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 childiii. It used to be known as ‘Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy’. Behaviours considered to be characteristics of FII include a carer who:
- persuades healthcare professionals that their child is ill when they’re perfectly healthy
- exaggerates or lies about their child’s symptoms
- manipulates test results to suggest the presence of illness – for example, by putting glucose in urine samples to suggest the child has diabetes
- deliberately induces symptoms of illness – for example, by poisoning her 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 if mothers have asked for help, for example with their child’s disability. So 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, they might find that teachers and doctors report them for FII. We know that it’s much cheaper for LAs to bring a court case alleging FII than to provide the support families need! There is also a growing trend in domestic abuse cases where a father accuses the mother of FII in order to deflect attention from the domestic abuse he has perpetrated.
It is important that you seek advice from a lawyer or advocate 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.
We suggest you 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 these too will be used against you.