. She also decided Dunlavy needed to find her own MSBP expert.

They found Loren Pankratz, a renowned expert on the topic and a professor at Oregon Health and Sciences University. Dunlavy flew to Portland for the evaluation at the end of December.

His conclusion: Dunlavy does not have Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, or any other kind of mental illness.

"I view this accusation as a breakdown in the delivery of medical service," he writes in the report. "This is not a case of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy."

Dunlavy's dependency trial was slowly approaching and Morse was finding her client's case more and more bizarre. She couldn't figure out how CPS had decided to go as far as they did with it.

"It just seemed odd to me that there was this idea that the mother had made up the developmental disabilities," she says. "Because in order to get into the DDD program for Arizona Early Intervention, it can't just be the parent [saying there's a problem]. There has to be objective criteria," she says. "Not every child between zero and 3 is accepted."

In early January, Sarah's father got paternity test results back that proved he was her father. Immediately, the assistant AG filed a motion to dismiss the case and affirm the temporary orders that placed Sarah in her father's custody. She argued there was no need for a dependency trial now that it was clear the child had at least one fit parent.

Morse didn't respond right away. She already had trial dates set, and, because it was a case of the state against Dunlavy, not the father against the mother, she knew the dependency trial had to go on.

On January 10, 2008, Dunlavy agreed to an interview with the guardian ad litem (basically, Sarah's attorney), Lauren Hatfield. This was the first time anyone from the state interviewed Dunlavy.

At the meeting, Hatfield told Dunlavy and Morse she was concerned Dunlavy had "excessively cared" for the child and provided her with too much therapy.

"I argued that really wasn't for them to decide. It's something for the parent to decide," says Morse. "The child isn't going to be hurt by a speech therapist."

Dunlavy didn't know how to take it.

"I have no idea what law that is, but obviously, you can lose your child," she says. "So if anyone is out there and they care too much for their child, they better watch out."

The day before the dependency trial, Morse filed several motions. One was in response to the AG's motion to dismiss, which called on the state to give Sarah to her dad. She argued it was impossible to dismiss the case and just give the father custody. It violated Dunlavy's due process rights to award custody without a hearing.

She also filed a motion to dismiss the case because CPS had taken Sarah away without a good-faith basis to do so, and then had failed to follow its own policies while investigating the case.

So, on January 29, the day of the trial, Commissioner Joan Sinclair had three choices.

She could side with the AG and give custody to dad. She could side with Morse and return everyone to the position they were in before the state took Sarah. Or she could decide to go ahead with the trial, hear the evidence, and then make a decision.

Morse argued that Sinclair really had only two choices because she felt the AG's request was legally impossible.

"If you're going to change the mother's legal position to her child, then she has a right to be heard," she says.

Sinclair took a recess and came back with her decision 22 minutes later.

Morse was stunned. The judge dismissed the dependency petition and released the child to her father's custody, making orders against Dunlavy without reviewing any evidence — something with frightening implications for Arizona's CPS system.

"It's terrifying. It means that CPS doesn't have to investigate," Morse says. "They can make allegations, they can go in and decide which parent they like better, and take the child."

Dunlavy has decided to fight.

"I must have been the only person in Arizona who ever wanted to go to trial," she says, "because I knew they violated all their policies."

"Everybody gets a hearing in juvenile court. There are parents who are incarcerated for life who are allowed to protest dependency — murderers, rapists, and child molesters — they have a constitutional right to parent, so everyone gets a hearing," she says. "And she just didn't."

Morse has stayed on as Dunlavy's attorney and two other Phoenix lawyers, Tom Ryan and Deshon Pullen, have signed on pro bono to guide her through an appeal in family court. (The attorney general recently filed a motion to dismiss the appeal.)

Dunlavy and her attorneys are also discussing whether to file a civil suit against the state.

Life does go on. Dunlavy has enrolled in school at Scottsdale Community College to get the degree she lied about having.

