A Dallas County judge awarded Ryan Crawford temporary custody of his 8-year-old son Wednesday afternoon after the boy's 34-year-old mother was accused of faking his illnesses. Kaylene Bowen-Wright is accused of taking their son to doctors' offices and hospitals in Dallas and Houston more than 300 times and putting him through 13 major surgeries from 2009-16, according to local news reports.
Law enforcement officials say Bowen-Wright tried to get her son on a lung transplant waiting list and placed him in hospice care before doctors determined that he was a healthy boy who wasn’t suffering from a genetic disorder or cancer, as she told family court judges. Experts say her actions fit the description of Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a mental illness in which someone seeks attention by making up illnesses for a person in his or her care.
Dallas police arrested Bowen-Wright early this month on a felony charge of injury to a child. Her bail was set at $150,000 and then lowered to $25,000. She bonded out of jail Tuesday but was told to remain in Dallas County.
She has denied any wrongdoing.
Crawford appeared Wednesday morning on Megyn Kelly Today to raise awareness of his attempts to gain custody of a son he says he was never allowed to see because of the make-believe illnesses.
“It started eight days after he was born,” Crawford said. "Every time he would drink milk, he would throw it up, so she said. But it never really made sense since I never saw him throw up.”
The Fort Worth Star Telegram reported a couple of days after Bowen-Wright’s arrest that Crawford had suspected something was wrong with her before his son was born. According to the story, she called him in the middle of the night from random hospitals and said she was ill. After the birth of their son in April 2009, she began saying the baby was sick.
“Every single week, every single month, she would always say, ‘Something’s wrong. He has this. He has that,’” Crawford told the Star Telegram.
Their son was placed on oxygen and, at times, in a wheelchair. Bowen-Wright said he was allergic to milk, and he was fitted with a feeding tube and experienced multiple life-threatening blood infections, according to the Dec. 8 article.
Crawford said he tried to convince Dallas County courts that his son wasn’t sick, but Bowen-Wright told them the boy was dying, first from a rare genetic disorder and later from cancer, according to multiple news reports. In 2012, the court banned him from seeing his son because he refused to believe Bowen-Wright’s claims. He was also threatened with jail time for becoming angry in court. He says no one was listening to him.
Bowen-Wright tried to raise money online for the critical care she claimed her son needed, and Kelly reported that in 2015, medical staff at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas became suspicious after realizing that the boy had been seen 157 times. “They say they did report their concerns to Texas Family and Protective Services, but no action was taken,” according to Kelly's report.
Child Protective Services declined to discuss the case with NBC News, citing confidentially, and Children's Medical Center said federal law prevented it from acknowledging that Bowen-Wright's son was a patient there.
It wasn’t until Bowen-Wright took their son to Children’s Medical Center in November, claiming that he suffered a massive seizure, that doctors and CPS agents determined that nothing was wrong with the child, according to a KXAS-TV (NBC 5) report that cited CPS investigator notes.
“Everything she’s done has been out of concern for her children and her wellbeing," Mike Howard, Bowen-Wright’s attorney, later told NBC 5. "Of course, there are two sides to every story, and Kaylene looks forward to her day in court.”
CPS placed the boy in foster care. Crawford said CPS officials told him his son would be better served staying with a foster family because he didn’t know his father.
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“But he doesn’t know the foster family, either,” Crawford said.
Crawford’s fight to regain custody led to a CPS hearing Wednesday afternoon.
“They’re just being very difficult trying to place [my son] with me, saying that he needs to remain in a foster home,” Crawford reiterated. “But he’s ready to do the process of healing, which he can’t do in a foster home.”
The court agreed and awarded him temporary custody, to begin Friday.