Free-Range Kids

After a False Abuse Allegation, Child Services Took This Mom's 3 Children Away

"We thought they helped people."


Patti Krueger is a stay-at-home mom in Decatur, Illinois. Her husband is a house painter. The couple's second son, Wyatt, was born in 2017 with severe breathing difficulties.

"He was blue," says Krueger.

Wyatt spent nine days in neonatal intensive care. Over the next two years his breathing problems necessitated oxygen treatments, tubes in his ears, and four surgeries, according to Krueger.

Some of his treatments were at a nearby hospital in Peoria. Many hospitals today have a Child Abuse Pediatrician (CAP), a doctor on contract with child protective services. Their job is to be on the lookout for child abuse, including abuse other doctors may have missed. While the CAP at this hospital never met Krueger or worked directly with Wyatt, she reviewed his file and accused the mother of Munchausen syndrome by proxy—in other words, causing or faking a child's illness to get attention.

This CAP's report was all it took for Illinois' Department of Child and Family Services to put into place a "safety plan" to remove the Kruegers' kids. These plans do not require any kind of court order because ostensibly the family "agrees" to it, on pain of potentially having no say over what happens next to their kids. Thus, in March of 2019, when Wyatt was two-years-old and back in the hospital, Krueger's husband and mother-in-law were in his room when a DCFS worker—and four armed police officers—arrived and ordered them out. They were not allowed back in. Wyatt was alone there for four days while DCFS arranged a foster placement, according to Krueger.

DCFS also came for Wyatt's older brother, age 3. He had never been away from them before.

But that's not all: Krueger was also pregnant with their third son at the time. DCFS took him away four hours after she gave birth, according to Krueger.

The family spent 467 days apart. It took an incredible amount of time and money to piece together the evidence that they were not guilty of abuse. In this, they were helped by the Family Justice Resource Center, an Illinois nonprofit founded by Michelle Weidner—a mom who had gone through a similar nightmare ten years earlier. The center helps "families facing wrongful allegations of abuse and neglect, with an emphasis on medically-based allegations," according to its website.

"They were an answer to our prayers," says Krueger.

With the help of FJRC, the Kruegers found an attorney in this field, and a well-respected pediatrician to review Wyatt's files. This doctor found that Wyatt's illness was not imagined or parent-induced. She also said that genetic testing showing Wyatt had Xia-Gibbs syndrome, a rare disease that causes airway issues. The CAP had shrugged off this possibility.

Meanwhile, Krueger, a recovering addict, underwent weekly drug tests, even though her OB-GYN wrote a letter saying she was fine. She also undertook a psychiatric evaluation administered by a state-approved psychologist (but paid for by the Kruegers), which found her to be of sound mind and not inclined to abuse a child. That was a turning point, she told the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law:

After a year of being accused of having Munchausen by Proxy, after a year of being accused of being mentally ill, you start to ask yourself, am I as crazy as they think I am? The testing took three days and that was my biggest turning of relief, that I was not going to let these guys make me doubt myself.

During all this, Krueger and her husband were allowed to visit with their children every Tuesday and Thursday from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m., "with someone sitting with us," says Krueger. "We weren't even allowed to take them to the bathroom." The Kruegers were also not allowed to call their kids.

The children screamed and cried just about every time they were put in the car to leave. When COVID-19 hit, they all met on Zoom—again, with a caseworker watching, according to Krueger.

What did it take to convince the state that this entire case had no merit? In the end, $60,000 in legal fees and expert testimony—money the Kruegers' parents had been saving for retirement.

"And if it cost us this much, I can only imagine what it cost the state," says Krueger.

On July 8, 2020, a family court judge read the evidence and vacated all orders. The children were finally allowed to come home.

Overwhelmed, Krueger turned right around and started volunteering at the Family Justice Resource Center. Over the past year she has helped reunite four families falsely accused of child abuse. She was honored last month as an FJRC "Family Reunification Hero."

But the Kruegers did not emerge unscarred. They have mounted cameras throughout their home so that if one of their boys hurts himself, there would be proof it wasn't child abuse. Understandably, the boys have terrible anxiety. If the kids aren't warned that pizza is coming, hearing the doorbell sends them running to hide.

