(Broward County Florida: April 15, 2015) When Jennifer Bush was 9 years old, she was taken by the State and placed into foster care after allegations of Munchausen by Proxy were raised against her mother, Kathy Bush. On the anniversary of the day she was removed from her family, Jennifer is speaking out to say that her mother was not abusive, and offers a message of hope to other children in foster care.

As a young child, Jennifer spent her life in and out of hospitals, struggling with a severe illness that caused intestinal and neurological issues. She underwent about 40 operations, including removal of her gall bladder, appendix and part of her intestines. Doctors struggled to find a solution. The Bush family tried to give Jennifer as normal a life as possible, she enjoyed horseback riding and dance.

Grappling with enormous medical bills, Kathy advocated for health care reform and spoke publicly about her daughter’s illness. Kathy’s efforts made national attention in 1994 when she visited the White House, and testified at congressional hearings. Jennifer met then first lady, Hillary Clinton.

A year later, as Jennifer’s health troubles continued, a health care worker made a report that she suspected Kathy was making the child sick on purpose by giving her extra doses of medicine. Kathy was accused of Munchausen by Proxy – a rare, and controversial, syndrome in which a parent makes a child sick on purpose in order to draw attention and sympathy to themselves.

An investigation was launched that later resulted in Kathy being convicted of aggravated child abuse and fraud; she spent 3 years in prison.

Jennifer was taken into State care and spent the next 10 years living in shelter care and foster care. Jennifer says foster care was traumatic. She begged to see her mother. After aging out of the system, Jennifer reunited with her mother, and the rest of her family. She now works as a social worker and says it is her “dream job” to help other children.


Jennifer released this statement about her experiences, and offers a message of hope to other children in foster care:

Twenty years ago Today, on April 15, 1995, my life was changed forever.  That was the day that I was taken from my home and my family, but that day has not changed how close my family continues to be.  The ten years I spent in Foster Care were traumatic, and I had some devastating things happen to me. 

However, I persevered because of all of the angels that were there for me during these difficult times.  These people helped shaped the women I have become today. Today, I can proudly say my family is extremely close knit.  We have flourished despite the devastating separation. 

The bond I had with my brothers, prior to being removed from my family, is something that never changed.  My relationship with them helped carry me through my years in foster care.  My parents and I have picked up from where we left off, and have a very close and loving relationship. 

Today, I am living my dream as a social worker, and changing the lives of the children, and families I am working with today.  I am married to my high school sweetheart, who has walked along side me for the past ten years. 

I get a lot of joy making memories with my family, and making a difference in my community.  Although this isn’t always a happy anniversary, it is a day to celebrate my family and who we are today.

My message to foster children:

Growing up in the foster care isn’t an easy task.  Actually, the odds are often against you to be succeed in life. 

I challenge you to rise up against those odds, and be the very best you can be with the circumstances you are facing.  Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed to get the extra help that is offered, you will be thankful that you did in the future. 

There were many times that it would have been easier to give up, but its persevering against the odds that makes it even more fulfilling.  

Speak up for yourself, be your biggest advocate, and be proactive. At the end of the day we owe it to ourselves. Don’t let your current circumstance shape your future, and never doubt yourself!

With respect,

Jennifer Bush


Read More: 

Mother Abused Girl, Broward Jury Decides (Sun Sentinel)

‘Munchausen’ victim misses mom (By Associated Press, 2005)

‘She didn’t abuse me’: Woman taken from her family aged nine and her mother jailed in high-profile Munchausen-by-proxy case speaks out for the first time, 19 years on


Why can’t we just drop everything we’ve said?

All I want is a peaceful night in bed… 

Without these bizarre thoughts all runnin’ through my head

Sometimes you make me wish I was dead…

I Know It Is Hard” describes the experience of Domestic Violence by Proxy/Alienation from the broken heart of a teen.

The powerful words of the rap song “I Know It Is Hard” were written and performed by a teen who has been physically alienated from a parent and used as a weapon since the age of 14.

