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Mom Takes Baby to E.R. for Mystery Bump, Then Spends 550 Days Trying to Get Daughter Back (Exclusive)

Kaylee Doss shares her story of false child abuse accusations to raise awareness for other families who are subjected to the same

<p>Courtesy of Kaylee and Landon Doss</p> Landon and Kaylee Doss with daughter Rowan

Courtesy of Kaylee and Landon Doss

Landon and Kaylee Doss with daughter Rowan
  • Kaylee and Landon Doss noticed a knot on their daughter's collarbone and decided, as new parents, to seek medical attention at a local E.R.

  • The couple was astonished to learn that their daughter Rowan, 6 weeks, had multiple fractures and was referred to CPS as an abused and neglected child

  • The family had to fight for 18 months through court-mandated counseling and parenting classes to regain custody of their daughter, whose injuries were actually the result of a genetically inherited disorder

In the first half of 2022, Kaylee Doss was in heaven. She and her husband Landon had welcomed a baby girl, Rowan, and were settling into life as a family of three.

"I hate to say it, but it really was classic calm, white picket fence Christian living," she tells PEOPLE in an exclusive new interview. "We were engaged when I got pregnant and we got married a week after Rowan was born."

That spring, Kaylee was still home on maternity leave from her job as a pharmacy technician. Landon, a member of law enforcement, was making the most out of time at home while on leave after suffering a traumatic brain injury on the job.

The couple's first genuine concern for their little girl came when she was 6 weeks old. They took their baby home from an evening visiting family, put her down and enjoyed some time together. When she woke up just after midnight on June 12, 2022, they noticed a knot on the infant's collarbone.

"I'm thinking cancer or something crazy. We do have some bone issues in my family. So we decided to just go ahead and take her to the hospital," recalls Kaylee.

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<p>Courtesy of Kaylee and Landon Doss</p> Landon and Kaylee Doss with daughter Rowan

Courtesy of Kaylee and Landon Doss

Landon and Kaylee Doss with daughter Rowan

Kaylee and Landon traveled to a hospital with a pediatric unit in Asheville, North Carolina, where they waited almost 3½ hours before they were seen.

At first, nurses were reassuring the new mom, but after they checked in and were put in a room, things took a turn. It was just before 6 a.m. when an E.R. nurse came in and addressed the two parents.

"She looked at us and asked, 'What have you done to this baby?' " says Kaylee. "She said, 'In order for a child to sustain injuries this severe, something serious had to have happened.' "

Kaylee and Landon were then told that Child Protective Services (CPS) had been called and they could not leave the hospital until they spoke with them.

"And she just walked out. She didn't tell us what was wrong with Rowan, didn't specify her injuries. She just told us ... we 'needed to get our story straight.' "

<p>Courtesy of Kaylee and Landon Doss</p> Landon Doss and Kaylee Doss kissing daughter Rowan

Courtesy of Kaylee and Landon Doss

Landon Doss and Kaylee Doss kissing daughter Rowan

Kaylee and Landon were firm in the fact that nothing had happened to Rowan. "I asked if they pulled up hospital records since we'd been there two weeks prior because she had a respiratory infection we feared was pneumonia. She'd been to a doctor every week of her life, and we'd never had issues."

Rowan was in the room with Landon, Kaylee and her mother when a forensic nurse came in and informed them they needed to sign to consent to further testing.

"We signed, thinking we were getting genetic testing done. And they did not. Instead, she received rape kits and full skeletal surveys, as well as some extensive CT scans and MRIs," she says, admitting that to this day, they do not know all of the testing Rowan had that day.

<p>Courtesy of Kaylee and Landon Doss</p> Landon Doss and daughter Rowan

Courtesy of Kaylee and Landon Doss

Landon Doss and daughter Rowan

Rowan was admitted to the hospital, but it wasn't until 10:00 a.m. that hospital staff informed Landon and Kaylee that scans showed their daughter had a number of fractures.

"A child abuse pediatrician came in and told us she had between 8 and 13 fractures," Kaylee says. "They said they called CPS to alert them to abuse and neglect of a child and said they needed to know what was going on."

The couple asked follow-up questions about Rowan's injuries, which went unanswered as they were advised to prepare to meet with a social worker.

