Shana was 6 months old when her 7 year old cousin placed her in the bathtub to wash 3 day old poopy diapers & stink off of her. This was a common parenting act for the seven year old child whose mother sat for days all cracked out along with her sister, letting the kids fend for themselves.
It would not have been a disaster had the cold water pipes of this poorly maintained tenement not frozen shut on this January day. The landlord turned the water heater up to (161 degrees) as he thought this would compensate for the lack of cold water.
No cold water mixed with the 161 degree scalding water and the skin on this baby’s legs and bottom suffered third degree burns. To be scarred for life with reptilian looking legs is just one more cruel event in the life of this neglected and abused girl.
My second guardian ad-Litem case was a 7 year old boy (Andy) taken from his crack using mom at birth (she had spent 90% of her life institutionalized). He was raised by a loving foster family to the age of four & then the judge returned him to his father – even though the father had a court order to stay away from young boys because of what he did to them.
Andy was covered with bruises when he became my guardian ad-Litem case in 1996. He had been tied to a bed, sexually abused, beaten, and starved for four years.
What’s it like to be four years old, beat up, left alone in an apartment for days at a time, no food, & no place to turn for help . My young friend developed many troublesome behaviors, received no consistent mental health therapy and way too many psychotropic meds.
He once asked me as we play miniature golf, “when will I be normal”?
A few years later he asked me to support him in his request of the County for a sex change operation. Guardian ad-Litem training did not prepare me for these questions. We still talk, 16 years later; he has AIDS now & has not lived a happy life.
Another case came to me after 49 police calls to a metro home before 2 girls were removed from their mother. Drugs, prostitution, & gunfire were these girls normal environment.
The only reason the girls were placed in protective care was that the 7 year old tried to kill the 4 year old by jumping on her neck in front of the police.
I asked the juvenile officer at the scene why these children were not removed before the 49th call to the house as violence, crime, and terrible child abuse were obvious. The officer’s answer was painfully insufficient, but it is certain that in my county, children have to be near death to receive protective services from the County. The oldest girl had been prostituted and suffered for life. I don’t know how the younger girl faired.
My longest and most tortured case was to be removing 8 children over a 12 year period (in many separate cases) from a mom who had been horribly abused as a child herself. She used her children as a shield in violent relationships with men. The children could not be placed together in foster homes because they were sexually active when together. One more great sadness in the lives of these terribly abused children.
The same man that sexually abused the first four children (and kicked the oldest so hard that she went into convulsions) was still abusing children in that home 12 years later when the 3 year old was found to have cocaine in his system and had been sexually abused. That man had never been made a party to any court proceeding concerning child abuse. He had been charged with murder in criminal court.
I accidentally sat next to him at a court hearing (he did not know that I was trying to send him to prison). . Guardian ad-Litem work can be challenging.
From time to time I will submit stories from my guardian ad-Litem cases. Please feel free to comment & submit your stories. There are many flaws in our system & we should all work to make it better.
Please do not send diatribes against teachers, social workers, troubled parents, or any of the other people working in the field.
It is the lack of awareness, resources, training, support, & systems that have made child protection so painfully dysfunctional.
Everyone I have worked with in the system has worked extremely hard. When they fail it is because the task is simply too great to be handled by this poorly understood & terribly under-supported institution. The answer lies in our caring enough about these children to help troubled families, hire great people, and support the institutions doing the work.
Ps… the federal CASA program lost almost all of its funding this year. Many state programs are struggling.
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