The video was posted online after being sent to a targeted parent in 2012.


Research reveals the devastating effects domestic violence has on pregnant women, and their unborn children….

According to recent studies, a staggering 45% of abused women report that they are forced to have sex with their partner. When pregnancy results in an abusive relationship, in 50-70% of women the abuse continues during pregnancy. The National Institutes of Health reports that over 300,000 pregnant women in the U.S. are victims to domestic violence, with domestic violence being the leading cause of death among U.S. women of childbearing age.

I am one of these women the statistics speak of. I understand, firsthand, the horror of becoming pregnant as a result of abuse, and then enduring a pregnancy in a home where I did not feel safe. 

Pregnancy journal.. while other mothers are scrap booking the milestones of their pregnancy from the first pink line on the pregnancy test to hearing a steady heart beat for the first time, these are my sad milestones….

Common symptoms announced pregnancy –nausea, fatigue, sudden weight gain… and cravings for pickles. On the outside I looked like any pregnant woman but behind closed doors, I lived a life of fear and uncertainty, as an abuse victim.

4/5 Months Pregnant, while I was celebrating the first kicks – my abusive ex was calling me fat, and telling me I looked like “an old granny” in maternity clothes. I attempted to squeeze into jeans even as my belly stretched, and baby kicked in protest to avoid his angry outbursts… and secretly hoped baby did not hear what was said.

6/7 months Pregnant, while I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of my child, preparing a nursery, reading baby books and shopping for clothing and toys (tears in my eyes, goofy grin on my face) – my abusive ex is giving the baby the “silent treatment”. He has ignored every aspect of my pregnancy, and acts as if we are not expecting a baby. There is no emotion. No talk of the pregnancy. No planning. I feel like a single parent before the baby is even born.

8/9 months Pregnant, still working a job to support the family, finances are stretched thin… my abusive ex is addicted to prescription pain pills. While I am planning my trip to the hospital to delivery the baby, he is planning his next visit to the ER or to the dentist or to a round of doctors to get his next fix.

“..to think of all the babies whose pre-birth experience is one of fear and threat. I have worked with women for many years that have lived with domestic violence and other abuse it made me feel immensely sad for them and their unborn children..” ~ Laura Schuerwegen, author the blog, Authentic Parenting

Unborn children are harmed by domestic violence that they are exposed to in the womb, research confirms what many domestic violence victims and advocates have reported.

Exposure to domestic violence begins in utero, as does the harm it causes. Beginning in the 2nd trimester of pregnancy, babies can hear voices and sounds from the world around them. The clearest sound heard is the mother’s voice. What to Expect: Fetal Sense of Hearing offers a simple experiment to give you the chance to understand what noise sounds like to an unborn baby, “Try this for fun (really!): Put your hand over your mouth. Have your partner do the same. Then carry on a conversation – and that’s what voices sound like to your baby in the womb.

The louder a sound the more likely a baby is to hear it, which includes yelling or threats directed at a pregnant mother, the sound of crying or police sirens – all common in experiences of domestic violence.

Before birth, a unborn baby is not only hearing but experiencing the very emotions of fear – through the chemical process that happens in the mother’s body. Chemical processes in the mother’s body send emotional and physical messages to the unborn baby. A mother who is frightened, anxious or hyper vigilant as a result of abuse has higher levels of stress hormones in her body, that will also affect the developing baby; and over time will put extra stress on the brain and body (this is also reaffirmed by the ACEs study which says toxic stress damages the function and structure of a child’s developing brain, and can lead to other health consequences). In particular, the hormone cortisol is neurotoxic and has damaging effects on the brain, and may contribute to emotional problems in a baby after birth, says new research by Michigan State University scientists.

Other risks to the pregnant mother and unborn baby include: physical injury, inability to seek medical care or treatment, less access to support/friends/family and a higher rate of miscarriage.