"Before this happened, we did not believe DCFS was capable of ripping families apart," says Krueger. "We thought they helped people." Her husband had been abandoned by his parents at age three; child services found him and his brother a loving foster home. The Kruegers still believe child services has important work to do, but the system clearly needs stronger guardrails.

The family is now pushing for the legislature to reform the state's child protection laws, as Texas just did. In that state, if parents are accused of abuse based on a medical report, they can now request a second opinion from a specialist in the relevant field. In a case like the Kruegers', that means the parents would be able to consult a respiratory doctor, and child services would have to submit this testimony before getting a court order to take a child into custody.

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  1. “Thus, in March of 2019, when Wyatt was two-years-old and back in the hospital, Krueger’s husband and mother-in-law were in his room when a DCFS worker—and four armed police officers—arrived and ordered them out. They were not allowed back in.”

    “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

    Now reconcile those two statements.

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    1. FYTW

      Easy peasy.

    2. Easy: There was no crime to answer for, no offense, no criminal case, and children are not property.

    3. CPS violates the core rights of Americans on a routine and wide scale basis. This kind of shit happens all the time in all 50 states and almost everyone knows somebody that this has happened to unjustly. But they keep screaming, “save the children”, so that makes it ok in the eyes of the law.

    4. Welcome to the future: “Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.” -George Orwell

  2. We’re from the government, and we’re here to help. Oh, and we’re taking your kids.

  3. And people wonder why so many hate our government

    1. I wonder how anyone can trust the government, let alone like it.

      1. I work for the government and I wonder how people trust the government. Granted I do education but my time in the military gave me a healthy dose of don’t trust Uncle Sam and dealing even tangentially with the VA and USDA-FSA has only reinforced that distrust.

        1. I did 20 years, and I loathe the government. Americans have no idea how incompetent, lazy, and petty bureaucrats are.

          1. Everyone should have to try and turn in equipment to CIF, or try to clear finance when pcs’ing then they’d understand.

      2. There’s only one way, apply the NAP.

  4. >>… a doctor on contract with child protective services.

    absolutely necessary if your government is going to run your corporate hospitals as well.

    1. The doctor had to justify his existence so he had to find something wrong somewhere otherwise his contract might not get renewed.

      1. Why do I get the feeling you hit the nail on the head. And I guess it’s just too bad so sad if an innocent family gets torn apart in the process

      2. Yup. Child Abuse Pediatricians are like astrologers.

        They get paid to say whether or not a kid’s injuries are caused by abuse, but of course you can’t tell if a kid’s injuries were cause by abuse any more than you can tell someone’s fortune by the stars.

        But if they say that, they don’t get paid.

        It’s too bad they didn’t name the CAP here.

        1. It was probably Dr. Channing Petrak, M.D, the Medical Director for the Pediatric Resource Center (PRC). She’s been involved in a number of similar cases.

    2. I’m not sure if ‘contract’ with the government is enough to get you ‘qualified immunity’
      But if the doctor didn’t lie and DCFS just misinterpreted…

      1. Well over a year’s Unmitigated Hell and over $60,000.00 in costs is one helluva “Misinterpretation”. Somehow, “Oops” just doesn’t cut it.

  5. Care to hazard a guess as to the consequences for said “doctor” who wrongly caused the whole thing?

    1. Fired with cause, and forced to pay 60k plus interest back to the family?

      1. Protected by good Samaritan laws. Which aren’t a bad thing just occasionally have bad consequences, as in this case.

        1. Diagnosing Munchausen by proxy without ever examining the patient? Clear malpractice. If this fact is correct, then there is no excuse, and everyone involved at CPS needs to be censured, and the doctor needs their license revoked.

          1. Depends on how his/her duties are defined. If the role is purely record review followed by reference to CPS for investigation, the Doctor is still covered under good Samaritan on most states because they never exceeded their duties. The doctor should never have agreed to a position like that and the hospital/clinic could be liable for creating such a narrow duty, but legally the doctor is most likely in the clear. CPS on the other hand, and the clinic, both could be liable for damages. In which case the doctor will probably be terminated and the duties rewritten to cover their asses next time. Go after CPS and or the clinic, it would be the best chance at a win and the best chance at changing the system.

      2. I was thinking a different kind of firing, one that uses a squad to carry it out.

        1. “Boom!”

