This is a fictionalized account of actual events that occurred on a U.S. military installation. The names, exact dates, locations, and service-specific terminology have been changed or neutralized. To create the activities in this and subsequent lessons, we started with the facts of a real criminal investigation and lawsuit. What you will read here goes beyond the facts recorded in the criminal case by imagining details of individual’s thoughts, feelings, and actions. Although much of what you will read here is fiction, the sequence of events and the tragic consequences are very real.
Read the following scenario. Then answer the reflection questions. When you are finished, share your answers with a trainer, supervisor, or coach.
Timothy’s Story: Part 1
“Look at our new little man! 8 lbs 5 oz!” Candice (age 21) wrote on her Facebook page in early March. Under the post was a picture of a happy new mom cuddling a newborn. Candice started an album to share with her husband, Trevor (age 23), who was stationed in Europe. Candice had come back to her hometown to have the baby, but she couldn’t wait to move back overseas and reunite the family. Despite the stress of being a temporarily single mom, she was so happy. She gushed in posts about her husband, life as a military wife, her excitement about moving back overseas to be with her husband, and- most of all- her new baby boy. The growing photo album showed picture after picture of a smiling infant cuddling with family members and friends. In July, when Timothy was 5 months old, Candice and the baby boarded a plane and returned overseas.
Things slowly began to change for Candice. Her Facebook posts became less frequent. She posted once about missing her friends. On a phone call with her mom, she sounded uncharacteristically sad. She talked about how hard it was to make friends and how she spent all her time in the house. She had no job, and no driver’s license. She hung up quickly when Trevor came home from work.
When Candice and the baby arrived overseas, Trevor had already secured a spot for Timothy in the CDC. He and Candice got in a fight about enrolling Timothy in the CDC. Candice had assumed she would keep Timothy at home with her until he was older. She had even thought about trying to become a family child care provider in their home on the installation. Trevor called her “lazy” and said she “didn’t know anything about taking care of babies.” Spots were hard to get in the CDC, and he wanted the baby in a place where people “knew what they were doing.” Candice was hurt and ashamed. She didn’t argue when Trevor began taking Timothy to the CDC. Trevor told her he would handle things, and she should “keep her mouth shut and be grateful he gives her food to eat and a roof over her head.”
Their home became increasingly tense. Sometimes Candice felt like a prisoner in her home. Candice lost interest in things she used to enjoy. She began sleeping more and more. At night, Trevor would get up when Timothy cried. She could hear him in the other room trying to get the baby back to sleep. She would hear him becoming frustrated. “Shut up!” he would scream. “I ***ing hate you sometimes. Stop crying.” One time Candice came in the room and saw Trevor shaking the crying baby. She grabbed the baby away, and Trevor stomped out of the room.
In July and August, Candice made two appointments for Timothy with the military pediatrician. She said he was not himself. He was listless, his eyes seemed not to focus sometimes, and he cried more than he ever had before. On the second visit, she mentioned that he didn’t seem to move his legs very much like other babies she saw. She loved her husband and never once thought the shaking had anything to do with Timothy’s symptoms. She never mentioned it to the doctors. Doctors diagnosed Timothy with a virus, and gave Candice pamphlets about colic and physical development in infancy.
In August, a month after Timothy started attending the CDC, he was absent for over a week. The caregivers called to check on him, but there was no answer. When he returned, they noticed a large burn across his shoulders and neck. His dad said he got burned by hot water in the bath tub. Although the burn was starting to heal, it was clear that it had been very severe. Once Trevor left, the caregivers talked to one another. They couldn’t imagine how a baby would get a burn like that in the bathtub. They decided they needed to make a report to the Family Advocacy Program (FAP), and they did so.
Around the same time, Candice took Timothy for his regular well-baby check-up at the doctor’s office. The doctors also noticed the burn. Candice said she hadn’t seen the burn happen, but that Trevor told her it was from hot bath water. The doctors said the contours of the 2nd degree burn did not match up with scalding from hot water. The pediatrician also recommended X-rays to determine the causes of Timothy’s leg problems. The doctor discovered two bone fractures in various stages of healing. The pediatrician made a report to FAP.
FAP reported the incident to law enforcement and command. The command issued a no contact order and removed Trevor from the home pending the findings of the investigation and the safety assessment. Due to the severity of the injuries, the military criminal investigation office took the referral for investigation.
FAP reported the incident to the host country child protection agency under which the status of forces agreement (SOFA) gave primary jurisdiction. The host country child protection agency accepted the referral and agreed to conduct a joint assessment of the family with FAP. Following the assessment of the incident, the installation incident determination committee met and determined that the incident met the criteria for severe child physical abuse. The evidence from the criminal investigation indicated that Trevor was responsible for the leg fractures, burn, and abusive head trauma. The command, installation legal office, and military criminal investigation office consulted to determine potential criminal charges against Trevor.
FAP held a clinical case staffing with the host country child protection agency and recommended home visiting services for the mother and Timothy, individual counseling for Candice, and resources for strengthening social connections between the family and the community. The command ordered a command directed evaluation for Trevor and agreed to lift the no contact order to allow for supervised visits between Trevor and Timothy. Although legal and criminal charges are pending, the chain of events that began with Timothy’s caregivers and pediatrician making a report to FAP may have saved a life.
- Do you think Timothy’s treatment is an example of child abuse and neglect? Why or why not?
Yes, Timothy’s treatment is an example of child abuse. He had burns on his body that a physician thought were not consistent with accidental injuries. There is some evidence he was shaken violently over a period of time. He had fractured bones that went undetected.
Readers may also notice that there is potential for domestic partner abuse in the home, as well. There were changes in Candice’s behavior since moving overseas, and Trevor seemed to keep her isolated. He belittled her and limited her social involvement (and her involvement with the CDC). It is possible that she could have been experiencing emotional or other types of abuse.
- What types of child abuse or neglect do you think Timothy was experiencing?
Timothy experienced physical abuse at the hands of his father. The lack of medical treatment for his injuries might also be considered neglect (although his mother did take him to the pediatrician regularly). There was also the potential for emotional abuse: his father yelled, called him names, and seemed to not be able to control his temper at times.
- Think about the definition of child abuse and neglect. Respond to each component below:
- A recent act or failure to act: What did adults in Timothy’s life do to mistreat him? What did they not do?
Timothy’s father shook the baby, yelled at him, and burned him. Timothy was not treated for his second degree burns or fractured bones. The burns and broken bones were discovered during a well-baby check-up.
- On the part of a parent or caretaker: Who was involved in Timothy’s abuse or neglect?
- Which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation: What harm did Timothy experience? You will learn more about the signs of abuse and neglect in Lesson 2.
Timothy’s injuries resulted in serious burns, fractured bones, and potential head trauma from being shaken.
- Or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm: What situations presented an imminent risk of harm?
Several instances presented an imminent risk of harm:
- When Candice walked into the baby’s room and saw Trevor yelling and shaking the baby
- When the CDC staff and pediatricians saw second degree burns that had not been treated