Caring for an ill child can be scary as a parent, with new challenges around every corner. But what happens when a doctor's visit becomes a parent’s worst nightmare: losing their child to foster care because of abuse allegations.
The father of Lorina Troy’s children and Tanya Ilic were both accused of abusing their ill children by physicians:
“My sister, Tanya, is in prison for sixteen years for a crime she didn’t commit,” said Tamara Shtyrkalo, sister of Tanya Ilic. Ilic and her husband were accused of child abuse after their youngest daughter, who they fostered, not knowing of her medical history, had a sudden seizure and fell. Ilic was charged with felony child abuse and now sits in prison for sixteen years. Tanya and her husband are depressed. I’m terrified whenever the phone rings because I fear my sister will die in prison.”
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“I’m very concerned that this continues to happen to thousands of families nationwide,” said Troy. Her son was born with a form of benign hydrocephalus, and doctors assumed the swelling was the result of abuse. She lost both her children to foster care before she could prove her innocence and get them back. “Over the past four years, many families have contacted me about going through a similar situation. We have a petition with more than 4,000 signatures from families that are also going through, or have been through, a misdiagnosis of child abuse when that child really has a medical condition… and was truly never abused.”
It’s been named “Medical Kidnapping” by critics and is often the result of a child having a rare form of illness that is misdiagnosed as abuse. Health professionals are mandated reporters, and no second opinion is needed. It’s a benevolent law that has roots in ensuring all children get proper care, protecting them from negligent parents. However, in practice, it can result in harming already vulnerable families.
"I was scared my children would be abused in foster care because it can happen,” said Troy. “According to the Family Justice Resource Center, in 2020, 7,065,000 children were referred to state child protective services; however, 6,447,000 of these children’s investigations had insufficient evidence. The 2020 Children’s Bureau report found that about 91% of child abuse cases are later found to be unsubstantiated. These numbers are not only concerning but proof that there needs to be an investigation.”
The Troy family was ripped apart, and major professional and financial repercussions followed. Jason lost his government and military clearance and employment and was also placed on house arrest for a month. The two spent over $80,000 after hiring three attorneys and faced medical expenses for their youngest son.
Though Lorina and Jason got their children back after five months, the scars remain. Lorina spent a year and a half in therapy trying to heal from the trauma of losing her children to medical kidnapping and the financial hole it put her and her family in.
Ilic also knows firsthand the pain of medical kidnapping. When Ilic and her husband, Novica, chose to expand their family and foster three girls, they noticed that the youngest, 15 months old, had not reached many milestones and had an enlarged head. Ilic scheduled bi-weekly therapy visits to help assuage some developmental delays, but despite her efforts, she was charged with felony A child abuse. Ilic now sits in prison for sixteen years for a crime she didn’t commit. On top of that, the family has spent more than $75,000 fighting to prove her innocence, retaining lawyers, and paying prison fees.
Below is a video of Ilic's heartbreaking story, as told by Shtyrkalo:
Ripping children with illnesses away from their families and placing them in foster care is a disservice to them. As a result, children aren’t receiving the medical attention they need, causing a delay in accurately diagnosing illness. Children also suffer from the trauma of being apart from their families, struggling to make sense of a situation they have no control over.
With the holidays approaching, both reflect on how many families, including their own, are being torn apart by medical kidnapping.
Troy has since fought to pass legislation requiring a second opinion in her state of Texas, and her story has lit a wildfire across the nation as the spotlight on medical kidnapping grows.
Follow the Troy family's journey on Facebook and purchase Lorina’s book Miracles of Faith to learn how the Troy family’s faith helped them overcome the obstacles caused by their son’s misdiagnosis. For resources on combatting false allegations of child abuse, visit the Family Justice Resource Center's website.