Neither Dunlavy nor Morse has access to medical information that would tell them whether Sarah's weight has increased, or whether her feeding problems have been resolved. They do know she never got the PEG tube. And Dunlavy knows that Sarah is still in speech and occupational therapy at Phoenix Children's Hospital because they're still sending her the bills. (Berger also sent a bill recently, although his office didn't say what it was for.)

Dunlavy reports that her daughter does a pretty good job on her peanut butter and jelly sandwich and cookie when they're together for their visits at the food court at Arrowhead Mall.

Correction (posted April 24, 2008): It should have been reported that Maricopa County Superior Court Commissioner Joan Sinclair made the final decision on January 29 to dismiss Carol Dunlavy's dependency hearing.

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Crosby exerted an important influence on the development of the postwar recording industry. In 1947, he invested $50,000 in the Ampex company, which developed North America's first commercial reel-to-reel tape recorder, and Crosby became the first performer to pre-record his radio shows and master his commercial recordings on magnetic tape.


sooo glad I live overseas. Our first baby was very sick starting at age 2 months (took me years to realize it was actually a vaccine reaction- she has IgA deficiency and was given an oral polio vaccine or maybe it was a neurlogical reaction to the DPT given at the same time, who knows, but chronic diarrhea, arching, constant crying, green poop...waking SCREAMING bloody murder after sleeping only 20 minute stretches...didn't know how abnormal all this was until we had 2 more children- I just lived under "Motherhood Is Difficult" mantra).

Anyway she was chronically ill and I gave up after 3 doctors told me there was "nothing" wrong with her. Well, fast forward 7 years and 3.5 years of biomedical treatment. She is 95% healed. Just some mild learning difficulties and mood problems. Nothing too severe but there is neurological residual damage. From PDD NOS diagnosis to regular kid. But I shudder to think how our life would've been different if I had had CPS or the WHITECOAT informants against us too!


No one mentioned if she filed an appeal. According to C.P.S. rules, and handbook instuctions, you have 14 days to file an appeal after receiving C.P.S. accusations. If there is no validation to their case, then the judge throws the case out, before it even gets to the central registry. I figure this is the reason for all the senceless harrasement at first, to cause you to not be focused, and perhaps miss your 14 day oppertunity window. But in other words if you don't file an appeal you are basically agreeing with C.P.S. about whatever they are accusing you of. Unless you are dealing with C.P.S. in Coolidge, Az. they get away with bribeing physologist here

Katharine Montagu
Katharine Montagu

What does this mean about the judge canceling the dependency hearing? Did this mother win back custody of her daughter or lose the opportunity to state her case?

What was the CPS response to this article?

A confusing end to this tragic story. I feel very sorry for this poor woman. Arizona CPS sounds dangerously incompetent and overwhelmed (based on this and other stories). I feel sorry for them, but in cases like this they are destroying people's lives.

CV Dirk
CV Dirk

In response to Robin (Comment #21). I am not associated with CPS, doctors, or lawyers. I do know the parents involved and have some details. All I care is what is best for the child. I could care less about the parents involved. I find that parents will always say what puts them in the best light. The kid tripped down the stairs that's why he broke his legs. Not I push the little bastard down the stairs because he took my weed. Are you all that stupid to believe that some parents don't deserve this. Let's get rid of CPS, save me some tax money. But who or what agency will look out for the children? Who wants to be brunt of all CPS nay sayers? What every agency is there, Parents will always complain. Robin are you a parent the CPS took your child away because you were doing meth while you boyfriend was having sex with your child. That is not right for me to make the general statement as for you saying cps workers are lazy and judges on the take. Yes Robin when I was a child I probably lied and I as an adult I probably lied to my wife when I said I was listening. But I have never lied about my career. I have ethics and honor. If you believe in your self there is no need to lie. To lie in matters of your child something is seriously wrong with this women. How you can defend this is beyond me. Finally, latest CPS item, a women who has 7 children with five different fathers, mother is doing Meth. Mother saids meth helps with raising children. Gee Robin should CPS take here children away from her? Do you think think the mother/fathers are doing a good parenting job. Do you know who many kids are involved with the legal system and how many CPS workers there are? Do you know the turn over rate in CPS? Robin and any one else who is complaining about CPS. Why don't you get a job with CPS and see how it really is, maybe you can make a difference. We need less talk and more action.