Eventually, Kaylee and Landon were placed under a "safety plan," which included a hospital room that had large windows so they could be monitored by staff.

The new parents were allowed to stay with Rowan overnight, but the next day social workers from Buncombe County, where the hospital was located, arrived and pulled Kaylee and Landon into a private conference room.

"They told us it was urgent. I didn't even have shoes on," Kaylee recalls. "I walked barefoot to a conference room down the hallway. They sat us down and they told us, 'We're placing her in a foster care home. Do you have kinship placement?' "

Kaylee admits she "lost it," adding, "I wasn't rude. I wasn't hateful. I was just a little overwhelmed. And I really don't remember what else was said."

The couple offered Kaylee's grandmother as a possible kinship placement and called her to tell her what was happening. She was just two weeks from retiring and went to work that day and turned in her badge early.

"At that point, they said, 'Okay, that's fine, but we have to clear her first.' And they said, 'We need you to leave. We're going to keep her in the hospital until we get the home sanctioned for her.' "

<p>Courtesy of Kaylee and Landon Doss</p> Kaylee Doss holds daughter Rowan, who sleeps on her chest as they pose with Landon Doss

Courtesy of Kaylee and Landon Doss

Kaylee Doss holds daughter Rowan, who sleeps on her chest as they pose with Landon Doss

Kaylee and Landon were allowed back to the room to gather their things when the new mom noticed Rowan was hungry.

"I picked her up and I was feeding her a bottle. The nurses picked her up out of my arms and pushed up right out the door. I saw them place her in that bassinet by herself and left her and made us leave," she recalls tearfully.

Kaylee and Landon had a limited amount of time to get over to her county's Department of Social Services to meet with a social worker. Before that, they stopped home to pack a bag of Rowan's things for Kaylee's grandmother to take back to the hospital, where she was permitted to stay with her.

"I put her clothes, her blanket, and my pillowcase in there. I told my nana to cover her bassinet with my pillowcase so it felt like home, because it's got to be scary to a 6-week-old," Kaylee says.

Throughout the experience, it was hard to deny how traumatizing the whole ordeal was for the new parents.

"I had never faced a trauma like this in my life. I've been through some things, but nothing compares to having your child ripped away from you and grieving a child that's alive," Kaylee says.

"And that's what we were doing. We were grieving the loss of a live child that we were able to see, but we couldn't raise. There was a lot of just sitting and staring."

The couple then met with a social worker who also wasn't clear on how the case came to be and said the situation was a "non-uniform case" and that Rowan "did not look harmed or abused or neglected."

The McDowell DSS employee told the couple that they needed to "let the investigation run its course, which typically takes between 30 and 45 days."

"I felt like the whole world just stopped. I looked at Landon and he was holding my hand so tight it was white. I felt like we were being treated worse than dogs," she shares.

"Puppies stay with their moms for eight to 10 weeks. And they took my baby away — to a house where she didn't have the diapers and formula she needed to address her GI issues, away from her routine — at six weeks."

Kaylee's grandmother was able to stay in the hospital that night. The next day, when she returned from a quick meal, she was told she couldn't be there anymore and had to leave. Rowan had been sent home to a foster placement.

"My nana called me and said, 'Somebody just came and picked her up and she's not here anymore.' And later, we found out they sent her home with a hospital employee as a foster parent," says Kaylee.

<p>Courtesy of Kaylee and Landon Doss</p> Rowan Doss

Courtesy of Kaylee and Landon Doss

Rowan Doss

Kaylee says Rowan was with the employee for three days and two nights until kinship placement was approved.

Once Rowan was in Kaylee's grandmother's care, the couple was able to start seeing her every day.

"I just remember how blessed I was because most people in our cases, they don't get to see their kids at all. And if they do get to see them, it's an hour a week, maybe two hours a week if they're under the age of two. So I did get to see her, but I wasn't allowed to give her a bath. I wasn't allowed to take her outside."

Kaylee recalls feeling like her ability to develop her maternal instincts was "stripped" from her.

"I feel like I wasn't able to really fully connect with my baby when it comes to becoming a mother because my child was gone. So the disconnection with learning her cries and being her safe space and doing all of those things that you do to bond, it was so much harder," she shares.

