I am publishing the story of Lydia Fairchild, and including a link to her story as featured on “Chimera: Twin Inside Me (Medical Documentary) – Real Stories” because it offers a compelling example of a common problem many parents face when dealing with social services or CPS. – And that problem is when CPS rushes to judgement, without having all the facts, then falsely accuses a parent and works to take custody of children, even when it is totally unwarranted.
Due to an extremely rare medical condition, Lydia Fairchild gained the attention of social services when she applied for public assistance, and was subjected to mandatory DNA testing. It is understandable that an investigation would follow given the test results, that showed no DNA link between Lydia and her three children. However, a volume of medical evidence existed to show that Lydia was in fact pregnant, and gave birth to all of the children. Lydia’s entire family was DNA tested, and did provide a genetic link to the children. Witness and professional testimony overwhelmingly showed that Lydia is a fit, loving mother and posed no danger to her children. There was ZERO evidence that any crime or fraud had occurred involving Lydia or the children. The father of the children, Jamie Townsend, was also proven to be a safe parent, and capable provider of the children. He also supported Lydia, and vouched that he was present for their births and that Lydia indeed is their mother. In a rush to judgment – involving a complex medical situation that social services had absolutely no understanding of, and was not qualified to assess – the State fought to take the children into guardianship, creating a nightmare for this family that lasted nearly 2 years.
What was needed here was NOT removal of the children from two safe, loving parents (it is not explained why placement with relatives was not considered) but instead, an answer to the medical condition that could create these DNA results – a deeper look into other possibilities. Instead the State focused on taking the children into guardianship without ever providing an explanation, or offering proof that a crime involving Lydia or the children had occurred, that would warrant such drastic measures. To this day, Lydia suffers from the trauma caused by the State’s actions against her.
While Lydia’s case is exceptional for it’s rare medical diagnosis – similar situations happen with CPS workers around the country rushing to take custody of children in situations where state care is not needed, and in fact, causes real harm to the children and families involved. Too often evidence that would explain the concern, or exonerate accused parents is ignored or dismissed. Too often expert testimony is not utilized – or CPS relies on “in house” professionals that collude with the State in their agenda, and unjustly target parents. Too often parents who seek another professional opinion never have their professional testimony heard or considered because it is perceived that the professional is somehow tainted or unreliable when their opinion contradicts the State. And not just experts – but community organizations that could offer support or assistance to families are not considered an option. Too often relatives who could care for children, are refused when placement is considered. The results are always tragic for children, and for the entire family involved.
A valuable lesson is offered in Lydia Fairchild’s case. Ultimately what saved Lydia and her family from being torn apart was a deputy prosecutor who was willing to think outside the box, and look at other possibilities for what could be causing the DNA results. That is the other reason I am publishing this story, to encourage CPS and professionals who work in the system to look at what almost happened to this family, and why, and learn from this case.
“I know that I carried these kids, I know that I gave birth to these kids, to feel like I was the only one in the whole world trying to fight for my kids, and nobody in the world was listening to me…every day I felt like that would be the last day that I would see them..” ~ Lydia Fairchild
(Washington State, 2006) Due to a rare, undetected medical condition, Lydia Fairchild faced not only the threat of CPS taking her four children, but jail as well. The father of the children, Jamie Townsend, was equally frightened that his children would be taken into state custody.
Lydia bravely fought for nearly two years to prove that she is, in fact the biological mother of her own children, and to keep her family together. How could this happen?
In 2002, Lydia Fairchild was a single mother of two children, and pregnant with a third, when she applied for public assistance. As a routine measure, the state DNA tested both Lydia and her boyfriend, Jamie Townsend, to establish parentage. To Lydia’s complete shock, while the DNA tests determined that Jamie is the father, the tests also revealed that Lydia has did not share a DNA match with her children. Lydia was adamant the children were hers but now was facing suspicion from social services, and a Prosecutor’s office ready to charge her with a litany of crimes – welfare fraud, identity theft, abduction and that Lydia was acting as a surrogate, bearing children for money. Jamie was even accused of fathering the children with another woman. Three DNA tests later, and children traumatized by the invasive procedures, the DNA tests all concluded the same – Lydia could not be the biological mother of the three children she gave birth to.
Lydia was supported by her family, including her mother who was present during the births. Jamie, who was also present at the birth of the children, told social services that there could be no other mother of the children than Lydia. He objected to the state taking guardianship of the children, claiming that Lydia “is a good mom”. Lydia’s obstetrician Dr Leonard Dreisbach, who had cared for her during pregnancy, and witnessed the birth of her children, attested that she is the biological mother. Medical records, including foot prints taken of the children after birth, confirmed that Lydia was indeed pregnant and gave birth to all of the children The state was so suspicious of Lydia that when she gave birth to her third child, a court officer stood in the room to witness the birth. A DNA test was immediately taken between mother and child. Again, the DNA test revealed that Lydia did not share DNA with her newborn.
Lydia was panicked as court proceedings continued, and the threat of losing her children grew closer every day…
In another part of the country, another woman named Karen Keegan from Boston was facing the same bizarre situation: testing for a kidney transplant revealed that her DNA did not match that of her children. Seeking answers, Keegan submitted herself to comprehensive medical research and testing. After taking multiple samples of Keegan’s tissues, it was discovered that her body contained two distinct genetic codes. Karen was a chimera – a rare medical condition that results when a fraternal twin is absorbed in the womb during the first weeks of pregnancy. This is commonly described as “I Am My Own Twin”.
A chimera is a single person made up of cells from two different people. Chimerism results after two fertilized eggs fuse, creating two distinct set of cells, two separate strands of DNA to create a single embryo. As the embryo grows some cells become become organs, others become blood, tissue or bone – which cells have which twin’s DNA is totally random. In other words, the genetic material of twin that does not survive pregnancy microscopically lives inside the body of the other twin. Conducting a DNA test on a chimera is complicated as two sets of DNA can be detected in the body, but genes are not uniformly distributed and secondary genes are often found in certain organs, and areas of the body, and not others.
I want to state strongly that Chimerism does not make a person less of a mother (or father) – the biological connection to the child exists, as does the emotional, spiritual and familial bond.
When Karen Keegans’s case was published in a medical journal (2002), the answers to her medical mystery were discovered by one of deputy prosecutors working on Lydia’s case… it’s profound impact would shape the future of this family…
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