Free-Range Kids

Arizona Parents Who Defied Doctor's Orders to Bring Sick 2-Year-Old to the Hospital Now Face Child Abuse Charges

Cops release edited video of the encounter.


Screenshot via Chandler Police

The Chandler, Arizona, police department that broke through the door of a family that ignored a doctor's orders to bring their sick toddler to the hospital has recommended the mother and father be charged with child abuse.

The local district attorney will decide whether or not to press charges, according to The Arizona Republic's Dianna M. Nanez, who broke the story.

"I'm so scared," the father told Nanez. Unless the charges are dropped, he is not sure if his three children, currently in foster care with their grandparents, will be allowed to come home.

The ordeal began on February 25 when the mom brought her son to the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine—an alternative medicine practice—with a high fever. The doctor told her to take him to the hospital because the boy was unvaccinated and the doctor feared he could have meningitis, a life-threatening disease.

While the mom promised to do this, the child was already feeling better by the time they were heading home, and he continued to improve, so she didn't. The doctor followed up with her, and again she said she would take him the emergency room, but then neglected to do so. The doctor eventually alerted the Arizona Department of Child Safety. A DCS worker called the cops and asked them to go to the family's home where DCS would meet them.

Last week, the police released an edited video of the night in question. Three hours is condensed to about 11 minutes, in which we see a cop calling the family over and over to tell them that they are required to bring the child to the hospital.

"Look," says the cop in one of the exchanges. "I talked to the doctors and they said this could be a possibly life-threatening situation."

The dad replies that it is not life-threatening, and his son is already better.

"I know you're saying his fever broke now, but," the cop replies, "we need you to come outside and talk to us. If you don't come out and talk to us… then those kids are going to be taken away and you will be in serious trouble."

Keeping his cool, the cop adds, "I would rather just have you come out and let us deal with this and let us take the kid to the hospital."

The dad refuses. Eventually the cops warn that if the family does not comply, they will break down the door.

At around 1:30 a.m., four of them do just that, bursting in and pointing guns as if this were a drug raid. They handcuff the dad and tell the mom to come out with the kids. She does.

We don't see what happens next, but we know from Nanez's reporting that the kids were separated and each placed with different foster care families for two weeks before the court allowed them to be placed with their grandparents.

"This is a complete miscarriage of justice and a shame to the state of Arizona," said Rep. Kelly Townsend (R) a state legislator who has fought to curtail the power of DCS.

There are, however, two bits of good news. First, writes Nanez:

The father said he met with a Chandler police investigator last week and thought the interview went well.

"He said this got way out of hand, really, for no reason and we're going to try to prevent this from ever happening again," the father said.

The father said he thought the case would be closed. He said he and his wife had positive interactions with DCS this week.

"They acted like we're going to get our kids back," he said.

The other good news: When the children were eventually checked by a doctor, it turned out the toddler had RSV, a respiratory virus, but not meningitis. On the website KidsHealth, it says, "Almost all kids have had RSV at least once by the time they're 2 years old." Its symptoms include a runny nose, cough, headache and fever. "In most healthy kids, they don't need to distinguish RSV from a common cold."