Traumatised mother, 27, was ‘treated like a criminal’ after being investigated for child abuse over tiny bruises on her newborn’s wrist – which were caused by him sucking on his own arm
- Ellesse Griffiths, 27, spent weeks under investigation for alleged child abuse
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A traumatised mother claims she was ‘treated like a criminal’ after she was investigated for child abuse because her newborn baby had two tiny bruises on his wrist.
Ellesse Griffiths, 27, spent three days in hospital while two-week-old Teddy was subjected to a barrage of tests – despite the health visitor who reported her and a doctor both noting the ‘suspicious’ mark appeared to be caused by him sucking the area.
Even when they were allowed home, it was only on the condition they were monitored constantly by Ms Griffiths’ mother until she and partner Connor Hammond, 25, were cleared in a report weeks later.
They are now considering legal action against Hertfordshire County Council after their harrowing experience.
Last year an academic specialising in social work who researched bruising in non-mobile babies warned that most local authority policies ‘risked misleading staff by exaggerating the risk that a bruise was “non-accidental”‘.
Ellesse Griffiths, 27, spent three days in hospital while two-week-old Teddy was subjected to a barrage of tests over small bruises
Ellesse Griffiths with her son Teddy. She said she and her partner were ‘treated like criminals. It wasn’t innocent until proven guilty’
Almost a quarter automatically treated any bruise as ‘reasonable cause to suspect significant harm’.
Ms Griffiths said: ‘We were treated like criminals. It wasn’t innocent until proven guilty. We were told if we left the hospital the police would be called.
‘I had only given birth two weeks earlier and had to ask for maternity pads and breast pads. No one asked if I was okay. No one asked if I wanted a shower or to bathe the baby.’
Teddy, born on March 7 weighing a healthy 8lb 3oz, was seen at home in Bishop’s Stortford by a health visitor for a routine check on March 21.
Ms Griffiths pointed out the two faint bruises that matched the shape of her son’s gums, adding: ‘She watched him doing it [sucking the area] as I was holding him. Then at the end she said she’d have to report it.’
The mother of three, who has two daughters from previous relationships, and Mr Hammond, an area manager for a security firm, were told to report to an assessment unit at the Lister Hospital in Stevenage that day, where a consultant paediatrician also saw Teddy sucking his wrist.
His distraught parents had to leave the room at one point as another blood sample was taken, leaving Teddy (pictured) ‘screaming and crying’
But they were still told to spend three nights there while Teddy had blood tests, CT scans and X-rays to look for other, hidden injuries or mistreatment, with repeated use of needles leaving him with heavy bruising on his arm.
His distraught parents had to leave the room at one point as another blood sample was taken, leaving Teddy ‘screaming and crying’.
It was only on April 18 that a report cleared the couple – who have never come to the attention of social services before – of any wrongdoing ‘on the balance of probability’.
The ordeal deeply affected the entire family. Ms Griffiths said her breast milk has dried up from the stress, while Mr Hammond has woken up in terror thinking Teddy was being taken away again.
Ms Griffiths’ elder daughter, Sienna, nine, still frets that Teddy will disappear, while her sister Bella, three, now fears visits to the doctor.
‘It’s brilliant they make sure babies are safe but Teddy should not have been put through this and neither should we,’ Ms Griffiths added.
‘I want mums to be aware of this so it doesn’t happen to them.’
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In a November 2022 article entitled ‘Why child protection policies on bruising to babies need to change’, Professor Andy Bilson said 27 per cent of ‘pre-mobile babies had an accidental bruise over an average of eight weekly observations’.
He added: ‘This challenges the idea that bruises alone are a reliable sign that physical abuse is ongoing or is likely, and shows bruising is far from rare.’
In the article, published on social work website Community Care, he cited examples including a mother who had her child removed for four months over a ‘small bruise on his arm’.
Professor Bilson, emeritus professor of social work at the University of Central Lancashire, warned staff ‘need to unlearn some of the messages of earlier policies and training’.
His recommendations included employees exploring the cause of bruising with parents in a ‘fair and balanced manner’ and being aware that ‘accidental bruising is still many times more common than non-accidental injuries’.
A county council spokesman said: ‘There is a Hertfordshire safeguarding children partnership procedure for responding to suspicious bruising on babies which all professionals working with children across Hertfordshire are expected to follow. This is not a blanket policy for all bruising in non-mobile infants.’
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