Oregon Foster Care Crisis

Who is Responsible When the State Gets it Wrong?


A recent media firestorm involving false allegations of Medical Child Abuse (Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy) brought International attention to the over-reaching power of Child Abuse Pediatricians to violate the rights of parents caring for medically fragile children.

14-year-old Justina Pelletier was taken into State custody in 2013 after child abuse specialists at Boston Children’s Hospital decided that her health problems were the result of psychiatric issues and that her parents were causing her to have unnecessary medical treatment. According to doctors at Tufts Medical Center—also in Boston—Justina had been diagnosed with, and was being treated for, mitochondrial disease, a rare genetic disorder that affects how cells produce energy. After being held in a psych ward at Boston Children’s for 16 months, Justina was finally released from State custody and returned to the care of her parents.

The Pelletier family filed a civil lawsuit in February 2016 against Boston Children’s Hospital, personally naming Child Abuse Pediatrician Alice Newton, for gross negligence, medical malpractice, and civil rights violations. The following statement was released in June of 2016 by the family’s legal counsel:

“The KJC Law Firm is pleased to announce another stunning victory and land-mark decision! In the case of Justina Pelletier v. Alice Newton, M.D., et., al. a Suffolk County Superior Court Judge has rejected Dr. Newton’s claim that she has immunity from civil prosecution for medical malpractice and civil rights violations as alleged by Justina Pelletier and her parents because she was a mandated reporter of suspected child abuse. Dr. Newton had reported that Justina may have been a victim of abuse in 2013, a claim that was never corroborated.”

Consistent with the Pelletier case, lack of corroboration to the Child Abuse Pediatrician’s theory of parental abuse is a common pattern found in cases where parents have been wrongfully accused of MCA while seeking appropriate medical care for their ailing children. On the opposite side of the United States, in Portland, Oregon, Multnomah County DDA, Charles Mickley and Portland’s Legacy Emanuel Hospital CARES Northwest Child Abuse Pediatricians brought similar allegations against Kate Parker (2013) and Trisha DeLaurent (2016). The Parker and DeLaurent children were placed in foster care, and dependency cases were initiated despite the lack of indication in either case that any medical professional or mandatory reporter had notated even the slighted concern or suspicion of medical abuse. Both parents have medically fragile children, had sought regular care from AMA licensed physicians, and had followed all medical advice and treatment plans regarding their children’s complex diagnoses.

Justina Pelletier and her parents are being represented by the KJC Law Firm in Boston, Massachusetts. Both Kate Parker and Trisha DeLaurent have made direct contact with the Pelletier family regarding their shockingly similar stories.


When Medical Child Abuse Allegations are made against parents, and the children are taken into State’s custody, a frequent claim made by state’s attorneys during litigation is that the children who were allegedly abused “began to thrive” as a result of being separated from their parent(s). In a startling number of cases, these statements are not just exaggerated, but blatantly false.

Justina (Pelletier): “Diagnosed” as medically abused by Child Abuse Pediatrician Dr. Alice Newton (Boston Children’s Hospital)

Justina Pelletier before and after being taken into State custody
Justina Pelletier leaves State custody after 16 month battle

Joshua (Parker): “Diagnosed” as medically abused by Child Abuse Pediatrician Dr. Cathleen Lang (Legacy Emanuel’s CARES Northwest)

Photo taken December 2013 & posted on FB by foster care provider after Joshua Parker had been in State custody for over 2 months
Joshua in 2014 after 4 months in State custody, separated from his family
Joshua back at home with his big brother, Adam in April 2016. Photo taken 2 months after reuniting with their mother, Kate Parker, who was wrongfully accused of MCA
Joshua Parker in December 2017, happy and safe, at home with his loving family

Bethany (Parker): “Diagnosed” as medically abused by Child Abuse Pediatrician Dr. Cathleen Lang (Legacy Emanuel’s CARES Northwest)

Bethany Parker post heart surgery 2012
Oct. 2, 2013, the day almost 6-year-old Bethany was taken from the Parkers into State custody

Video recorded in August 2015 while Bethany Parker was in State’s custody:

DHS in Josephine County, Oregon placed Bethany Parker (age 7.5 years in this video) in the care of a couple who had zero training in any of the little girl’s complex medical needs, a decision conceded by Oregon Foster Care Ombudsman Darin Mancuso to be “a significant oversight” by DHS. This video depicts an example of what Oregon Department of Human Services – Child Welfare, District Attorney Charles R. Mickley, Jr., Portland Child Abuse Team Detective Erica Hurley and Detective Mace Winter, and CARES NW pediatrician Cathleen Lang repeatedly report as Bethany “THRIVING” in foster care.