CV Dirk
CV Dirk

In response to Robin (Comment 21). The mother convinced the doctors with her so call "credentials" that the child needed a feeding tube. Yes her father did not have a tube put it in because IT WAS NOT NEEDED. How stupid can you be. This story is full of inaccuracies. The child is doing extremely well as of this moment. Isn't that what is important. Shouldn't we be focusing what is best for the children and not what is best for the parent. Parents will always do what every it takes to keep the children, love, lie, cheat, etc.. People listen good, CPS is not perfect at the same time Parents aren't perfect. If you find yourself up against CPS there is a reason. There has to be a reason. what you need to is look at yourself first before your children. Because if you don't have your act together how are you going be able take care of your child.

no name
no name

After reading the comments - OMG! You mean I'm NOT crazy!! I have dealt with CPS since October; didn't even FIND OUT UNTIL JANUARY that they had charges (false) against me! Now, they're trying to cover their booties and drag me through the coals, all the while the quotes keep being made by them are "we're just trying to help your family".

We are a normal family as all counselors have claimed (oh, and gee, we (even the lawyers) can't get a copy of those reports w/o subpoenas to CPS. There are no abuses of any sort here. Our lawyers (paid for by state - sorry) all advocate going full blown to trial. But what does that mean? Drag it out further? Be in the media?

Anyone who can advise to help us through this cr*p?

Name Withheld By Request
Name Withheld By Request

Unfornately this sounds like an all to common example of CPS's incompetence. Bywhat do you expect in a state where the "top cop" is a bigoted drug dealer. Keep up the great work New Times, and thank you for watching out the little guy and gal.


I can comment on "Both" sides of the story as I have dealt with Arizona CPS (Maricopa County Juvenile Court) since 1994. I have been a foster paretnt of 4 kids from a Meth Mom, given to me at ages 2,4, 6 and 8. Over a DECADE I received commendations regarding my care of these kids but I made a fatal error. I asked for 2 more of their siblings to be placed with me and be re-united with their siblings. This extremely angered CPS and caused me retaliation when I argued against them. I then went through very similar to this mother, to the point the last 2 children were removed from my home. I was amazed at the lack of due process, failure to get facts right, and when I successfully refuted one odd accusation, a new vague one would pop up. I was NEVER charged with anything!!!!~

The two court comissioners from Maricopa County only rubber stamped anything CPS ever said or did. Luckily for me I can afford a good attorney who gave me good advice.

As heavily as CPS acted against me and the extreme efforts they went to to prove me wrong, it all blew up in their faces. The children did not do better, they did dramatically worse. And CPS response? nothing. Even when one child's therapist told both a caseworker and their supervisor that the child's depression was now so bad that the child was suicidal (dec 07) CPS did NOTHING! In fact, as CPS had moved the 2 children, they were now getting no funds nor medical coverage!!!!! In over a year! Again CPS dropped another ball and NO caseworker was assigned for one child from August 2007 to March 2008...yes...NO Caseworker, NO services, NOTHING. I had to go to a different state to complain since NO ONE, in Arizona listened. That second state sent a scathing report back to the poor case management...CPS response? NOTHING. Forget about taking them from the only home they ever knew...what about helping these kids? NOTHING!

For those who defend CPS my experience is that CPS goes after the wrong people and leave no dime unspent to cover their actions(can I tell you they flew a drug addict dad monthly, paid his car rental, hotel room for 3 years..to see a kid he abandoned TWICE? And who then abandoned the kids a third time?)

