“Omg Omg Omg! Arizona Chandler police department just broke in Sarah Becks door WITHOUT a warrant!!! Unvaxxed kids are being stolen!” The frantic post shared on Facebook went viral earlier this week. Anti-vax conspiracy theorists swarmed and shared the update all over social media. However, the story provided in the update wasn’t true. Arizona police say the children were in immediate medical danger and they had a warrant to remove the children from home.
When the post was shared earlier this week by a friend of Sarah Beck, anti-vaxxers shared the information in groups and on pages. Individuals expressed outrage, anger, and paranoia that police were removing children from anti-vaccine parents.
Almost immediately discussions broke out that Arizona DCS was kidnapping unvaccinated children to sell them into foster care. Many said that unvaccinated children are highly in demand because they are incredibly healthy. Several discussed an Arizona ‘kidnapping cartel.”
While many believed the post at face value, others that knew the family personally attempted to stop the misinformation from spreading. One woman, a former friend of Sarah’s, said the post left out critical details about the case.
For instance, she said DCS had been involved with the family multiple times. Additionally, she said the police took the children because a doctor feared one of the children had meningitis.
According to the woman, Sarah had taken her 2-year-old son to see their naturopath earlier in the day. At the clinic, the boy, Heder, had a fever of 105 degrees. The naturopath told Sarah that she needed to take Heder to the hospital. Sarah didn’t agree with the provider and left the clinic.
Later in the day, Sarah called the naturopath to tell them she would not be taking her son to the hospital. Sarah expressed to the doctor that his fever had gone down and she wasn’t concerned anymore. When the naturopath learned the boy was still at home, they called the Department of Child Safety and filed a report.
Based on the information provided by the former friend, the children’s vaccination status did not play a role in the case.
As the rumors spread online, Sarah and her partner Brooks Bryce reached out to local media to cover the story. Multiple news outlets in Arizona picked up the story.
AZ Family interviewed the couple outside of their home. They said that police broke down their door and took their three children. Sarah said that police came to the house after a naturopath reported her to DCS for failing to bring her son to the hospital.
In the interview, Sarah confirmed everything her former friend shared online earlier in the week. At the clinic, her son Heder had a fever of 105. Sarah said she retook his temperature in the car on the way home. According to Sarah, the Heder’s temperature was 102. She noted that Heder acted normal in the car and danced with his siblings.
She admitted that she called the naturopath and told them that she wasn’t concerned about Heder’s fever. However, the naturopath believed that Heder had meningitis and needed life-saving medical help. Fearful for the boy’s life, the naturopath called DCS to file a report.
After receiving the report from the doctor, DCS reached out to the parents to investigate. Brooks said that he spoke with a social worker and refused to take his son to the hospital. Brooks told AZ Family,
“They said ‘Brooks, you have to come out of your house right now… we have to check on them [kids],’ and I said, ‘I have Heber in my arms, he’s doing fine, his temperature is 100 degrees. He’s safe he’s asleep, could you please just leave us alone,’” Brooks Bryce, the boy’s dad, said.
Unable to convince the couple to take Heder to the hospital, DCS requested a temporary custody order from a judge. Police showed up at the couples home with the custody order and knocked on the door multiple times. Brooks refused to open the door and comply with their requests.Because Brooks would not cooperate with police, authorities were forced to bust down the front door to remove the children. Inside the home, the police say they found all three children sick and symptomatic.
The police report indicated that the home had clutter all over the floor which made it difficult to walk. In one of the children’s bedroom, authorities found vomit all over the beds. The couple admitted the children had vomited several times and they had not cleaned up the mess.
Details from the police report:
-“there was a present danger [to the child] that required immediate medical attention”
-“Brooks and Sarah refused to come outside and refused to let DCS check on the welfare of [the child].”
-“There was a court order signed by the judge giving DCS temporary custody of [the child] in order to get him medical treatment.”
In the couple’s bedroom, police found a shotgun that was not locked or secured. Brooks disputed the claim about the gun and insisted the weapon doesn’t work.
After completing a search of the home, the police called for an ambulance. Two of the children were taken by ambulance to the hospital. A DCS worker took the third child to the hospital by car. The naturopath’s concerns were not unfounded. Doctors admitted Heder into the hospital to treat his symptoms.
Since the DCS removed the children from home, the couple has not seen their children. They were supposed to meet with social workers, but the couple said DCS canceled the appointment.
Police say that there have been no criminal charges filed in the case. However, the investigation is still on-going.
Sarah and Brooks told multiple agencies that their children are not vaccinated, but they do not believe their vaccination status has anything to do with this case.
This story highlights the fact that misinformation spreads quickly on Facebook. People took a status update at face value. They shared the status all over social media and created a frenzy based on unsubstantiated claims. Anti-vaxxers used the story to further their narrative that DCS medically kidnaps children. Additionally, they fed into conspiracy theorists that believe social service workers capture and sell children into foster care.
Absolutely all of their fears were completely unfounded. DCS was forced to remove the child because the parents failed to take the child to the hospital. Heder’s fever was extraordinarily high and indicative of a bacterial infection. Instead of following the doctor’s orders, the parents decided not to treat their son.
Anti-vaxxers consistently use stories like this to tarnish the reputations of doctors, government agencies, and hospitals. They never consider the fact that the parents in the case might be at fault.
This is an important reminder to be cautious of what you see online. Just because someone cries “medical kidnapping” doesn’t mean it’s real.
*Katie Joy is a columnist and hosts Without A Crystal Ball on Patheos Non-Religious Channel. She writes articles on parenting, disability advocacy, debunking pseudoscience, atheism, and crimes against women and children.
She co-hosts the YouTube show, “The Smoking Nun,” with Kyle Curtis. The show airs weekly and tackles pseudoscience, current events, and crime stories.
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