Provides that a child shall not be taken into protective custody based on an allegation that a custodial parent or guardian suffers from Munchausen syndrome by proxy without a family court hearing on such allegations.
BILL NUMBER: S1281
TITLE OF BILL : An act to amend the social services law, in relation to taking a child into protective custody on the basis of an allegation of a parent or guardian with Munchausen syndrome by proxy
PURPOSE : To provide that a child shall not be taken into protective custody based on parent's Munchausen syndrome by proxy without a family court hearing.
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS : This bill would require that before a child can be taken into protective custody on the basis of an allegation that a parent or guardian has Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSBP), a hearing must be held, with an opportunity for such parents or guardian to be heard, allowing the parent or guardian to present evidence, including expert testimony that they do not suffer from MSBP.
The bill would also allow the child's pediatrician or primary care physician a specialist to rebut the allegation at the hearing.
EXISTING LAW : New Bill.
JUSTIFICATION : Munchausen Syndrome By Proxi (MSBP), a form of child abuse played out in the medical setting, was originally described by English pediatrician Roy Meadow, in 1977. By 1995, to his surprise, MSBP had become so popular that Meadow admitted that the diagnosis had been overused and misunderstood by some social workers and legal professionals. After 30 years of clinical and legal experience, the definition of MSBP remains controversial. As a result, mothers who present the problem of their children in ways perceived as unusual or problematic have become entangled in legal battles that should have been resolved clinically. Loren Pankratz, PhD, an expert on the diagnosis of MSBP published an article in the American Academy of Psychiatric Law providing that the "medical literature on MSBP often mentions false accusations or the possibility of false accusations, but does not convey the prevalence of these misunderstandings or the devastating consequences of a wrong diagnosis". That in case after case "experts disagree about how to define and confirm MSBP." Consequently, even though there is very little consensus on the diagnosis of MSBP, children are removed from their family homes based upon such diagnosis prior to a formal hearing taking place. This leads to children being separated from their mothers and fathers, in some cases for long periods of time, which, may be very harmful to the child being removed. This bill would require a formal hearing prior to removal in the case of an allegation of MSBP.
LEGISLATIVE HISTORY : New bill.
FISCAL IMPLICATIONS : None.
EFFECTIVE DATE : This act shall take effect immediately, and shall apply to any child in protective custody on or after such effective date.
STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 1281 2009-2010 Regular Sessions IN SENATE January 28, 2009 ___________Introduced by Sen. O. JOHNSON -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Children and Families AN ACT to amend the social services law, in relation to taking a child into protective custody on the basis of an allegation of a parent or guardian with Munchausen syndrome by proxy THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. Subdivision 1 of section 417 of the social services law is amended by adding two new paragraphs (c) and (d) to read as follows: (C) NOTWITHSTANDING ANY OTHER PROVISION OF LAW TO THE CONTRARY, NO CHILD SHALL BE TAKEN INTO PROTECTIVE CUSTODY PURSUANT TO THIS SECTION WHEN THE BASIS THEREOF IS AN ALLEGATION THAT A CUSTODIAL PARENT OR GUAR- DIAN HAS MUNCHAUSEN SYNDROME BY PROXY, UNLESS AND UNTIL A FAMILY COURT SHALL HAVE HELD A HEARING, WITH AN OPPORTUNITY FOR SUCH PARENT OR GUARD- IAN TO BE HEARD, AND SHALL HAVE FOUND REASONABLE CAUSE TO BELIEVE SUCH ALLEGATIONS ARE TRUE. THE PARENT OR GUARDIAN ALLEGED TO SUFFER FROM MUNCHAUSEN SYNDROME BY PROXY SHALL, AT ANY SUCH HEARING, BE ALLOWED TO PRESENT EVIDENCE, INCLUDING EXPERT TESTIMONY, THAT HE OR SHE DOES NOT SUFFER FROM SUCH SYNDROME. (D) IN ANY HEARING HELD PURSUANT TO PARAGRAPH (C) OF THIS SUBDIVISION, IF THE CHILD'S PEDIATRICIAN, PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIAN OR SPECIALIST CHARGED WITH TREATING SUCH CHILD DISPUTES THE ALLEGATION OF MUNCHAUSEN SYNDROME BY PROXY MADE AGAINST THE CHILD'S PARENT OR GUARDIAN, AND IF SUCH PHYSICIAN TESTIFIES, WHETHER BY AFFIDAVIT OR BEFORE THE COURT, THAT THE CHILD'S MEDICAL TREATMENT IN QUESTION OR THE CHILD'S COURSE OF TREATMENT IN GENERAL IS OR WAS NECESSARY FOR THE HEALTH AND WELL-BEING OF SUCH CHILD, THEN THE FAMILY COURT SHALL FIND THAT THE ALLEGATION OF MUNCHAUSEN SYNDROME BY PROXY HAS BEEN REBUTTED, AND SHALL NOT ENTER A FINDING OF ABUSE OR NEGLECT BASED UPON MUNCHAUSEN SYNDROME BY PROXY AGAINST THE CHILD'S PARENT OR GUARDIAN, AND SHALL NOT ORDER THAT THEEXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. LBD06096-01-9 S. 1281 2
CHILD BE TAKEN INTO PROTECTIVE CUSTODY FOR REASONS OF MUNCHAUSEN SYNDROME BY PROXY. S 2. This act shall take effect immediately, and shall apply to any child in protective custody on or after such effective date.