SC parents work to reconnect with toddler son after child abuse probe pulled them apart
Watching young Foxx Coker pad around his Johns Island home, clutching his favorite toy dog and dancing to the theme of SpongeBob SquarePants, his parents can’t help but think of all the little moments like this they have missed over the past two years.
His first steps. His first words. His first taste of solid food. Moments forever lost amid a swirl of accusations and heartache.
Foxx was just 2 months old when the state Department of Social Services whisked him away in May 2017 after a variety of broken bones in his body led to suspicions of child abuse. Then, a judge unexpectedly returned him to his parents Wednesday after a medical expert testified that the boy’s injuries resulted from a bone-weakening case of nutritional rickets, not physical abuse.
He’s already spent more time with them than he has since he was placed in protective custody and shuttled through a series of foster homes. During that time, his parents were allowed to see Foxx for two hours each month in a DSS facility while case workers watched from behind two-way mirrors.
“He knew who we were,” said his father Joshua Coker. “But there is no way you can truly bond with someone in two hours a month.”
That’s just 24 hours in a year, he said. The equivalent of a single day.
They would watch as the foster parents’ car pulled away with Foxx inside after each visit. It was like the moment he’d been stripped from them was being played on an endless loop, his mother, Ashley Joyner, said.
“It’s been awful,” she said, shaking her head. “An absolute nightmare.”
The family’s long journey started, Joyner said, when she discovered her infant’s son left leg was swollen one day, though without signs of obvious bruising. They ended up at Medical University Hospital, where doctors informed them that Foxx had a leg fracture.
The medical staff didn’t mention at the time that X-rays had pinpointed several other fractures as well. But soon, DSS investigators arrived on the scene and began questioning Joyner and Coker about the injuries, the couple said.
They were caught off guard by the sudden scrutiny but were confident, they said, that authorities would realize their suspicions were misplaced. That didn’t happen. Foxx was soon placed in protective custody.
A few weeks later, Charleston County sheriff’s deputies moved in to arrest the couple on suspicion of child abuse after testing failed to pinpoint a medical condition that could have caused the injuries and doctors pointed to signs of possible trauma, according to arrest affidavits.
After news of the arrests broke, the couple received death threats over social media, Coker said. Joyner said anger, depression and stress set in, and she grew uncomfortable even venturing out to the grocery store.
Foxx had been their “miracle baby,” as Joyner, 27, had a medical condition that doctors said would prevent her from having a child. How could people think they would harm him, they wondered.
Read the full story at the Post and Courier.
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