  6. A relative in Washington had a CPS worker make exactly the same claim (Munchausen by Proxy) about a Type 1 diabetes diagnosis and start the proceedings to remove the child. In this case the worker did not speak to any physicians and was, apparently, too stupid to know that that Type 1 is one diagnosis you cannot fake. This relative told CPS that he was retaining an attorney and that all all future communication would have to be through the attorney. This got the attention of a higher-up who, fortunately, realized how bogus the claim was and told him that she would not blame him for filing suit. The case worker was removed from his case (and, I believe, fired as she was still in her probationary period).

    The whole thing has made this relative almost paranoid about dealing with governmental agencies and he documented *everything* just because he’s seen how easy it would be for a nut with power to decide whatever she wants and take away kids.

  7. Lack of accountability strikes again.

  8. The Peoria hospital CAP was then arrested and is currently serving a lengthy stint in state prison, right?


    1. Shirley just getting the shit kicked out of them in an alley would be punishment enough

    2. Well, there is a job posting for a CAP at OSF Healthcare in Peoria.

      Maybe after numerous false cases and too much bad publicity the current CAP has been removed. Or more likely promoted.

  9. In the early 90’s a CYS worker had a new born taken from her Mother because of a grudge from High School. If she hadn’t been over heard bragging about it, the child might never have been returned. The only penalty the CYS worker got was the loss of her job. She was hired in a neighboring County a few weeks later. The County settled for a substantial sum.

  10. This seems particularly dangerous if the CPS thought the kid’s medical issues were Munchausen by proxy. It means they would be unlikely to continue necessary medical treatments and assume in an emergency situation the kid was simply acting in a way his mother taught him to (rather then rendering medical aid)

  11. When my daughter turned 1YO we took her to a “well baby checkup”. Everything was fine. Two weeks later we get a call saying she tested positive for salmonella. The kid was never sick, nor showed any symptoms. CPS shows up at my door. They want to know what she ate two weeks ago. Literally every meal from 2-3 weeks prior. Needless to say, we did a poor job recalling meals served by us, my parents, and daycare. CPS them demanded stool samples from everyone. Us, my parents, and everyone in my daughter’s daycare. This was my line in the sand. I refused to provide names and addresses. They threatened to get the cops involved. I found out who the supervisor was and called them, explained the situation, and how my kid was never sick. I asked the supervisor to call off her dog. She reviewed the case and decided the salmonella diagnosis may have been in error. The variant was fairly rare and no other cases has appeared in the area. I asked why my case worker had not considered this when harassing me and the wife.

  12. The child abuse pediatrician, the Ill. Department of Child and Family Services, the police have Munchausen syndrome

  13. At least they didn’t shoot the dog.

  14. It’s unethical for a doctor to make a diagnosis without examining the patient.

    1. You would think so….

      And what did this doctor think of all of the doctors and surgeons working on this child’s case? They are all incompetent and guilty of malpractice?

    2. I would sue everyone involved in this mess.

  15. Meanwhile, there are children who are actually being abused, or dying in foster care, while DCFS wastes time and resources on something that could’ve been resolved in a day by consulting with the child’s treating physician.

  16. This will continue as long as there is no recourse through the justice system until the people are willing to start breaking kneecaps.

  17. How does the CAP avoid a lawsuit for malpractice here? There is no chance this survives scrutiny of proper standard of care, if all is as described.

    1. I can’t imagine the hospital coming away clean, either, after giving this quack unbridled access to the records of patients he’s not personally treating.

  18. Several hundreds of thousands of children each year are forcibly removed from their parents by people with guns; roughly 2/3 of the cases are dismissed. So the above is one sad story of trauma and psychological abuse.

    CPS “kids in cages” aren’t sexy enough for activists to care about, I suppose.

    1. It only matters when it’s being used to attack Trump. Do you think progs actually have real empathy? They’re sociopaths, who fake emotions as a means to advance their agenda, and attack enemies.

  19. No mentioin of how much money the CPS agency got to place these kids in their foster “home”. A nsty well hidden secret in most states. The “agents” who play the tyrant somehow must benefit financially from the new “business” they “find” for the foster system. I KNOW this happens in some states, including my own. I’d be surprised if it was not the same in Illinois.

    Yes, lws need to be changed. Start with mandating a court hearing, with the accused present and able to question the charges and evidence supporting them, and to present their own evidence. This bit of ripping kids out of their homes on a whim stinks, badly.

