‘We were robbed’: Alaska couple loses custody of kids after erroneous abuse diagnosis from former UW doctor

Wisconsin Watch investigated a child abuse pediatrician whose declarations of abuse were rejected at least a dozen times by police, prosecutors, jurors, child protective services officials and other doctors. Dr. Barbara Knox was placed on leave from the University of Wisconsin in 2019 for allegedly bullying her colleagues. Now she is medical director of Alaska CARES, a statewide forensic child abuse clinic. A joint investigation by grantees at Wisconsin Watch and the Anchorage Daily News found that UW officials took steps to hide the full story of Knox’s tenure in Wisconsin, which continues to reverberate for many parents and caregivers in Wisconsin — and now in Alaska. In January 2021, Alaska child welfare authorities took custody of the two children of Justin and Emily Acker, after Knox diagnosed one of the children with abusive head trauma. For months, the Ackers visited their kids at the foster home across the street as they battled in court to clear their names and regain custody of their children. They finally were reunited in October 2021, but the family can never regain the time it lost or overcome the trauma it endured. Meanwhile, Knox’s work is under review by Providence Alaska Medical Center, and she was placed on leave.