Contributed to TLB and written by:
Health Impact News and Medical Kidnap staff
It is an all-too-familiar cascade of events that happens all across the world, but for baby Bella’s family, their fairly typical scenario has resulted in their baby being taken from her loving parents. Now Massachusetts DCF allegedly wants to adopt this beautiful baby out, permanently severing Christina and Jonathon Hinote’s parental rights to their daughter, who wasn’t even born in Massachusetts. As reported by A Miracle for US, the family is devastated.
The couple were in the process of relocating from their home in Massachusetts to Alabama, to be near Jonathon’s family. Complications from the pregnancy made it necessary for them to stay where they were in Alabama. Annabella Grace made her appearance 6 weeks early, on January 17, 2014, near Mobile, Alabama.
Because she was premature, she spent time in the NICU. Like many moms, Christina tried to pump her breastmilk to be given to Bella. This scenario is challenging at best, and through no fault of their own, many mothers find it difficult to develop an adequate milk supply, and switch to formula feeding. However, Bella had a severe case of reflux from the beginning.
For her first 72 hours of life, she was unable to hold down any fluids, and was fed intravenously. After discharge from the NICU, the quest to find the right formula that Bella could keep down continued. There were several hospitalizations due to the severity of the reflux. They finally found that Bella could tolerate Similac Total Comfort, and she began gaining weight. They took baby Bella home in Alabama.
Meanwhile, the Hinotes traveled back home to Massachusetts to get more of their belongings and spend some time with Christina’s family. They could not find the formula there that Bella was thriving on, and thus switched to Gentlease, which she was also able to tolerate. Then, they visited the WIC office and a pediatrician in Massachusetts who decided to switch to Nutramigen formula. He allegedly told them that the other formula could upset her GI tract and constipate her. This change resulted in an increase in the reflux, as well as a “great decline” in her weight.
Medical Arrogance and False Accusations
When Bella’s parents pleaded with the pediatrician to switch her back to the Gentlease, he refused. He allegedly told them that “he was the one who held a medical degree, and she was a first-time mother.” However, they report that Bella continued to decline.
The Hinotes didn’t know that the doctor had contacted DCF, allegedly saying that he had grave concerns about Bella’s weight. It would later come out that he told DCF that he believed that the parents meant well, but were simply “not feeding their child,” leaving out the part about his actions in prescribing a formula she couldn’t tolerate.
The couple were also having problems with neighbors in their complex. They later found out that the neighbors had filed false reports against them, accusing them of having 4 dogs, 6 cats, and animal feces all over the house. The Hinotes had no pets at the time. They also made an allegation that Christina would leave her baby for weeks at a time – an accusation which the Hinotes say they were easily able to prove false.
Back to Sweet Home Alabama
Not surprisingly, Christina and Jonathon decided to complete the relocation to Alabama, where they had the support of Jon’s parents, as well as a pediatrician willing to prescribe a formula that Bella could tolerate.
But Massachusetts DCF decided to chase them down.
They allegedly contacted Alabama DHR to check on the family. A social worker came out and saw a baby who was growing and cleared the Alabama home in a home study.
Unsatisfied, Kellie Perrault, an investigator for Massachusetts DCF, allegedly contacted the Hinotes, stating that they were concerned about Bella’s declining weight. Despite the fact that they were almost 1500 miles away, the investigator demanded that they meet with her to “clear the air.” Using a tactic that tends to be quite effective with innocent people, she insisted that “if they have nothing to hide,” they should have no problem meeting with her.
She then allegedly threatened them, saying that if they refused to meet, criminal charges would be filed against them.
The frightened parents felt that they had no choice, and made the long trek back to Massachusetts.
Caseworker and Hospital Clear Bella
While Bella was left in the care of Christina’s mother, Christina and Jonathon met with the investigator in a different county. A Salem caseworker was sent to “put eyes on the baby.” The caseworker recommended that the case be closed and stated her findings to family members:
“Bella is understandably small due to prematurity, but her color is good and there is no concern for her well-being.”
This was apparently not good enough for Perrault, who reportedly demanded that Bella be brought to the emergency room for medical clearance. They took her to Beverly Hospital, where the formula was switched back to Gentlease, and switched from Zantac to Prilosec for the reflux, resulting in immediate improvement. Tests were performed, and the diagnosis was Failure to Thrive due to lack of calories. She gained 3 ounces in the first 24 hours after switching back to the formula that she could tolerate, and she was medically cleared by Beverly Hospital.
DCF Demands Transfer to Boston Children’s Hospital
Undeterred by the good reports, DCF allegedly demanded that Bella be transferred to Boston Children’s Hospital for “further testing,” instead of discharge.
When the parents requested Tufts hospital instead, they were again threatened with removal if they did not comply with the DCF demands. Bella was sent to Boston Children’s Hospital, the same hospital that was holding Justina Pelletier at the time. (See: Boston Hospital Seizes 15 Year Old From Parents Over Medical Treatment Disagreement.)
Unreasonable Demands and Sleep Deprivation
It was a new hospital with a new plan, one which appears to be designed for failure. Though other family members were allowed to visit, Christina was to be exclusively responsible for all of Bella’s care. No one else was even allowed to touch or pick up their tiniest family member.