    Take a long hard look at the money trails for all child seizures triggered by some “proffessinal” acasweorker like the guilty one in this case. She should now be on record as being the instigator in a phoney set of charges resulting in huge damage to this family, and more huge legal costs alll to prove she was out of line. This case and her twisted role in it should become part of her record. All l false or disproven cases of unjustified custody should become apermanent part of that agent’s file. I’d even go so far as to state that SHE needs to be investigated over her entire work hisoty with CPS anywhere. And such blatant power abuses MUST be examined by a neutral court. Hevy fines and/or revocation of licenses to operate in these proffessions must be implemented.


    The feds pay a state’s CPS a stipend for EVERY kid they can snag. You think w/all the truly abused kids in our country, that there would be no need for profiteering and you would be thinking wrong. The best kids to take are those who parents who have some money. Then the courts can bill parents for GAL fees & the like. Then longer they can keep the kid(s), the more federal dollars they receive.

    The infamous WCSA James Glasgow, prosecutor of Drew Peterson who was able to get hearsay admitted as evidence, and CASA actually made my wife, (APRN) A mandated court reporter of abuse & myself, a business owner & 13 yr, decorated YMCA volunteer with an education background go through hell to get temporary guardianship of our grandchildren while I daughter was going through treatment…while simultaneously reporting that her heroine addicted baby daddy was her main support.

    The courts made us choose between our daughter, who was doing everything she was supposed to do or our grand kids due to the lies presented by Penny Hellenhouse, the court appointed GAL. Our Attorney, Pat Flynn, from the Chuck Bretz law firm, KNEW the report was full of blatant lies and worse yet, the representative from Children’s Home & Aid, who was present during our 3 hour grilling, confirmed Hellenhouse’s report was bullshit…TOO BAD – we were forced to choose, less than 3 weeks later, my baby girl was dead. As for baby daddy, he has never come back or even contacted us during these last 6 yrs.

    Hopefully, one day, I’ll be able to procure justice my family!

    1. Or at least vengeance.

  21. When I hear how relieved people are when someone is charged with a reviled crime — ‘Did they catch him? They did? Well, that’s a relief!’ — I mentally hear the phrase, ‘We’ll give ’im a fair trial, then we’ll hang ’im.’ If I point out the person may be wrongly accused and is being railroaded, I could receive the erroneous refrain, ‘Well if he’s truly innocent, he has nothing to worry about.’

    It’s why I strongly feel the news-media should refrain from publishing the identity of people charged with a crime — especially one of a repugnant nature, for which they are jailed pending trial (as is typically done) — until at least after they’ve been convicted. Considering the serious flaws, even corruption, in the law-enforcement and justice system — great injustices committed, both hidden and exposed — no one should have their name permanently tarnished and life potentially ruined because the news-media insists upon immediately running a breaking story.
    It all epitomizes an unjust presumption of guilt.

  22. Let’s call this “The Professional Connection”
    Here’s what I went through, and why I believe we’re ” … Reaping the whirlwind … ” of violence today – One of the glaring contributory problems is the increasing tendency of primary school districts to encourage drugging their male students into pliable somnambulant behavior. How can “enlightened educators” admit that boys and girls are different, since they’ve spent the last forty years “proving” they aren’t. Several years ago, back in the nineties, I related to his doctor how a grade school teacher and the principal strongly suggested my son be placed on Ritalin. His response to my complaint that they weren’t doctors was met with: “Well. They’re ‘Professionals’ “. I replied: “So are prostitutes, but I wouldn’t go to one for medical advice”. The look on his face was amazing. I had Child Protective Services at my door a couple of days later. I reiterated my reasons to them and backed them up with evidence of the deleterious effects already known at that time that these drugs had on children, and that I flat out refused to subject him to them. They went away, knowing I was resolute (and within my rights), and never darkened my door again.

    [Addendum: Before I met my fiancée and her son in ’92 in Cal., he’d been in foster care in Florida. While there they used to lock him in a closet, apparently to control him. It took a lot of patience and effort, especially after she passed away a week after he turned six in ’93, but it was worth it. And no psychotropic drugs were used nor needed.]

    1. This sounds fake and you sound mentally ill.

  23. How do you not even have 2 or 3 people who review the cases together? A single person should never have that much power in this context.

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