Parents of a three-year-old boy who was given seven dental fillings
without parental notification or consent have filed a claim against a
Head Start program provider, which they are further accusing of having forged the mother’s signature on a consent form in order to cover up any wrongdoing.
Lillian Hines noticed the fillings in her son’s teeth while playing with the boy one evening. A.J., who is enrolled in a low-income daycare/preschool program in north San Diego County, had just seen the family dentist two months earlier when his teeth were pronounced healthy.
The morning after Lillian Hines discovered the fillings, she and her husband, Autie, called A.J.’s Head Start child care center to see if officials there could provide an explanation.
They learned the toddler had been treated twice in a mobile unit operated by the Good Hope Dental group from Vista, Calif. Records show that Good Hope dentist Jennifer Sims gave A.J. an oral exam, X-rays and a cleaning Nov. 2. — the same day his own dentist had cleaned his teeth and said he had no cavities, the Hineses said.
On Jan. 25, Sims returned in the mobile unit and gave A.J. seven fillings, all in his baby teeth, without anesthesia.
The Hineses say the treatment, performed unnecessarily, could explain their son’s recent nightmares and temper tantrums. According to his parents, A.J. had seemed to be fighting someone in his sleep, crying out, “No, no,” and waking up six or seven times a night.
But Sims said the fillings were necessary, even though she told the
San Diego Union-Tribune anesthesia was not needed because the cavities weren’t very deep. She took X-rays, she said, that showed he had cavities between the teeth — something that may not have been evident during a visual exam. She said a Head Start dentist approved her proposal to fill the cavities before the work was done.
“If we had known [Lillian Hines] didn’t want it, we wouldn’t have done it,” Sims said.
The Hineses believe they took necessary measures to ensure the Head Start program knew their son was being treated by a family dentist. After A.J.’s most recent trip to the family dentist, Head Start was provided a letter saying the toddler had no cavities. But program officials told the parents they could not locate such a letter.
“We never would have given consent for a mobile van to work on our child,” Lillian Hines told the Union-Tribune.
Autie Hines added, “Only in the case of emergency did I give them any authorization to do medical services.”
The couple had A.J. transferred to a nearby Head Start facility after they learned of the incident, and they made a formal complaint to the state Dental Board, which said it will investigate the matter.
During their own investigation with the help of attorney Dave Sullivan, the Hinses requested copies of any consent forms Autie or his wife may have signed for the Head Start program. Lillian Hines, who received the fax a few hours later, said her signature was forged on the form she received.
“It’s not her signature,” Sullivan said. “It’s a good copy … but even a novice could tell it’s a forgery.”
All parents must sign a form authorizing care in an emergency situation, but a separate, specific form is needed to authorize non-emergency treatment, such as that given to A.J. Lillian Hines signed the emergency care form in August 1999, Sullivan told WorldNetDaily, but neither parent gave their consent for other medical services provided by the Head Start program.
Head Start is part of the
U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services and provides comprehensive child development programs serving children from birth to age 5, pregnant women and their families. Administering agencies, such as the non-profit
Neighborhood House in San Diego County — through which the Hineses receive assistance — provide a range of individualized services in the areas of education and early childhood development; medical, dental, and mental health; nutrition; and parent involvement.
Sims said she was given a signed consent form at the time of treatment and that any possible forgery was not committed by the dental group.
Additionally, the permit for the mobile unit in which A.J. was treated had expired in July, though the practitioner’s license and those of Good Hope Dental’s operators were up-to-date. The group ceased using the mobile unit after the incident with the Hineses.
Head Start uses 50 dental providers at its 77 centers around San Diego County. As of March, Head Start had paid those providers a total of $269,389 since the fiscal year began July 1.
A.J. was one of 96 children treated by Good Hope Dental, operators of the Vista-based mobile unit, between July and March. Good Hope billed the program $10,680 for the work. Head Start stopped using the provider in March, soon after officials learned of the Hineses’ allegations.
According to officials for Medi-Cal, which pays for Head Start services in California, Good Hope Dental is a “significant Medi-Cal provider,” and also has offices in Corona, in Riverside County and Yorba Linda, in Orange County.
A.J. is not the typical low-income Head Start student. He qualified for the program during a two-month window when his father was out of work. Autie Hines now works at a substance abuse prevention program, and his wife is a federal court case administrator.
“I find that it’s unfortunate that when people place their children in somebody else’s hands that they would allow something like this to happen to them, because if it were their own child, this never would have occurred,” Sullivan said. “All it really took to correct this was somebody double-checking that this kid is on the list of the children whose parents have consented to these types of visits.”
Neighborhood House public relations officer Alexis Dixon said the woman responsible for the failure to notify the Hineses resigned from Head Start in March. He also said program policies are being re-examined to see if a change is needed.
Though the Hineses have switched to a new Head Start provider, they still have concerns about what happened to their son in the mobile unit, including whether the dentist used sterilized tools.
“Do I need to have my son tested for AIDS?” she asked. “They could have rode off with him … and he’s a little innocent kid. They could’ve done anything,” she told the Union-Tribune.
Dixon told WND the organization has an “ongoing investigation” into the matter and that it will take “appropriate action.”
The non-profit organization’s goal is to “make sure policies are followed.”
“We deal with 7,500 children a year. This has never been an issue with us,” he said.
Noting the fact that Neighborhood House has been providing humanitarian services such as a food bank, senior citizen and inner-city youth programs to the San Diego community for 86 years, including the Head Start program for 35 years, Dixon expressed his desire to “make sure [the Hinses' situation] doesn’t happen again.”
“Obviously the system worked … because it showed that something went awry,” he added.
According to Sullivan, the board of directors for Neighborhood House has recently turned the matter over to its insurance company, which has begun its investigation into the Hineses’ claim.