Another Medical Kidnapping at Boston Children’s Hospital: Baby Seized Over Formula Disagreement

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Baby Bella taken over infant formula. Source: Fight for Bella Facebook page.

Baby Bel­la tak­en over infant for­mu­la. Source: Fight for Bel­la Face­book page.

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 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.

Bella with her mommy. Source: Fight for Bella Facebook page.

Bel­la with her mom­my. Source: Fight for Bel­la Face­book page.

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 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, 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, 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.

Bella with her mommy. Source: Fight for Bella Facebook page.

Bel­la with her mom­my. Source: Fight for Bel­la Face­book page.

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 then 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 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.”

Mixed Messages

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:

Who Owns Our Kids Anyway?

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.”

Bella – the light of Christina’s life. Source: Fight for Bella Facebook page.

Bel­la – the light of Christina’s life. Source: Fight for Bel­la Face­book page.

Adoption Plan

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.”

Bella and her daddy. Source: Fight for Bella Facebook page.

Bel­la and her dad­dy. Source: Fight for Bel­la Face­book page.

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

There is a peti­tion for baby Bel­la at, as well as a Face­book page called Fight for Bel­la, set up by sup­port­ers to fol­low their sto­ry.Bella-FB

Sup­port­ers ask that the Gov­er­nor of Mass­a­chu­setts be called, ask­ing that Bel­la be returned home imme­di­ate­ly. Gov­er­nor Char­lie Bak­er may be reached at (617)727‑3666, or con­tact­ed here.

The Sen­a­tor for their dis­trict in Mass­a­chu­setts is Sen­a­tor Joan Love­ly. She may be reached at (617)722‑1410, or con­tact­ed here.

The dis­trict is rep­re­sent­ed by Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Paul Tuck­er. He may be reached at (617)722‑2400, 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 (334)242‑7100, 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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