Fabricated and Induced Illness (FII) is classed as a rare form of child abuse where the parent, usually the mother, is accused of making up, exaggerating or deliberately harming their child. It used to be known as ‘Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy’. Mothers accused of FII are accused of:
- persuading healthcare professionals that their child is ill when they’re perfectly healthy
- exaggerating or lying about their child’s symptoms
- manipulating test results to suggest the presence of illness – for example, by putting glucose in urine samples to suggest the child has diabetes
- deliberately inducing symptoms of illness – for example, by poisoning the child with unnecessary medication or other substances.
We are seeing a growing trend in allegations of FII leading to ‘child protection’ or ‘care proceedings’, particularly against mothers who have asked for help, for example with their child’s disability. If a mother disagrees with a child’s medical treatment or asks the school for an Educational and Health Care Plan (EHCP) so that their child receives support, she might find that teachers and doctors report her for FII. There is also a growing trend in domestic abuse cases where a father accuses the mother of FII in order to deflect attention from his violence.
You must seek advice as soon as you are accused of exaggerating your child’s disability/ill-health. Don’t think that if you tell the social worker about your child’s condition this will prove your case. It’s better to refer them to your GP or your child’s specialist doctor if they want more information. Once accused by a professional they will rarely back down and will encourage other professionals to make further accusations against you. It is important to record all telephone conversations and visits with social workers, consultants, GPs, nurses, teachers, midwives, school nurses and health visitors. Keep everything in an email so that there is a paper trail.
To protect your child and yourself, make a Subject Access Request (SAR, Appendix 1) to any organisation/agency who has dealt with your child as these records will become important to your case. Don’t pursue further medical tests in the hope of proving your innocence, unless it is an emergency, as requesting these will also be used against you.