Improve standards & legislation on child safety & welfare
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In the latter part of 2016, Kristen and her husband, Jon, were taking care of their nephew, Michael. Both of Michael's parents were unable to care for the baby. His mother was in jail and his father was unable to take care of Michael. Kristen and Jon stepped up and opened their home to care for the infant and provided a loving, nurturing and stable home. In January of 2017, the child’s mother was released from jail and demanded the child be returned to her. She had no stable residence, no employment, and had not had any time with the baby since giving birth. She claimed that she needed to bond with her baby and took the baby from Kristen and Jon's home to Philadelphia. Within days, a relative of the baby’s mother was informing Kristen and Jon of how the baby was not being cared for and informed them of neglect the baby was enduring. Kristen, Jon, and their family members attempted calling all agencies for assistance with a welfare check such as, local police, DHS, the mother’s probation department and approached the Court for emergency custody. The Court turned her away citing that she couldn’t file in the Philadelphia Court; rather she should petition her own county Court (Berks). This teeter-tottering between agencies and Court jurisdictions went on for some time. All interactions failed to result for better care for baby Michael. Months passed and the continued phone calls from the relative about the neglect and abuse to the baby increased. Never ending their quest, Kristen and Jon continued making phone call after phone call, including ChildLine, to have officials and local authorities check on the baby. By sheer luck, the baby’s mother turned the baby over to a friend of her family, with whom she had never met. Kristen persisted and researched social media in a desperate attempt to locate this "friend” and she was hoping she had the child. Kristen was able to successfully make contact and worked quickly together this friend to appropriately obtain custody of the baby through the Berks County Courts, who FINALLY granted the Jon and Kristen emergency custody. They immediately took baby Michael to the local hospital to have a well check conducted after noticing aged bruises over his body. The hospital discovered him to have multiple bruises to his head, a few bite marks on both his arms, a bite mark with a bloody scab on his ear, he was dehydrated, he had lost four pounds between January 25 and April 25, and an abrasion on his leg. Kristen and Jon were soon informed by family members that conditions of the mother's residence, where the baby had resided with her, were deplorable and unfit. It was only through Kristen and Jon’s persistence to not give up on the situation and the awareness of that family friend, coupled with luck that this had a positive result.
This is just one personal story. The news is flooded with stories with very different endings. The past four (4) months have been a nightmare, most especially for the baby. It infuriated many in the community and frustrated Kristen and Jon beyond belief in how many obstacles they had to hurdle in order to get to this point. The number of “welfare checks” that authorities claimed to have performed. It lead to more questions than answers on how these bruises were overlooked, moldy bottles that the baby was drinking from were not examined, unchanged diapers or conditions of the home that the child was living in that went unnoticed. It brought forth questions of what was considered a proper “welfare check” because clearly if standards were met in Michael’s case they need to be reevaluated. Had a thorough check of the baby been conducted would they have noticed the multiple bruises? Had Kristen and Jon been overwhelmed or given up the labyrinth styled system placed in front of them would we being reading about Michael’s fate in the news?
We petition change to be made with the protocol with frequent welfare checks with follow-ups and necessary follow-up to occur before and after court hearings (certainly earlier than seven weeks). In addition, advanced training and techniques for those law enforcement agencies and child protective services’ staff, and legislation to increase accountability measures on child abuse and neglect. The process needs to be reevaluated for the safety and welfare of those children who have no voice. Luckily, Kristen and Jon fought for their nephew to help remove him from an abusive situation and living arrangement. How many children do not get saved or how many caregivers just lose hope or become frustrated with the system that they expect to fail them? It is one thing to read about it in the paper or hear about the child abuse/neglect cases on the news, but when you have the situation coming into your community and inner circle it tends to open your eyes a little wider. It goes a bit beyond "see something, say something" and we make a plea to review current protocols and required training and to compose a more streamline and effective method of getting help.
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