Sadly, they leave obviously abusive and neglectful parents alone sometimes...How does this happen? because CPS (and the court) cares about CPS first...the Children are last on the list. After over a year we have solid documentation but the damage to the children has been done...by the very state the children are dependent on..Arizona. If Arizona were a parent NOT paying support or medical coverage for their OWN kids, they would have been in jail as a deadbeat long ago.


I would like to let readers know about a resource for families dealing with the child welfare system -- Rise, a magazine written by and for parents involved in the child welfare system, tells the true stories of parents to inform and support parents in advocating for themselves and their families. Rise is at www.risemagazine.org. If you would like to know more about how child welfare systems treat parents, read the stories in Rise.


Unbelievable, multi-million dollar lawsuit and every penny is deserved! CPS is a joke, they do nothing when kids are abused and rip children from an obviously loving parent for no reason. Overcared? What the hell is that supposed to mean? Seems like CPS undercared or doesn't care at all.


CPS has three key functions. Child safety. Family preservation. Family reunification. CPS workers are over worked and under paid. They do the best they can with the information they have to make certain that children are not abused or neglected. I find it hard to beleive that CPS would deliberatly lie and shred or destroy documents in order to remove a child from its parents. What would be the purpose? CPS workers are held accountable for their decisions. If they leave a child in an abusive situation they run the risk of losing their lisence (social workers are lisenced profesionals), losing their jobs, being sued for malpractice or being arrested. People need to understand that CPS workers are just trying to to their jobs.


There are many times CPS has saved children's lives. However, there must be due process. This isn't the only family they have done this to. An agency can't be judge and jury protected by the state to do as they please. Yet, there are some children that even though CPS is called they do nothing. There must be protocol there must be strict criteria for all not just whom they feel doesn't seem quite right. That was their basis for another family. Hmmm....maybe the fact that the CPS worker wanted adoption rights had nothing to do with it. If you are accused you deserve the right to be heard it's the law! Yes, the lie about her degree was a red flag, but what about refusing the g-tube (that would have been a great time to feed off attention), trying to feed her baby so she does gain weight (naturally, i think all mothers do that), what about all the professionals that agreed that she needed intervention??? GOD forbid she has MSBP, but if she doesn't she has the right to be heard.


in reading this article i feel for carol dunlavy. i know first hand the bs cps, acs,dhs what ever name they use in whatever town or city is full of crap. their job used to be to protect the abused kids. but when they were supposed to be doing it they werent and kids ended up dead. then the government goes in and say the policies will change and in reality all they change is their name. the workers are lazy and constantly dont do the job their paid to do. and when they get caught up they lie and of course its the parents who pay for the lie. it seems in this case here carol couldnt win because that 20 min doctor told a lie on her without knowing anything about her. and instead of it being investigated as it should have been. cps, the judges, and some doctors turned their backs on that child and the mother, as to you cv dirk. im sure the baby sarah has gained weight etc, as she getting the therapy the doctors recommended she get. the first set of doctors who did their jobs and examined her thoroughly. its obivous your either a friend of doctors, or a cps worker. and let me tell you something else. telling a lie about your job doesnt mean you lie about everything. if thats the case then im sure you cant look in the mirror with a clear conscience because everyone has lied at one time or another. does that make a bad parent or individual? no noto unless its being done for criminal purposes.i pray carol gets her child back, and everyone involved with her losing her in the first place loses their jobs and everything else. so they learn first hand how it feels especially that judge. it actually sounds to me like the judge was either paid off or blackmailed. even she didnt follow the rules of the law. and those doctors. should have their medical license suspended or terminated. i wonder how many other parents they have done this to. just because a parent refuses to put a feeding tube in their child. thats exactly what it sounds like that doctor made the accusation for. he wanted a tube in the child and her mother didnt. and THATS A PARENTS RIGHT! TELL ME CV DIRK HAS THE FATHER ALLOWED THAT TUBE TO BE PLACED IN SARAH? i think any and all parents who have gone thru hell with these kinds of agencies needs to band together and start demanding real policy changes. and practices, also rules and regulations. only then will these people do the jobs they are paid to do.


