Children’s Hospital of Orange County- Baby missing
Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) was placed in the unenviable position of explaining a “lost baby” to the community and the media at large. A child being examined by county health officials for potential neglect and/or abuse, was taken off the hospital’s campus by his natural mother without proper release. The hospital was receiving many inquiries from media outlets on the status of the child, although bound by rules of confidentiality; the hospital was not able to divulge the identity of the child.
Communications, Executive Staff (including legal counsel) and key clinicians were gathered for debriefing session and initial comments to media were drafted.
The media was notified that a statement would be issued in ample time before deadlines for electronic and print reporters. Subsequent drafting of the press briefing’s comments began immediately.
A bilingual physician was selected to address the media at a press briefing (the patient and their guardians spoke only Spanish) and made a statement to the media, making a request to the parents and those close to the guardians to return the baby for completion of medical testing. Although the hospital was not able to identify the patient, the media was deferred to local law enforcement officials, as this became a criminal matter when the child was unlawfully removed from the hospital’s campus.
The media briefing was held shortly thereafter the physician’s comments were completed, with the majority of the media attending and most that didn’t attend the briefing still meeting their deadlines.
Most, if not all outlets broadcast and published the story as a hospital asking the community for assistance in the finding the young child who was still in need of medical care. The electronic evening news outlets focused on the story for that night, with the daily newspapers publishing the following day. The following six days, a total of three stories tracked the plight of the “missing” child.