In the case of Indrashish Saha, a one-year-old who was taken into the custody of state child protective services after suffering serious head injuries, the parents, Debashish and Pamela, are facing a criminal investigation by the Morris County Prosecutors Office in New Jersey.
Even as New Jersey’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) was ordered by a court that “the child be immediately made a ward of the court and be placed in the [court’s] immediate custody, care and supervision,” the Indian government, through its embassy here and consulate in New York City, brought the issue to attention of State Department and has requested U.S. authorities to consider steps to restore the child to his parents.
While the State Department is expected to discuss the case with the DCF, the consulate will also pursue the matter directly with state officials, who informed Indrashish’s parents last Friday that they would only have two hours of supervised access to their son per week. In its order, which is in The Hindu’s possession, the court said it had limited the Sahas to weekly visitation rights and such visits shall only occur under the supervision of an authorised official.
On August 9 the Indian couple rushed Indrashish first to a doctor and then a hospital, shortly following a call that Mr. Saha received at work from his wife, frantic and in tears, to tell him that Indrashish had fallen off his bed.
Speaking to The Hindu Mr. Saha said that when he reached home he found his son slipping in and out of consciousness. When the doctors at Morris Town Memorial Hospital (MTMH) did a CAT scan, they discovered not only an obvious injury from the alleged fall, but they also discovered a ligament tear near his neck area and a blood clot in his eye.
While reports suggested that the infant had both a subdural hematoma and a retinal clot, the court order noted that the medical scan indicated a prior subdural hematoma and “various doctors stated that the injuries Indrashish sustained were not consistent with the explanation that Mr. and Mrs. Saha gave, but were consistent with Shaken Baby Syndrome.”
According to Mr. Saha his son had a fall on June 2, while still in India, and the ligament tear and blood clot dated back to that first incident. He said over the telephone that neither he nor his wife were aware of those injuries until the doctors treating him at MTMH pointed them out.
Mr. Saha confirmed that the doctor then mentioned that Indrashish’s symptom observed at the time “were similar to Shaken Baby Syndrome” and consequently an investigation into the family’s situation began on August 10.
When contacted the New Jersey DCF said that confidentiality requirements forbade the agency from discussing case specifics. However Kristine Brown, Director of Communications and Public Affairs at the DCF added, “I can tell you in general, the DCF removes children from their homes ONLY when there is serious concern about their safety.”
She further said that by law, the DCF must investigate all reports of alleged abuse or neglect and remove children from their home only when it was necessary to protect them. “The Department will provide services to try to keep families together safely when possible, and reunify families as soon as possible,” she said.
The government body’s website clearly shows that included among the criteria for diagnosing Shaken Baby Syndrome are “constant crying, stiffness, sleeping more than usual, unable to wake up, seizures, dilated pupils, decreased appetite, vomiting, difficulty breathing, blood spots in eyes.”
The site goes on to warn new parents about shaking babies: “It's normal for babies to cry, even when you are trying to comfort them... It is also normal for a caregiver to become frustrated. No matter how stressed, tired, angry or frustrated you feel, you must never, ever shake a baby. Shaking a baby can kill or cause serious injuries. The message is simple: Never shake a baby”