Are any of you truely surprised at CPS? I've been dealing with CPS since I was a foster kid. CPS is a terrible, horrible, barbaric organization that originally was a part of the Humane Society. CPS is outside most laws, is a private entity, but publically funded.

The proper procedure in this specific case is to get the mother psychologically evaluated and, if necessary, obtain treatment and re-evaluate. The child SHOULD BE REMOVED FROM THE HOME, but only for evaluation purposes. CPS/DES is supposed to provide services to this family to resolve issues where there is no specific identifiable cause [such as this case]. By-Proxy is a rare disorder that is nearly impossible to diagnose without catching the person "in the act."

I worry for the child, and I don't know the mother. However, precautions are SUPPOSED to be taken in order to protect the child. I agree with this, the child COMES FIRST. But, with that said, once nothing specific can be diagnosed, clearly the family should be reunited. At the very least, a specific reason should be stated for the seperation and, then, a reunification plan should be persued.

Also, a special word to the mother of this child: Check your CPS worker's credentials. If they don't have an MSW (Masters of Social Work), they are in violation of state law as they are not licensed to practice social working without a Masters. You'll find CPS is FILLED with BSWs and very few MSWs. Ask your lawyer to check in on this, you may be able to reverse every action CPS has taken based on malpractice (and then, let the law suits fly).


Are you kidding me? Asking them to write more when they don't even have all of the facts? The mother has not lost her rights only custody, that was never mentioned or even clarified. For people who do not know how the juvenile court runs, that instantly gives them the misconception that CPS and the courts are wrong. She needs to get her life in gear and prove CPS wrong and get physical custody of her child again. I don't always agree with CPS and their motives for doing what they do. However, they have to go off of what they are told and from what they see. Would you want their job? Do you volunteer with the foster kids and get to know their stories? It is very easy to judge when you only hear one side of the story. I hear these cases every day and YOU would be appalled at what the parents actually do to their children. Maybe if you were not so one-sided (parents do wrong, too) you could see that the line is not so clear.

melanie bulseco
melanie bulseco

Thank-you Arizona mom for commenting on my comment-the 13th comment. You should also read the first comment; which is comment number one. Everything I say is true because I lived it. I lost custody of one of my children; a child I had in my 40's after raising my other children on my own because the father was never around. And then this same father received custody of the child I had in my 40's after putting my other children thru an emmotional hell. Everything I said in statement number one happened and much more but unfortunately; we aren't supposed to write autobio's in the comment section.because I could give you an earfull.

Concerned for moms
Concerned for moms

Moms wake up! If you are being watched and followed going to the restaurants and malls that proliferate in our suburbs, then you are very much at risk of having your life destroyed. This episode can wipe a young family out financially and you need to notice how easily children can be taken away from their moms. Moms were traditionally protected since they are the primary caregiver. Women are losing more and more ground everyday and when they lose, so do their children. The moms are easy prey in a state with harsh mandatory sentencing and overzealous law enforcement and prosecution which exists in Maricopa County and Arizona. Pretty soon everyone will be in jail and who is paying for all this when those in power, eat their young? This is an example of how sick this area is and raises questions about who would want to destroy a young mom's life and that of her children?

Sonia Yanez
Sonia Yanez

Thank you, New Times, for making this story public.

AZ Mom
AZ Mom

Melanie, you hit the nail on the head! Except your were politically correct -- I would call it "corrupt" and it can be proven, that why there are some detractors here. They know what goes on and want to scare people away. New Times is courageous and we are pleased they are finally writing about the moms and women in this state. When are the women going to wake up and realize they are living in state that has taken us back decades.