Bethany in hospital in April of 2017… still in State custody

Marcus (DeLaurent): “Diagnosed” as medically abused by Child Abuse Pediatrician Dr. Heather McKeag (Legacy Emanuel CARES Northwest; formerly Tuft’s Children’s in Boston, MA)

**NOTE: Child Abuse Pediatricians Heather McKeag and Alice Newton were colleagues in Boston in 2013 and co-authored an article about signs of child abuse.

Marcus was admitted to Randall Children’s Hospital for scheduled g-tube surgery on September 27, 2016. Anonymous calls were made by his grandmother to CPS on Sept. 24th and again on September 30, with unsubstantiated claims of abuse by her estranged daughter.

**Due to false information provided by disgruntled family members with a history of adversarial relationships with his mother, and a lack of investigation by CARES Northwest Pediatrician Heather McKeag and CPS investigator Steve Jackson, Marcus DeLaurent is currently in a dangerous foster care situation.  For more information about the ongoing ordeal, read Oregon DHS Defies Washington Protection Order and the upcoming VOICES NETWORK EXCLUSIVE:

        Munchausen Grandma Dupes Oregon DHS…


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9 thoughts on “Who is Responsible When the State Gets it Wrong?

  1. This is horrifying. That video. Omg! That is criminal! Why was Bethany taken from her loving family and put with an abuser? The video says her name is Lea Leen? She should be ashamed of herself for treating a child that way! I thought I knew what was going on with Kate Parker’s criminal case but I guess I really didn’t. I thought when she was arrested the cops must have gotten evidence that she hurt Joshua and Bethany and then the detectives were telling people how great the kids were doing away from Kate so I believed she had done all the things they said she did. Reading these articles makes me feel terrible because now I understand that Kate was innocent but she was kept away from her kids and they don’t look like they thrived in foster care! Why did Patty White put Joshua’s picture on Facebook, isn’t that illegal for a foster parent to do? And omg poor Bethany! She looks AWFUL!!!!!! Why does she have a tube in her neck now? And Marcus is a cute kid. How was his mom supposedly abusing him? Please keep reporting about this. So many questions about how the doctors and DHS could do this to the Delaurent and Parker families and why are those CARES doctors allowed to misdiagnose kids and then DHS takes the kids away from their families! My sympathy is for all of the parents and kids involved. I hope they sue CARES and foster parents and DHS. Maybe the Pelletiers will give them pointers on how to do it.

    1. Really ? That is abuse ? This foster care provider is clearly preventing this little girl from pulling off her oxygen !

      1. Oxygen that Bethany did not require when she was taken out of the Parker’s home and placed in State custody with a foster parent who was so unqualified to care for her that Darin Mancuso, the Oregon State Ombudsman for foster care, wrote that it “was clearly a significant oversight” by DHS.

        So it takes arm restraints, socks over Bethany’s hands, forcing her arms to be held out at her sides by gripping her shoulders and applying pressure, and the foster provider wrapping her legs around Bethany’s body to trap Bethany’s legs under hers in order to prevent this tiny child from pulling off her oxygen? Wow, that foster provider really IS inept!

        1. Also, Krista, when Bethany was wailing in distress, the foster provider should have caught a clue that she needed to try something else. How did she manage to keep Bethany’s oxygen on the rest of the time when she couldn’t restrain her? Or did she take it off and not care that the child couldn’t breathe adequately? I guess it doesn’t matter now since Bethany has a tracheostomy and a ventilator is breathing for her. Poor kid. The State really screwed up.

  2. Those poor parents!

    Justina going from being able to ice skate to being in a wheelchair is so sad. Who locks a teenage girl in a psych ward when she isn’t mentally ill? There’s no excuse for that!

    If a foster parent will treat a child like that when they know they’re being videotaped (turn the sound up and you can hear Lea Leen talking to the person videotaping her), what will they do to a child when no one is watching? Bethany looked so much better before she was taken away from her mother.

    Foster parents in Oregon are not allowed to post pictures of foster children online. That is a rule in the foster care handbook.