To be clear – the problem is NOT the expectant mother but the abuse inflicted on the mother, at the hands of an abusive partner. By gaining a better understanding of how abuse affects unborn children, Alytia Levendosky, a study co-author at Michigan State is hopeful that increased education and awareness about domestic violence will send a strong message that domestic violence is harmful to unborn babies, and will encourage doctors and other medical professionals, and social workers, to screen and monitor for violence; and better be able to support victims – or provide needed resources for help. Research has proven that advocacy for abuse victims, in combination with providing resources for help, does improve outcomes.

A positive note – children’s brain can heal and create new connections; so early intervention can lessen some of the damage caused by domestic violence; and may also save a life.

Need Help? The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 | 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)

Additional Reading: 

ACES = Adverse Childhood Experiences

Authentic Parenting: Effects of Pre-Birth Trauma on the Unborn Child


The effects of domestic violence on unborn children (Includes a list of how exposure to domestic violence negatively impacts the emotional, physical and social development of children)

Partner violence during pregnancy: prevalence, effects, screening, and management

NCADV Pregnancy and Domestic Violence Facts

When Pregnancy Triggers Violence

In an article published by the Huffington Post, Gwyneth Paltrow speaks candidly about her divorce to Coldplay front man, Chris Martin, and their efforts to co-parent the two children they share together.

During her keynote interview at the BlogHer conference in New York City on July 18, 2015, Gwyneth says: “It’s’s been hard, and you know, we’ve gone through really difficult times with it but we’ve always said these children are our priority. What that really means is, ‘Even though today, you hate me and you never want to see me again, we’re going to brunch, ’cause it’s Sunday and that’s what we’ll do!’ You know, like, ‘That’s what’s happening!’ The children are our commitment.”

Gwyneth and Chris remain on friendly terms together, and even plan family events together with the children. Gwyneth offers positive comments about Chris as well, saying that “he is a great dad” and that “he is always patient“.

Gwyneth and Chris work together to ease the transition for the children, and to provide them with the love and support from both and mom and a dad.

Bravo! I know that this is not possible in all situations but for couples where there is a possibility to co-parent, this story offers an inspiring example of what is possible when parents are able to put aside past difference, and put the children first.

Gwyneth Paltrow Offers Up Some Real Talk On Conscious Uncoupling

A love letter from my child… I have saved every letter, poem, drawing and gift from her.

Love Letters To Our Children

The Way I Love You 

The way I love you will never end.

It will keep going on and on

The love is always on, never needs batteries

It runs on love.

I love you like Taylor Swift.

Poem by (Child’s name)

Happy Mother’s Day Mom

Thanks for cooking are meals taking us to fun places spoiling us and having us. We have some fun times together and some bad but I love you.

Mom you rock! 🙂 Love (Child’s name)


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On a Caribbean island big changes are sweeping across Family Court like a tidal wave…
Trinidad and Tobago is a twin island county off the coast Venezuela; it has a combined population of 1.4 million. The capitol city is Port of Spain.

Trinidad and Tobago has begun an innovative project to improve Family Court’s operations and it’s response to the people it serves. Visitors from all over the world are visiting the new pilot project Court in Port of Spain.

(August 2014) Chairman of the Court’s monitoring committee, Justice of Appeal Gregory Smith, spoke to Julian Neaves of “Trinidad and Tobago Newsday” about an important pilot project designed to improve Family Court.

The Family Court of Trinidad and Tobago has implemented a pilot Family Court in Port-of-Spain to improve the quality of Court services and promote conciliation between parties. Justice Smith says about this new system, “The Family Court was not based on a foreign model but they ‘forged ahead on (their) own’ and created a system they thought would work best for Trinidad and Tobago.” The Court was intended to serve the capital city of Port-of-Spain and its districts. The Family Court pilot project is a test run for future projects in the Magistrates’ Court and High Court.

Justice Smith identified three issues the pilot Family Court would address “…the prominence of family matters in modern society; the adversarial system of justice in which we operate was inappropriate for family matters; and finally, that the rules and operational systems adopted in the courts were outdated and needed changing.”

