CHENNAI : An Indian-origin couple in the US was granted bail on Thursday after being arrested for allegedly neglecting and abusing their six-month-old daughter. They were arrested last Friday, weeks after they took her to a hospital at Broward County in Florida with a swollen left arm. However, Child Protective Services will continue to have custody of their six-month-old babies, with no parental access.
Authorities booked them for child neglect and abuse after the couple from Tamil Nadu allegedly questioned why the girl had to undergo expensive tests at the medical establishment and attempted to take the child from the hospital against doctors’ advice.
The couple, Prakash Settu and Mala Paneerselvam, was earlier sent to a prison in Fort Lauderdale with the bail amount set at $200,000. A person familiar with the matter told NDTV on Thursday that “the bail amount was ultimately reduced to $30,000, and the couple released just a few hours ago”.
The baby, Himisha, and her twin brother were taken away from them by Child Protective Services a few weeks ago.
Friends of the family, who deny the allegations levelled against the couple, have organised an online fundraiser to help them wage a legal battle against the US authorities. “Separating newborn twins from biological parents is a sin. Let them hand over them to me, as a grandmother. I’d take care of them,” Ms Paneerselvam’s mother, Malika, told NDTV.
A close friend of the couple claimed that they had enquired about the need for expensive medical tests at each stage of the treatment only because they could not afford them. “Their insurance did not cover all of them. This was misconstrued as neglect,” the friend said.
The Ministry of External Affairs is also in touch with US authorities in this regard.
However, a report from Florida Health Children’s Medical Services, Broward County, in NDTV’s possession alleges that Mr Settu and his wife refused to let hospital staffers conduct a “skeletal survey” and even tried to take their daughter away. The hospital viewed this as a case of possible child neglect and summoned Child Protective Services agents to the scene.
The US consulate, when contacted, stated that they will not be able to comment on “individual cases of investigation”.
The US has very stringent laws on child protection, and several cases of parents being booked for child neglect and abuse have cropped up over the years. In one such instance, an 18-month-old boy from Bengal was taken away from his parents in 2012 after he suffered a head injury. He was brought back to Kolkata a year later.