Too-caring mother loses girl to ACS
BY JESS WISLOSKI
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
The city took custody of James' daughter Amber last month, accusing the 5-year-old girl's parents of neglect.
"They appear to be suffering from an unknown mental illness which causes them to act in a bizarre manner," according to papers filed in Queens Family Court by the Administration for Children's Services.
But James, 40, and her husband, Marvin James, 48, contend that the neglect that they have been accused of stems from concerns about their daughter's health.
"They said we took her to the doctor too much," said Marvin James, who said Amber suffered a stroke and seizures at birth and continues to have chest pains and skin rashes.
The Jameses feel they are living every parent's nightmare. They are to argue for Amber's return at a hearing today.
"I still don't know what I did wrong," said Vanessa James, whose actions prompted a young pediatrician to call ACS.
The doctor feared James was "doctor shopping" and suffered from Munchausen syndrome by proxy - a disorder in which someone becomes convinced a loved one is sick or even makes them ill to get treatment or attention - or some other mental illness that endangered Amber.
After tests at the
The couple told the Daily News they had been upset by a six-hour wait in the clinic that day, and said other doctors refused to get to the bottom of Amber's illness because she was uninsured.
"If I knew this would happen, I never would've taken my daughter to the doctor," Vanessa James said between sobs.
"Vanessa was just being overconcerned," said Marvin James. In checkups that followed the seizures, "she never got a real answer from the doctors."
When ACS caseworkers visited the family's Rockaway home, the mother showed a suitcase full of Amber's medical records and said, "It's all a conspiracy; they are all out to get me," the report stated. James denied she said that.
On Aug. 24, Amber was ordered into foster care. Her parents are allowed two weekly visits.
ACS spokeswoman Sheila Stainback said the agency cannot comment on the case because of confidentiality rules.
But advocates questioned the agency's judgment.
"The trauma to this child is enormous," said Richard Wexler, a proponent of children's welfare reform who advocates for mediation, not removal, in most cases.
He said the city Department of Investigation issued a scathing report of ACS in early August.
"This sounds like a classic case of defensive social work," Wexler said.
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