Couple claims baby's Bumbo chair incident got them in trouble

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- An Arizona couple says their five children were seized after their youngest was injured in a popular baby chair.

"For this to happen to us is just crazy," the baby's father, Josh, told 3TV. He and his wife asked not to be fully identified.

Their 6-month-old son, Max, is fine now, but he cracked his skull when he fell out of his Bumbo chair just before Thanksgiving.

His mother says she was making breakfast and had Max in his chair on the kitchen island. She says Max toppled over and hit his head on the countertop. While the couple says Max did not fall to the floor, the fall to the counter was enough to cause a skull fracture.

They say doctors at the hospital did not believe their story and called the police and state caseworkers from the Department of Child Safety. DCS is the new form of Child Protective Services in Arizona.

"I heard (my wife) come running down the hallway in the hospital just crying and screaming, 'They're going to take my babies,' " Josh recalled.

Indeed, DCS took Max, plus his four older siblings. Max went to live at his grandparents' house, while the other children went to stay at another relative's home.

"We had to prove our innocence but were already being punished. Especially over the holidays, it just tore us apart," Josh said.

"It is one of those strange and hard-to-believe stories," family attorney Alane Roby told 3TV.

CPS went through an overhaul this year, following a scandal which found thousands of uninvestigated child abuse cases. Roby says she has seen several cases similar to this family's.

"It's an agency under scrutiny, but that is not a reason to go to the other extreme. I think it's an example of how this agency needs to be checked and balanced, and really there needs to be more oversight," Roby said.

"They were overzealous and treated these people as terrible criminals," Roby added.

The family is considering legal action against the state and also the makers of the Bumbo chair.

Their chair was a hand-me-down from a friend and the old version of the chair, which was recalled. Bumbo's makers have a newer, safer version out now, which comes with a higher back, a seat restraint and warnings. One of the warnings instructs parents to only place the chairs on the floor.

"What I want to get out there to all of the parents is check all of your baby's items for recalls because we did not check that Bumbo chair," Josh said.

DCS officials say they cannot comment on this specific case, but sent this statement:

"When the department receives a report alleging abuse or neglect of a child, the department is required by law to investigate. The department must consider numerous factors in order to determine whether a child is safe in a home. 

"The department works with the families involved to take steps to ensure the safety of the child in the home. Law (ARS 8-457) requires the department to make reasonable efforts to provide assistance to a family that is the least intrusive and least restrictive to the family and that is consistent with the needs of the child. Removing a child is not in the child's best interest, unless it is not safe for the child to remain in the home.   

"Unfortunately, there are times when a child is determined to be unsafe in their home and the child must be removed. In such cases, the department works with the families and the courts to take the steps necessary to safely reunify the child with the family when it is safe to do so."