From June through November, the couple visited Rowan at Kaylee's grandparents home as they waited for developments in the case.

"We would feed her, we would change her, we would play with her. We made sure that we were there as much as we possibly could, but we still missed her first laugh and her first crawl, and the first time she ate solids," she says.

"It felt hopeless as we missed those prime moments in her development and felt so stripped of everything you're supposed to have after becoming a parent."

In November, there were finally signs of progress. The couple appeared in court with their community behind them as they fought for Rowan to come home. The couple had family, friends, their pastor and local business owners attest to their commitment as parents.

"When Landon was up there, it felt like five minutes. When they put me on stand, I felt like it lasted a lifetime," she recalls.

Kaylee was asked about her own medical history, any signs of postpartum anxiety or depression and what she thought happened to her daughter.

"I said, 'I don't take responsibility for fractures. I don't take responsibility for hurting her. I don't take responsibility for causing any of this harm to her because she's not been harmed.' I said, 'But I take accountability for her being my daughter in the fact that we took her to get medical help because we thought something was wrong and now that we know something's wrong, I want her to have the medical help that she needs to find out what's wrong.' "

After her statement, DSS brought forth a stipulation for the couple to sign, which "contained the facts that the child abuse pediatrician believed to be true. It was her finding and allegations, and they wanted us to acknowledge them."

The couple's attorney explained that it wasn't an admission of guilt. Instead, DSS wanted the couple to acknowledge the pediatrician was firm in her beliefs of what the situation was. Kaylee and Landon decided to sign the stipulation, with their lawyer reiterating what it meant as they presented the document to the court.

"He was very formal and stern and said, 'This is not an admission of guilt. My clients have not harmed their child. They do not believe that she has been abused nor neglected. This is simply acknowledging the doctor's belief until we can find a medical why.' "

At that time, the judge adjudicated Rowan as an abused and neglected child and said that while she'd remain in state custody, they were ready to pursue a reunification plan in order to grant custody back to the parents.

With the reunification plan came more work for Kaylee and Landon. Quarterly, they'd have a child-family team meeting to go over the plan's progress.

"They wanted us to do parenting classes, sexual assault prevention classes, get a cognitive clinical evaluation, a parental capacity assessment. They wanted us to go to individual counseling and marital counseling."

"I was in fight or flight mode. I don't know how I managed. We had to go to DSS once a week to have a supervised visit with a social worker, which was disheartening in and of itself because of the conditions," she says.

While all of this was happening, Kaylee continued to search for medical answers for her baby girl.

"I had done so much research and I found this article. It was 72 infants in a study that had fractured bones and metabolic bone disease-like issues. But they all ended up having Ehlers-Danlos syndrome," she shares.

After seeing the similarities between these cases and Rowan's, Kaylee contacted "the social workers, my attorney and our guardian ad litem."

"I plastered this article everywhere and I said, 'I swear this is the same thing.' It was the same fractures, same number of fractures, same placements."

She also joined a fractured families support group on Facebook, where she found a list of professionals available to assist in such situations. Among them was Dr. Michael Hollick, who conducted the study she'd discovered.

"I found his contact information through Parents Behind the Pinwheels. I emailed and I laid it out there. I submitted a picture of us and I said, 'My daughter is experiencing the same fractures and the same symptoms and I don't know what to do. And I just want her home and we are desperate to find help and nobody's listening to us.' "

Kaylee reveals, "He got back to us in less than 24 hours," sending over paperwork and family medical history for the couple to gather before an appointment with the Boston-based doctor.

After a Zoom consultation, Kaylee and Landon were granted permission for supervised travel with Rowan to Boston University to meet with Dr. Hollick.

"We got there and he did a genetics screen. He tested me and my mother and Rowan, and all three of us passed the Beighton Scoring System. I had eight of the nine markers. Rowan and my mom had seven," says Kaylee.

"It explained all of our medical problems and vitamin deficiencies. There was not a single thing in Rowan's medical records that I had called a doctor about, concerned, that wasn't connected. It explained the fractures that early in infancy."

Finding a why brought Kaylee one step closer to feeling like the situation could be resolved.

