An 8-year-old boy who officials allege had been exposed all his life to countless invasive procedures and 13 surgeries due to his mother’s lies will soon be living with his father, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Ryan Crawford was granted temporary managing conservatorship of his son, Christopher Bowen, in an agreement reached by all parties involved.
“God answers prayers. We’ve been praying for eight years,” said Nelly Crawford, Christopher’s grandmother. “...We’re so happy. This is a day we’ll never forget and celebrate. Y’all rest assured, he’s going to be well taken care of because he is loved.”
Crawford has been fighting unsuccessfully for several years to convince authorities that his son’s mother, Kaylene Bowen, was lying about Christopher’s health, including her claims that the child was dying.
Never miss a local story.
He said he filed reports with Child Protective Services and told judge after judge in the Dallas family courts about his concerns, only to be treated like an uncaring father. One judge even blocked Crawford from visiting his son in late 2012.
It wasn’t until November, after medical providers raised concerns with Child Protective Services — the second time such a report had been made since 2015 — that Christopher and two half-siblings were removed and put into foster care.
Bowen is accused of medical child abuse, often known as Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a disorder in which a caregiver exaggerates or creates medical symptoms in another, usually to gain attention.
Bowen, who also goes by Bowen-Wright, had denied the allegations.
The 34-year-old woman was arrested earlier this month on a charge of injury to a child with serious bodily injury and recently freed from Dallas County Jail after a judge agreed to lower her bond from $150,000 to $25,000.
She is prohibited from having contact with any minor child.
Since last month’s removal by CPS, Crawford had still been fighting to get Christopher out of foster care and home with him. He said CPS had expressed reservations because Christopher had not seen his dad since 2012, except for recent supervised visits.
On Wednesday, however, CPS recommended to Associate Judge C. Andrew Ten Eyck that Christopher be placed with his father. Christopher will be placed with his father by Friday.
Also under the agreement reached Wednesday, Bowen, who is not allowed contact with Christopher or her other two children, must undergo psychological and psychiatric evaluations, undergo counseling, and participate in a parenting class.
The parties cannot discuss facts of the case with the media or post photographs of Christopher or his half-siblings on social media, per the agreement.
Christopher’s older sister is in the care of her biological father. CPS is currently conducting a home study on Bowen’s mother to determine if Bowen’s youngest child, who remains in foster care, may be placed with her.
Crawford and his son will also undergo individual and family therapy.
Before the hearing, Crawford said since the Star-Telegram wrote earlier this month about his plight, the support he’s been shown has been overwhelming.
“I had to do this all by myself for eight years. And for people to actually show their concern and be so welcoming...it’s comforted me,” Crawford said. “It’s let me know that others are finally on board with what I have been saying and that Christopher has a tremendous amount of supporters.”
‘Miscarriage of Justice’
Representing Crawford during Wednesday’s hearing was Shannon Pritchard, the same attorney who had led the father’s unsuccessful attempt to get custody of Christopher in 2014.
Crawford said during a 2014 hearing, Judge Lori Hockett — the same judge who had prevented him from visiting his son in late 2012 — refused to hear new evidence in the case. He said the judge chastised him for dragging Bowen back in court when her son was dying.
Pritchard recently told the Star-Telegram that the new evidence the judge refused to see included “reams and reams of discovery from both Children’s Hospital in Dallas and a hospital in Houston that showed not a thread of evidence that the child had any kind of chronic illness at all.”
She called Hockett’s decision to not hear the evidence “a clear abuse of discretion” and said Christopher’s case had haunted her ever since.
“It was one of the worst days of my career. I knew it was a miscarriage of justice. I was just stunned,” Pritchard told the Star-Telegram.
Hockett, who now works in family law mediation, has previously declined to comment on Crawford’s allegations, stating only that she and her associate judge “both ruled on the evidence that was presented to us at the time.”
Her associate judge at the time was Eyck, the same associate judge who ordered Wednesday for Christopher to be placed with his father.
Pritchard said Crawford didn’t have the several thousands of dollars it would have required to appeal Hockett’s decision.
“There was nothing that we could afford for him to do,” Pritchard recalled. “Those are wildly expensive processes. He couldn’t afford it. He was tapped out.”
Crawford’s work colleagues have since started a GoFundMe page to help the father with legal expenses.
Bowen’s mother also started her daughter a GoFundMepage to raise money for a powerful attorney in order to “beat such outrageous allegations.” The page, however, was quickly taken down.
Since 2014, at least two different online fundraisers had been started to help Bowen, one alleging that her son had a severe case of Arteriovernous malformation and the other, that he had been diagnosed with cancer and only had six months to live.
According to a CPS emergency removal petition, medical records show that between 2009 and 2016, Christopher was seen 323 times at hospitals and pediatric centers in Dallas and Houston and underwent 13 major surgeries.
Carolyn Williams, Crawford’s aunt, said she once met Bowen at the hospital, where Christopher was to undergo a colonoscopy.
“At that time, she told us he had cancer. He was going to have surgery,” Williams recalled.
Williams remembers Bowen later emerging with X-rays and documents.
“I looked at them. Kaylene said this must be the cancer,” Williams. “I’m reading real fast, looking at the notes, the summary. I said no, he does not have cancer. Read down here. It says nothing was found.”
Williams said Bowen’s reaction was alarming to her. So was later seeing Bowen had had a third child - a baby that told Williams she had through artificial insemination in order to help save Christopher.
“I told my mom, this girl very sick. I said I’m calling CPS. If something happens to this baby, I don’t want them to say you all knew something was wrong and you never reported it. When I got home, I called CPS.”
She still has the letter, dated May 11, 2013 that she would later receive from the CPS investigator assigned to looking into the case.
“We have concluded that there is no basis for our intervention and have closed this case,” reads the letter, a copy of which she shared with the Star-Telegram.
Crawford said since Christopher’s removal from his mother, his son has proved to be a healthy boy who now only takes medication for allergies.
And now he’ll have Christmas with his dad’s family.
Christopher’s great-grandmother, Flora Crawford, said the agreement was an answered prayer.
“I’ve already got him gifts,” Flora Crawford said. “...That’s all I want is him.”