Bella was on a strict feeding schedule of round-the-clock feedings every three hours. The formula was not left in the room, but had to be prepared in a “milk lab.” She was to have her diaper changed before and after every feeding. After each feeding and burp, Christina was instructed to place Bella upright in the bassinet, and left still, because of the reflux. She was not allowed to play with her or have physical contact during that hour, so that she wouldn’t vomit. Naturally, Bella would fall asleep during this time.
This grueling schedule made sleep for Christina very difficult. She couldn’t leave the room to shower or get food. She ended up often eating only once a day. During one 48 hour period, she drank 17 cups of coffee and got no sleep in her attempt to fully comply with the hospital demands.
Playtime was very limited, due to the requirements of the schedule, and what playtime did happen often occurred when no one else was around, leading to an accusation by the hospital that they were “not bonding.”
Christina was permitted to leave the hospital twice, briefly. Once it was for a shower and a nap at a nearby relative’s home, and the other time it was to visit another family member who was hospitalized while they were there. Those visits would come back to haunt her, when she was accused of leaving her baby twice, though nurses were supposed to be watching her and had told her she could leave.
One time, a nurse arrived 10 minutes ahead of time with a bottle for Christina to feed Bella. She was very kind, and told the exhausted mom that she would leave a note to ensure that the formula was delivered early to avoid any late feedings. Any late feedings resulted in chastisement for Christina.
Either the next nurse didn’t see it the same way, or there was a failure to communicate between the nurses, which, according to Christina, “it fell back on me.” When the formula still hadn’t arrived 10 minutes past the time for the feeding, Christina called the nurses station. She was rebuked for not doing her job as a mother in calling ahead for the bottle.
Despite all this, Bella continued to thrive, because she was receiving a formula that agreed with her. Then, Christina overheard a social worker condemning her when she went to get someone to get a bottle for feeding time. (The nursing station had not responded to her calls.) The social worker was allegedly in the hallway telling a nurse that the baby was gaining weight, but that “she foresaw a great decline if she was to be discharged home with her mother.”
Not a single test was performed on Bella at Boston Children’s Hospital.
DCF Seizes Bella
It was later that very day that the hospital team informed her that they were concerned, and that DCF was on their way to take Bella. They changed the diagnosis to failure to thrive with no medical cause, even though she was rapidly gaining weight. It was May 2, 2014. Bella was 3 1/2 months old.
This was the day after Reverend Patrick Mahoney led a national prayer meeting for Justina Pelletier, and just weeks before Chuck Norris wrote his powerful Townhall piece:
While the eyes of the nation focused on Boston Children’s Hospital and Justina, the hospital had once again conspired to take another child from her parents, punishing them for their baby’s reflux and sensitivity to formula. The world saw Justina, but hundreds more children, like Bella, were hidden from the public eye as their lives were devastated. In the words of this heartbroken mother:
“As a first time mother, I was robbed of one of the most critical, irreplaceable times in my daughter’s life. These are days I will never get back. … You choose to take MY daughter, who was loved, fed and clothed. A PREEMIE who needed nothing more than a higher calorie formula – which she was put on and thriving before you stole her from my arms with security outside that meeting room – as if I were some kind of criminal! … That’s my baby, my entire world.”
Christina says that she has seen her baby girl for a grand total of about 40 hours since that horrible day. Jonathon’s visits are even more limited. He writes:
“I remember the first breath she took, the first cry she made. … I thought to myself, I can’t believe she’s here, I can’t believe I get to meet the little girl I’ve spent the last few months talking to inside my wife’s womb, the little girl I sang to on a nightly basis before we went to bed, no matter how early I had to get up for work. … Now I get to see my baby girl in pictures, short videos, for 2 hours each month, 4 hours if I’m lucky and DCF doesn’t have an excuse why I can’t. … 2 hours a month doesn’t exactly give her time to know who her father is. That kills me.”
Lack of bonding continues to be an allegation against the parents by DCF, even though their actions directly inhibit bonding. Bella has been placed with relatives, but it isn’t the same. The sadness can be seen in her eyes in some of the photos. Babies know that they belong with their mommies. It is inherent in human nature to want biological mom.
Though Christina and Jonathon have done everything they can do to comply with the demands of DCF, the state of Massachusetts continues to keep them away from their baby. They have been blamed for not participating in services, services which DCF stopped, not them. At one point, they were told that they must admit to allegations, accusations that they insist are false, if they were to have hope of getting Bella back.
On April 6, DCF announced that the plan has changed from reunification to adoption.
The couple is expecting another baby soon. They are hoping and praying that this baby will be safe.
How You Can Help
Supporters ask that the Governor of Massachusetts be called, asking that Bella be returned home immediately. Governor Charlie Baker may be reached at , or contacted here.
The Senator for their district in Massachusetts is Senator Joan Lovely. She may be reached at , or contacted here.
The district is represented by Representative Paul Tucker. He may be reached at , or contacted here.
Alabama’s DHR acted appropriately in this matter, and is to be commended. However, Massachusetts DCF chased the Hinotes all the way into the southern state. Alabama’s Governor is Robert Bentley. Alabama legislature currently has a parental rights bill before it, in which they could vote to secure Fundamental Parental Rights. Governor Bentley may be reached at , or contacted here, and asked to advocate on baby Bella’s behalf, a baby born in Alabama, but held captive in Massachusetts.
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