Concerned Parent
Concerned Parent

Correction to above post - Megan, thank you for your article and those who criticize you don't want these stories out there. Please keep writing on the subject, there are hundreds of mothers and children's lives shredded in the broken system that no one wants to touch. If you criticize it you lose your job. So people sit in silence and wait for reporters to get the stories out. They are all heartbreaking and not the least bit farfetched. The fathers are getting custody of the children, not the Moms. Conservative men / and former prosecutors run the family courts. Women are at a disadvantage in the courtroom. Bias prevails in the agencies.

melanie bulseco
melanie bulseco

there were a few comments here that didn't agree with what new times said and even though you have the right to your own opinion; I just want you to know that you are in denial about the way the state of Arizona runs things-in a very underhanded and deceptive manner.

AZ Mom
AZ Mom

Sarah, thank you for exposing what parents face in Maricopa County family court system and the state of Arizona. This is the tip of the iceberg of the chaos and destruction when a single mom has a problem and needs help, not instant rush to judgment. Families and parents need help. Children need their own advocate to assess the situation. Please write more on the subject of mothers losing their children.


What's really frightening is the fact that we as parents have more legal right to our cars in our driveways then we do to our own children in Arizona!

I read somewhere that the average time to straighten out a messed up car title in the Arizona Superior court system is three days and in the family court system the average time for termination of parental rights and to lose your children forever is 14 minutes.

Bill Terrance
Bill Terrance

I am not a fan of bureaucracy, nor do I feel that the law is applied equally. However in the past three New Times cover stories (Border Patrol, Less than one Drink, and Mother, Interrupted) I feel you are doing the community a huge disservice. The people in these stories made poor decisions. Those who cross the border with weed chance getting arrested. The mother who was driving after dental surgery, on painkillers, with (albeit minimal) alcohol in her system and her child in the car should not have been. The 'Mother' interrupted showed some rather serious issues and I for one hope that she gets the help she needs before she gets her child back.

Thanks for protecting the identities of the persons involved with the stories as you have certainly made them targets. I tangentially know of one of the individuals involved. According to all who are close to the situation the authorities did the best that they could given an extremely tricky situation. I am not saying that the decisions made were the best possible for all involved in any of these situations. If only that were true. I am saying that I expect more from New Times than glorifying poor decision making and making victims out of those who were victimized first by their own decisions (although that applies less to the woman whose child was taken, her mental health is distressed).

What I would like to see is an expose on the authorities without the 'victims' being aggrandized. That is what I have come to expect from New Times. Please do not squander your journalistic integrity. You are one of the few places that still has any. By taking sides, which has been done obviously, in each of these cases you are slowly whittling away at what I have come to expect. Please stop.


I have seen CPS at it's finest. I have witnessed with my own eyes physical abuse handed to a child. I personally witnessed professionals and the child disclose the facts of this abuse to CPS. NOTHING was done.

I find it hard to believe that this story tells all the facts. How could such an "innocent" mother lose her child in the story printed here, yet NOTHING be done about DOCUMENTED abuse regarding another? Something doesn't add up. Perhaps if you have half the story you should reconsider sharing it. A child I care about was left in the hands of an abuser by CPS.


Are you kidding me?!?! This is just another example of new times sensationalism distorting the truth. I guess the author shouldn�t feel so bad, this "mother" apparently makes a habit of deceiving people. I guess telling people that you have a degree in child psychology is practically the same thing as a customer service representative, on the other hand I wouldn�t let her treat my kids, much less her own. But wait, isn�t it the authors job to report the truth? Oh well... I have found the authors at the new times to be doctors, lawyers, and specialists in all fields when they deem necessary. So I guess another inaccurate account of a child abuse case shouldn�t shock me. I myself am glad that CPS is doing their job. And just remember when this "mother" would have eventually killed her daughter this article would be attacking CPS for not doing their job, and hold them responsible for the death of a small child. How about someone from the new times goes out today and finds some real news to report on, but then again this stuff is so much better than the tabloids... Thanks. Sincerely,Avid reader of crap.

PS Here are some of symptoms of Munchausen syndrome by proxy... (Anything look familiar?)The parent is over attentive or "too helpful." The parent is often involved in a health-care field, such as nursing. The child's symptoms do not fit a classical picture of illness or do not fit together well. The child's symptoms improve at the hospital but reappear on return to the home.