Justice Smith believes that family matters impact all levels of society. A breakdown in the family causes problems in society on all levels-socially, spiritually, economically, financially (etc) and directly affects local communities. Further, children who are not receiving proper care and nurturing, or children who do not have a stable home life, often become anti-social, self-destructive and face problems coping in the real world. This results in an increase in crime, gang activity and family dysfunction. Ongoing litigation in Court, and increased hostility in families in turn negatively affects society, and our children.

Justice Smith elaborates that an adversarial court system is “wholly inappropriate for family matters” because the fighting and negative emotions experienced in high conflict court battles often continue long after the final settlement, and negatively impact outcomes for families and children. Justice Smith believes the best way to resolve hostility and empower families is through conciliation, with the Court supporting those efforts and providing resources necessary for amicable settlement.

Some of the rules and operational procedures Justice Smith felt needed to be changed include that Judges are over burdened, taking on as many as 15-20 cases per day. A large, demanding caseload decreases a Judge’s ability to address matters. If a Judge could not attend to all the issues before him in a day, his docket would pile up–and a back log would begin. Judges would also change frequently as case loads were shifted to accommodate the volume, which means families were also shuffled between judges. In the pilot Family Court, a docket system would be implemented and one judge will be assigned to a case from beginning to end. The docket system streamlines the Court process and is designed to increase transparency.

Another new feature of the pilot Family Court is that social services is integrated into the Court system. In the previous system, a litigant would need a referral for social services, and may have to wait 2-3 months to get help. The pilot Court includes in-house services of social workers, mediators and probation officers (and other necessary professionals). The services of the social workers include counseling, to a limited extent, and mediation. The public can access services from a social worker without having proceedings in court and without hiring an attorney. Judges can also issue referrals to psychologists, clinical psychologists or similar professionals for litigants at no cost (paid for by the Court), and for non-litigious matters.

Other services offered in the Family Court building include parenting classes, co-parenting programs and the Holistic Opportunities for Empowerment (HOPE) program. The Court also features new, child-friendly waiting areas for youth and teens.

The Court building is also unified in that it brings together the both High Court judges and magistrates adjudicate in one building, addressing matters in their respective jurisdiction “The magistrates who sit in the Family Court can only deal with cases brought by persons resident within the magisterial district of St George West in which Port-of-Spain is located. There is no similar restriction on the jurisdiction of the High Court Judges comprising the Court. The Family Court, however, has an identity of its own. It is a single integrated institution, housed in a building which is dedicated exclusively to it.”

Another feature is increased Court staffing, which has been an issue of concern in the past. Waiting times for litigants has been greatly reduced.

Funding still remains a challenge for the pilot Court, as the dedicated funding for this project was removed. Added services, unifying the Courts and other changes have also created a need for more space in the building. A planned expansion of the Court will convert the former St. Joseph’s Convent in San Fernando into the Court. The cost is $151 million, construction is expected to begin in January 2015, and be completed in 2 years. When the Court opens its doors in San Fernando, persons living in San Fernando, Siparia, Point Fortin and Princes Town can file applications there. There are also hopes to establish a Family Court in East and Central Trinidad.

Justice Smith believes an investment into an improved Family Court system is a worthy case, “And you will see it immediately in the society. A more holistic and healthy society.”

“Justice Smith: Family court for a holistic society” By Julien Neaves, August 17 2014. Trinidad and Tobago Newsday: http://www.newsday.co.tt/crime_and_court/0,199209.html

NOTE: It is encouraging that Trinidad and Tobago is implementing these Family Court reform measures. I sincerely hope that Family Court procedures will improve, and work to assist and support families and improve the court system overall.

Being a victim of family court abuse, I encourage the Courts to create mechanisms where litigants can voice complaints without fear of retaliation, and with an independent, neutral agency to handle complaints. There needs to be increased accountability, as well as transparency. I encourage strong discipline against Court officers who violate the law or act outside of professional standards.



No man can possibly
know what life means,

what the world means,
until he has a child and loves it.

And then the whole universe changes
and nothing will ever again seem
exactly as it seemed before.

– Lafcadio Hearn