    Did anyone besides me think it was insulting how Joshua’s foster parent wrote that “we got him in October” like he was a new pet? That little boy looks like he was told to smile for the picture the foster parent posted on Facebook, but smiling was the last thing he wanted to do, and his eyes look so sad in the second foster care picture. The pictures of him at home are so different. DHS can say he was thriving in foster care but the pictures show where Joshua is genuinely happy and loved and safe, and that is at home with his family.

    It is documented that epilepsy medications like the ones Marcus was taking cause weight loss because they suppress the appetite. I have a friend who has epilepsy and she is super-thin because she says she doesn’t feel hungry so she forgets to eat. If Marcus was being overmedicated, that is the fault of the doctor, not the mother.

    I hope Justina and her parents win huge in their lawsuit. The Parkers and the DeLaurents should file lawsuits against DHS, as well. The civil rights violations for both families are obvious and numerous, not to mention the medical malpractice.

  3. I know there is a website called Medical Kidnap that has covered thousands of these stories. Munchausen is incredibly rare, malpractice and state corruption are incredibly common. For each story one reads they should be aware that it is far more likely that the parent is innocent than that the parent is guilty. As Jeremy wrote there is not even a diagnostic process or proof associated with this condition, only a lame non-scientific “separation test.” They separate the child from the parent, change medications or add therapies and if the child improves then it is confirmed abuse. The problem is that doctors prescribe medications, so if the medication was the problem then that is a MEDICAL MISTAKE, not a sign of abuse. If a parent is following the treatment plan of a doctor then they should be protected.

    Medical Child Abuse has become a witch hunt against parents raising children with special needs. Why? Because these children are worth about 10 times more in federal funding once kidnapped by the state. Everyone, except the family, benefits from the kidnap; child abuse centers that hold multi-million dollar contracts to assess abuse, appointed attorneys, DHS, even the courts, etc. Has anyone ever considered what happens when a parent refuses a treatment plan of a doctor? IT IS CALLED MEDIAL NEGLECT. So these vulnerable families are damned if the do and damned if they don’t. Make parents raising children with special needs scared to seek treatment and Oregon is going to have a lot of dead children on their hands.

    I work with families and I can tell you they ARE SCARED OF THE SYSTEM. Good, healthy, loving parents should not be in fear of their government, nor should they be scared of being accused of medical abuse if mistakes happen! OREGON WAKE UP! Oregon has become a hot bed of false accusation. I hope these families are pulling together and filing a federal complaint… Oregon DHS is too far gone to be reformed internally, the feds are needed to stop what has become blatant discrimination and persecution against vulnerable families.

    I hope that Linda, Kate, and Trisha are able to work together in finding a way to pierce the immunity of these corrupt doctors. It is hardly surprising to learn that Dr. McKeag and Dr. Newton share a background, sick but not surprising. I hope Dr. McKeag faces the same fate, and that Dr. Lang does too. Maybe a lawsuit with enough zeros will wake the system up. Sending prayers. Please keep being the voice for these families and sharing their stories.

  4. Please return Marcus to his mother where he can be safe!!!! Please give all her children back to her and protect the mother and children!!!!!!! The children are in danger! Do what is right and return these children to their mother!!!!!!

  5. This is horrifying.
    Corruption, lies, betrayal none of these words are supposed to associated with childhood let alone children with severe medical needs. NO ONE knows a child better than their parents. Shame on so many doctors and a corrupt medical system for so many falsifications.
    Marcus’ mother is one in a million. There few people I have met that would fight as hard as this woman has for all of her children. I would love to hear a rationalization how someone can be labeled an “abuser” yet be a loud, driving advocate for so many with the same medical issues. There is no common sense in this. Return all of Trisha’s children to her, that is where they belong.

  6. The suffering of these medically fragile children and their parents is beyond measure. Thank you to these fine reporters for going to bat for these wrongly accused parents and exposing the serious flaws in the government and social services systems in Oregon meant to do good and protect but actually doing just the opposite in too many cases. Reform and safeguards are urgently needed and formal review of DDA Mickley’s tactics and those of other attorneys like him. Permanent watchdogs need to be put into place. Amazing parents and children! So deeply sorry for all you have been through. Praying! Oregonians unite and demand changes! I’m sure that there are other states that need to do the same.

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