Mari Masatada
Mari Masatada

In the past I have enjoyed reading the featured articles in the Phoenix New Times, but there are so many misrepresentations of CPS's role in removing the child from this mother's care that I now have to rethink articles I have read in the past and wonder how much of them is fact and how much is malicious fiction. I am truly disappointed.

CV Dirk
CV Dirk

Stories like this really angry me because it is all one sided. The other side is not going to comment because any comments will be used against them by this wonderful attorney looking to sue the state. There are a lot of fallacies in this story. She did not lose her parental rights she lost custody. Of course she is still paying bills, bills that she previously had when she had custody of the child. In everyone's mind the mission of CPS is leaving kids with bad parents and taking kids away from good parents. Parents never lie only CPS does. CPS has shredders are running 24/7. I would like to see you in the place of a CPS worker trying to make a decision in this case. You have a mother who has lied about her education and who knows what else and you have doctors/professionals telling you something is not right. Then you have people writing that CPS kills kids. It is hard trying to do the best you can with the information that is being provided. You�re damn if you do and damn if you don't. Is CPS doing a good job I don't know but let�s not jump off the deep end. Is the mother telling us the complete truth of course not. I am not associated with CPS but was once a child that was helped by CPS type agency in another state. They saved my life from an abusive father. The only thing I know for sure is that since the daughter has been with the father, she has gained weight and does not have speech/learning issues. It's a miracle; of course CPS had nothing to do with it.


It is frightening when doctors can propose a diagnosis based on a twenty minute meeting which results in a mother loosing a child. Will the state pay for the damage it has caused? Sadly, this is not as unique a case as we would like to think. MAMA/M.A.M.A., a documentary film, questions the validity of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, arguing that in many cases doctors over medication of infants may be the real cause of their infirmity rather than the mother's mental illness. More information on the film is available at www.munchausenmovie.com.

Michelle Lopez
Michelle Lopez

I would like to thank you for writing the article exposing the horrific miscarriage of justice Carol Dunlavy and her daughter have received at the hands of CPS and the Maricopa County court system. I am the mother of two special needs children and met Carol in an observation room where we could observe our children receiving group therapy together. I bonded to Carol pretty quickly because when you are a parent of children who require early intervention your life soon revolves around therapy appointments and doctors appointments. Friends you used to have don't relate to your lifestyle, your kids can't do what their kids can do, and you don't have time for them anyway. Carol was living the same kind of life with "Sarah" that I was living with my two children and we each were captive in one room observing our children and being given time to talk. When she started to share what was happening with her cusody situation, I was horrified. Each one of my children had more hours of therapy than "Sarah" did- some funded through DDD and some privately funded by myself and my husband. I told Carol that if she went to trial that she'd be OK, that they'd have to give her daughter back or take away all of the children undergoing early intervention. "Sarah" isn't receiving anymore hours of therapy than any other child parented by a good, involved parent. Children with autism are supposed to receive 30-40 hours of early intervention each week. Mine do and they are each under the age of five. If that is excessive care than I am guilty too and my kids are at risk of being removed from my home. All of these therapies are play-based and non-invasive. They don't hurt, only help. Who could fault her for that? All of this I told Carol to comfort her prior to her joke of a trial. I could never have guessed that they'd take her child without allowing her a trial. Are my children next because I'm following doctor's advice and seeking early intervention?


As a teacher I have called CPS on numerous occassions and they have done nothing. (I am legally liable to call, but they are not liable to help, it appears) These children I have called on have gone on to have severe issues that could have been avoided at the start. I guess they are to busy intervening with innocent Moms to help the guilty ones get put away. This state does not value chidren! Just look at the educational issues we have now in the legislature and schools. It doesn't help that ignorant people keep getting voted in like, Tom Horne,( a non educator) who are put in charge of our children's welfare. Very sad!!!!This aeticle disturbs me greatly. I am hoping and praying it is being twisted by a rag reporter and not really the truth! No offense but I know New Times has a reputation of twisting truths at times. I would much rather have that be the truth than this horrific story!


