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Parents locked in custody battle after doctor at Children’s Mercy Hospital suspects abuse

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- An Independence boy is living with family members while his parents and the Children's Division – Missouri Department of Social Services fight over custody after suspicion of abuse or neglect was reported by a doctor at Children's Mercy Hospital.

Healthcare professionals are mandated reporters, which means they have to report any sort of suspected abuse. An Independence family says they think their son was essentially kidnapped.

"They took Jaxon away from us based upon our request for a second opinion,” Tiffany Adams said.

Adams says her eight-year-old son Jaxon has been diagnosed with epilepsy and autism, among other things. She says Jaxon stopped eating in June of 2013, so doctors inserted a feeding tube. FOX 4’s Shannon O’Brien asked her why abuse was suspected.

"She told me because Jaxon didn’t gain weight at home,” Adams said.

Peezy Mullins is a healthcare and employment attorney.  She does not represent the Adams family, but is familiar with these types of cases. She says reasonable suspicion is a very low standard.

"If they are seeing a sick child over and over again and have no explanation for it, except for potential neglect, they would be required if they reasonably suspected it was due to neglect or abuse, to contact the Children's Division," Mullins said. "And they don't have the resources to obtain conclusive proof of whether abuse or neglect is occurring, so they have to rely on the Children's Division to obtain that if it is occurring."

Adams says a Children's Division case worker questioned her one day.

"They came back the next day and told me directly that they didn't even have time to read his medical records. They were taking him based upon a statement a doctor made,” Adams said.

Adams says she was feeding her son the doctor's recommendation of 2,700 calories a day through his tube. She says she suspects her son has undiagnosed mitochondrial disease, and that's why he wasn't gaining weight.

"It was a personal vendetta. I think one of them is they were afraid that it would be uncovered that something wasn’t done correctly, or two, they didn't want the money to come out of their pocket."

A spokesperson with Children's Mercy Hospital says since this case has become public some of their employees have been getting threatening phone calls and emails, so FOX 4 has decided not to name the doctors involved in this case to protect their safety.

The hospital did supply FOX 4 with a statement:

"A recent internet story contained gross misstatements about Children’s Mercy, including fabricated quotes attributed falsely to our staff.

Our patients are our #1 priority and we are committed to doing what’s best for the health, safety, and well-being of the children and families we serve. Children’s Mercy is obligated to follow the law to report suspected child abuse to duly constituted legal authorities including the Missouri Department of Social Services and the Kansas Department for Children and Families. Every hospital must report suspected abuse. The State then investigates and, when it determines it to be appropriate, takes action to protect the child.

Children’s Mercy also follows all laws designed to protect our patients’ confidentiality. For that reason, we cannot comment on any individual matter.

For more than 100 years, our top priority has been the health, safety and well-being of children. We greatly appreciate our community’s continued trust in us and support for our mission – to improve the health and well-being of all children in our community, and beyond."