I have to thank Kat for showing me this story. I have been debating if I should post about it tonight while I was still upset or wait till morning. After reading this story, I am still in tears regarding this little girl. I have quoted the first part of the article, so you can understand the conditions this poor girl was living in.
Just before noon on July 13, 2005, a Plant City police car pulled up outside that shattered window. Two officers went into the house — and one stumbled back out.
Clutching his stomach, the rookie retched in the weeds.
Plant City Detective Mark Holste had been on the force for 18 years when he and his young partner were sent to the house on Old Sydney Road to stand by during a child abuse investigation. Someone had finally called the police.
They found a car parked outside. The driver’s door was open and a woman was slumped over in her seat, sobbing. She was an investigator for the Florida Department of Children and Families.
“Unbelievable,” she told Holste. “The worst I’ve ever seen.”
The police officers walked through the front door, into a cramped living room.
“I’ve been in rooms with bodies rotting there for a week and it never stunk that bad,” Holste said later. “There’s just no way to describe it. Urine and feces — dog, cat and human excrement — smeared on the walls, mashed into the carpet. Everything dank and rotting.”
Tattered curtains, yellow with cigarette smoke, dangling from bent metal rods. Cardboard and old comforters stuffed into broken, grimy windows. Trash blanketing the stained couch, the sticky counters.
The floor, walls, even the ceiling seemed to sway beneath legions of scuttling roaches.
“It sounded like you were walking on eggshells. You couldn’t take a step without crunching German cockroaches,” the detective said. “They were in the lights, in the furniture. Even inside the freezer. The freezer!”
While Holste looked around, a stout woman in a faded housecoat demanded to know what was going on. Yes, she lived there. Yes, those were her two sons in the living room. Her daughter? Well, yes, she had a daughter . . .
The detective strode past her, down a narrow hall. He turned the handle on a door, which opened into a space the size of a walk-in closet. He squinted in the dark.
At his feet, something stirred.
First he saw the girl’s eyes: dark and wide, unfocused, unblinking. She wasn’t looking at him so much as through him.
She lay on a torn, moldy mattress on the floor. She was curled on her side, long legs tucked into her emaciated chest. Her ribs and collarbone jutted out; one skinny arm was slung over her face; her black hair was matted, crawling with lice. Insect bites, rashes and sores pocked her skin. Though she looked old enough to be in school, she was naked — except for a swollen diaper.
“The pile of dirty diapers in that room must have been 4 feet high,” the detective said. “The glass in the window had been broken, and that child was just lying there, surrounded by her own excrement and bugs.”
When he bent to lift her, she yelped like a lamb. “It felt like I was picking up a baby,” Holste said. “I put her over my shoulder, and that diaper started leaking down my leg.”
The girl didn’t struggle. Holste asked, What’s your name, honey? The girl didn’t seem to hear.
He searched for clothes to dress her, but found only balled-up laundry, flecked with feces. He looked for a toy, a doll, a stuffed animal. “But the only ones I found were covered in maggots and roaches.”
Choking back rage, he approached the mother. How could you let this happen?
“The mother’s statement was: ‘I’m doing the best I can,’ ” the detective said. “I told her, ‘The best you can sucks!’ ”
When taken into custody, Dani could not walk, drink from a cup, eat, or talk. She truly acted like a baby. After exhaustive rounds of testing, they diagnosed her with “environmental autism.” Since she was deprived of interaction for so long, the doctor believed, that she had withdrawn into herself. “In the first five years of life, 85 percent of the brain is developed,” said Armstrong, the psychologist who examined Danielle. “Those early relationships, more than anything else, help wire the brain and provide children with the experience to trust, to develop language, to communicate. They need that system to relate to the world.” As you can see, she was in bad shape. As a mother myself, I cannot understand not caring for your own child. There were 2 other boys in the house too! If you can believe this, the mother got a plea bargain so that she served no jail time! She has claimed an injury, so she doesn’t have to serve her community service time either! She also doesn’t understand why the state took her daughter away.
The couple you see in the picture above is Diane and Bernie Lierow who are her angels. When looking for a child to adopt, they chose her not knowing if she’ll ever be “normal”. I’ll be honest; I don’t know if I could have taken this on. Because of the love from her new family:
Is she okay?
Danielle is better than anyone dared hope. She has learned to look at people and let herself be held. She can chew ham. She can swim. She’s tall and blond and has a little belly. She knows her name is Dani.
In her new room, she has a window she can look out of. When she wants to see outside, all she has to do is raise her arms and her dad is right behind her, waiting to pick her up.
I wish someone could explain to me how we let this happen. The part that makes me most angry is that this did not have to happen. This girl’s life is possibly ruined since DCFS was called twice on this family when Dani was young, and they did nothing. My god, what more do you have to do to get your kids taken away from you besides seriously neglecting them?!? I tried to summarize this story the best I could, but check out the article. Make sure you have some Kleenex available, because your heart will break for this little girl. I know mine did.