"I couldn't cry. I couldn't smile. I couldn't frown. I felt frozen in time, but relieved at the same time. We stepped outside and it was snowing, and I think that's the first time in that period from June to January that I felt air hit my face and was able to breathe," she says.

Kaylee and Landon continued to work on their parenting plan throughout 2023. In December, the case was finally closed, and the judge apologized to the family of three.

"She thanked us for cooperating. She congratulated us on getting Rowan back. She said that we were very thorough and timely and that we proved ourselves as parents that we would do the hard things and put in the work and effort to get her back into our custody," she says.

"She apologized that they were not timely. They did not hold up their end of the bargain when it came to getting her home. They kept stalling. They had excuses. They kept continuing and at the end of the day, they came up empty-handed, and it was just, 'We are sorry that it took so long.' "

"I felt like it was a breath of fresh air to get an apology from somebody acknowledging the fact that we had been put through hell and back. But it was a little bitter because I didn't want to be told congratulations for winning my daughter back from the state," Kaylee says.

"At the end of the day, we had a medical reason as to what was wrong. We had been going through physical therapy and endocrinologists and getting her treatment. It wasn't a win for us."

The 550-day period was a nightmare for the family, says Kaylee, and the couple have discussed one day sharing this part of Rowan's story with her.

"There's a lot that goes into play. Every single medical record, court document, reunification plan, letter, referral, I've kept everything and it's all in order. I have phone numbers and names and people and I even have who was there to support us the whole time," she says.

"I have the planners that I wrote in to keep dates and I don't want to keep it because every time I look at it, my stomach turns. But I want to keep it because there's going to come a day in time where Rowan's going to ask, 'How did you find out I was sick?' or 'How long have I dealt with this?' How do you look at your child who's of age to ask you these questions and not think about the trauma that you had to go through to find out that she was sick?"

Kaylee acknowledges it will be difficult to explain and she wants to make sure she can do it when she doesn't "sound bitter or sour or have this negativity."

"At the end of the day, we want to take this experience and use it to help. There are so many families going through this and it can be relieving to see how she's doing now and how it all ended for us."

Today, Rowan is "smart and beautiful and strong," giving Kaylee confidence in her ability to handle learning about this difficult chapter when the time comes.

"I don't regret taking her to the hospital because we knew something wasn't right. I'm not happy that it happened the way that it did. But at the end of the day, I am so thankful that we have an answer as to what was wrong."

Kaylee and Landon waited until their case was legally concluded before sharing their story online in fear of backlash. Once they did, they received an outpouring of messages from people going through similar situations.

"I was overwhelmed because I had this anxious pit in my stomach. I want to help, but then I was also reliving the trauma. And there's a type of survivor's guilt because I am here and I have survived it and I come out on top and I have my daughter and I have my husband and we are okay. But now there are these thousands of families going through the same thing, begging for some kind of light."

<p>Courtesy of Kaylee and Landon Doss</p> Kaylee and Landon Doss with daughter Rowan and son Reese

Courtesy of Kaylee and Landon Doss

Kaylee and Landon Doss with daughter Rowan and son Reese

Over 3 million people have interacted with the family's story across social media.

"I want change because I don't want any kids to suffer what my child did," says Kaylee. "I don't want any parents to suffer what we did. Let us be the example that stops that suffering."

Kaylee is now enjoying life as a mom of two, welcoming a baby boy late last year.

"Rowan will be 2 in April and she is well above average when it comes to her milestones. She speaks in full sentences and she's curious about bugs and nature and dinosaurs. Her favorite movie is A Bug's Life. She is a happy-go-lucky, beautiful toddler. She loves and adores her 4-month-old brother, Reese."

Rowan doesn't let her differences hold her back, with the couple being sure to "accommodate her to do the activities she wants to do so she can enjoy them to the fullest capacity."

"She's spunky. She's just perfect. We couldn't have been blessed with a better toddler and for her to have gone through what she has, it's amazing."

Rowan also continues to enjoy special bonds with her family, especially Kaylee's grandmother.

"Rowan knows that I'm mom, but I've absolutely worked at that bonding experience. And they have what they share, which is special."

"I finally feel like the calm after the storm. We can finally breathe and we're walking down our path of healing as a family."

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