This is absolutely BARBARIC that CPS can just come in and remove a child from her home with virtually no proof that the parent has done anything wrong. Any day of the week, you can read about yet another dead child whose life was cut short because CPS did NOT act in the child's interest or remove a child when there was clear evidence that the child's life was in danger. How many kids are beaten, punched, stomped on, thrown against walls or sinks or bathtubs, drowned like feral cats or stabbed, strangled, shot, hanged and tossed out like yesterday's garbage?And HERE is a woman simply doing the best she knew for a child who obviously had documented eating problems -- and for that (and nothing more!) they take her CHILD away?Just makes me more convinced that child welfare needs to be taken OUT of government's hands and put under the authority of private companies -- so there could be more of a hands-on involvement with children deemed "at risk."Can't believe CPS can "lose" a child like Rilya Wilson -- who has never been "found" and is presumed dead -- but it can turn around on a dime to take a child whose parent has committed the simple sin of caring "excessively" for the child.My first-and-only child had acid reflux from birth -- colic and no end of crying. I took him to the doctor nearly every week -- he was even HOSPITALIZED once. It's very upsetting to think that my concern for his misery and discomfort could have been construed as MSBP!This country has gone NUTS. It's time we all move to Canada.

melanie bulseco
melanie bulseco

CPS is paid to do everything they can to drag the parent thru the mud.They will fabricate, they will embellish, they will exaggerate, they will take the parents' statements out of context, and they will blatantly lie. They will allege and they will allege. They will attempt to cover up their lies by destroying records and so the discrepancies might not ever be brought to light-and even when a parent has held onto the records (or had to dig) and there are over 15 pages of documents-3 pages solely are just the statements that were taken out of context-refuting CPS's lies-so that she might be able to justify and redeem herself of these inconsistencies-but even then-the courts will not acknowledge it even when it's starring them right in the face-Blind justice. A blatant injustice. And the parent and the child must live with it forever. CPS is advocating only for the state; not the child. my god, think of the children who have suffered because CPS caseworkers knew they wouldn't get paid if they told the truth.please put this comment in instead of first and use this one for the letter to the editor as well


You are exactly the person this article was for you should hold your people to a higher standard and stop the corruption and laziness. Just because there is a complaint of neglect doesn't always mean that it is true. GET YOUR PEOPLE OFF THEIR ASS'S AND HAVE THEM SERVE THE PEOPLE AND THEIR CHILDREN PROPERLY. Just because you think you have the right, does not mean you should execute it with every case. Removal should have been the last resort. In my case they pulled "evidence" out that was over a year old and removed my one month old child from my home. Yeah read that sentence again. How is that possible something over a year old damns your child to suffer because your caseworkers are just looking for an excuse to remove children. If you are the ethical person you claim to be you would already be speaking out on case's like these. Its your duty as an American and a State Employee to protect the rights of the people you are supposed to be serving. But like i said you would have already spoken out about case's such as these if your had any honor or ethics like you claim. Big words to say on the net but just wait the system will fail and your people will have to answer for their crimes.


@Michelle Lopez YES!  Our fiamily court trial judge ADMONISHED me with 'temporary custody' because the father's testimony entailed and inferred I had MUNCHAUSEN.  The Judge rejected Physican diagnois records and rejected prescriptions for Epinephrine, Albuterol, hearing aides!  The Custody Evaluator report suggested the doctor's visits and treatments were exc essive.  Our child suffers a peanut, tree nut allergy, asthma, ecezema and has is fitted with a hearing aide.  I WAS A GREAT MOM  so the dream team had to 'dirty' the victim.  TRAMATIC especially after the Dad initiated the custody battle by abducting our 7 year old............OMG,  All young girls need to be educated BEFORE they become MOM's, the state, judgeds, lawyers and custody evalutors can be injected into their lives to take their children at the drop of a (hat)  filing a Petition.

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