Photographer Posts Photo of Her Son, Faces Child Neglect Case

Photographer Posts Photo of Her Son, Faces Child Neglect Case

A photographer faces a legal battle with her local child safety department after uploading a photo of her husband cradling their sick son in the shower.

Photographer Heather Whitten, the child’s mother, took the photo back in November 2014. At the time it was taken, her son was suffering from a high fever and diarrhea as a result of salmonella poisoning and was being comforted by his father in the shower.

The image first went viral early last year, racking up millions of views before being removed from Facebook multiple times over. Before its removal from the Internet, the photo caught the attention of an individual who filed a complaint with local authorities in Arizona, where the family is based. The Whittens claim police reassured them no charges would be filed, but the same could not be said for an investigator from the Department of Child Safety (DCS), who took a "strong and negative interest" in their case.

Whitten reveals:

The only claim she was able to suggest be substantiated against me [and me alone] was that I neglected to supervise our children by allowing their images to be online and so put them at an unreasonable risk of harm. This goes against Arizona’s very definition of neglect and encroaches on my right as an artist to share my work with the public.

She now faces being convicted of neglect for posting the photo and, if she loses the court battle, will be added to Arizona’s Central Registry for 25 years, marking the end of her ability to adopt, foster, or even work with children as a photographer. The photography community threw support behind Whitten by organizing a Change.org petition, which amassed over 25,000 supporters.

Fstoppers has reached out to Whitten for news on the court case, with the hearing having been held on February 3.

[via PetaPixel]

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21 Comments

This is absolutely abhorrent. Shame. Shame on you Department of Child Safety (DCS)!

"unreasonable risk of harm" - this is utterly unreasonable, even sick. Such a DCS is in itself an unreasonable risk of harm for all parents and children. Really shameful.

Andy Saxton's picture

"At the time it was taken, her daughter was suffering from a high fever and diarrhea as a result of salmonella poisoning and was being comforted by her father in the shower."

The picture is too perfect for its own good.

joe o sullivan's picture

"Daughter"? Although it does say 'her' father..

I doubt there is a parent or there who hasn't taken a shower with a child who is sick like this before. I have and i feel the emotions of the father when i look at this photograph. To charge a parent for sharing their love of their child is a miscarriage of justice.

Alessandro Molinari's picture

this is going too far: everyone being offended by this photo should have a mental health maintenance

Ocean Blue Photography's picture

So if i'm reading this correctly, this is 1 single persons (investigator) claim on 1 single photo, where actual identities can not be visually identified... which could possible dictate the future of this photographers professional and personal future?... Whats next?.. newborn photography?.. nursing photos?.. natural child birth sessions?..Guess we all need to learn the laws in our respective states..

Anonymous's picture

I don't think the people who commented read the article. It has nothing to do with the content of the picture as such, but the making public of the picture on social media. Social media is like a menu for people who want to do bad things to children, think before you post. That said, I hope, of course, the photographer is not charged to seriously in this case.

Ocean Blue Photography's picture

Yes, we are reading the article.. it states in her claim... "internet" . She dose indeed mention FB but she dose not tell us if it was posted any place else.. What about our blog posts??? are those being scrutinized as well?.. my guess is that if DCS suspect any one of a child crime.. they will do an extensive search of anything posted online.. not just "social media"

Anonymous's picture

After working in law enforcement for years I only wanted to say that I don't understand why parents want to advertise their children to child predators on the internet. That is what child protective services is worried about. It's a great to pick kids who meet a customers requirements for abduction and worse.

Kirk Darling's picture

Did read it. Nobody is recognizable in the photograph.

Anonymous's picture

So if you are browsing her blog or her facebook page and it says "this picture is of my sick daughter" it would not be possible to determine who it is and where they are? I think it's easy.

Kirk Darling's picture

That might be an argument for not participating on Facebook at all, if your intent is to make sure nobody knows who you are. But if, like a lot of people, they're already posting full-face pictures of their kids at the park, at Disneyland, wherever, then this one certainly makes no difference.

Robert Nurse's picture

As we're seeing in this case, social media exposes you to STUPIDITY! The weight lent to social media is, itself, STUPIDITY. The content of the photograph, once you know who the players are, is benign. I'm a father with a daughter. On first glance, that's what I immediately thought. There are those, however, who would see something else. Then the floodgates of outrage would open allowing those with nothing better to do heap a fecal storm on the actors in this case. Once it became known that these were parents, this should have just evaporated. The only problem I see here is that it got posted. Simple as that. They'll know better next time.

This is frightening and serious. Crazy DCS worker taking her job over the reasonable line against this family. There is always a Frank Burns (if you remember Mash) in every organization.

John McCracken's picture

That is how the world is going, to protect the innocent. Even if it is misguided. You can not even swat your misbehaving child on the behind in public or elsewhere to correct his or her misbehavior with out drawing the ire of well intention-ed bystanders even if they are totally wrong on what they consider wrong. These days with social media you have to be very careful on what you post or you run the risk of being guilty until proven innocent when it comes to children and Cops for that matter. (You are guilty even if the public only knows half the story and does not care if the other half clears you)

George Brandon's picture

I thought things like this are covered under the first amendment? CDS is a government agency. Who's going to be filing civil rights claim against the CDS? If the stance of the CDS is simply because of subjectivity over the photo being released to the public, it's an asinine stance.

Brian Lewis's picture

For years I ran the psychotic ward at my local mental hospital. I've had mothers who hit their children, neglected them by not feeding them, and even those who left their young ones to fend for themselves at home while the mother went on a bender.

In any of these cases, I never saw DCS raise an eyebrow.

Luckily, the real villains - mothers who have sick children, are being taken down.

Partents are supposed to protect they children privacy and not abuse of it to archive popularity on social media. On the future no one knows what those photos can represent to this child that can become a shy teen.
In addition is very questionable the fact that, if your children are sick at the level of being on the arms of your naked husband under the shower and you think about take your camera to make art? ARE YOU SICK??? This is not photography! This is mental desability!!!! Forget your camera at this moment and foccus only on your kids.
This photo is bad taste also... It can (and will) be used as fantasy for adult that abuse sexually of kids. It doesn't matter what's the reality on this photo it looks like a romance between a kid and a naked man.
People should help to archive kids protection and not foccus in being popular on the social medias.
If you are more than 15 and are not popular YOU WON'T BE! It's not for you, don't use children for that.

Kirk Darling's picture

The kind of sick puppy who could fantasize about a toddler with diarrhea is already fantasizing about what he sees on on fstoppers and everywhere else. I've got a daughter--there are real things to worry about.

At first blush (and as a father) I thought-why would anyone even setup and take this picture?

Then I thought why would her husband allow her to setup and take this picture? Quickly followed by why would she even post this picture on social media and why would her partner allow her to upload this picture to social media?

When I finally discovered Heather Whitten is a “birthing” photographer, I realized that this photo is staged and was put out there for self promotion. And that makes total sense.

Whitten referring to herself as an artist with the inference that this photo is “art” makes absolutely no sense.