Abused, starved and naked, a 9-year-old boy was rescued by neighbors when he was found on the streets. A Miami judge Monday demanded to know how it happened.
Joseph Lee studied a color snapshot of his 9-year-old nephew Monday as a Miami child-welfare judge glanced at Lee.
The judge was looking for signs that Lee was as disturbed by the photo as she was. But Lee simply stared at the picture.
“I’m looking for words,” Lee said. “I was not aware of any of this.”
The photo, which was not released publicly, depicted a little boy who had become so emaciated that his bones protruded from his skin, and his eyes bulged from their sockets, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman said. She likened him to a concentration camp survivor.
The boy was discovered by police wandering his North Miami Beach neighborhood Saturday — beaten, naked and starving. His parents, 34-year-old Marsee Strong and 40-year-old Edward Bailey, remain at the Miami-Dade County Jail on charges of aggravated child abuse and neglect. On Monday afternoon, they were still jailed and had yet to post $65,000 bail.
The boy and four of his siblings were placed in the custody of Lee, a maternal uncle who was ordered by the judge not to allow the boy’s parents any contact with him. Lee also agreed to adopt the children if their parents are unable to regain custody. The boy also has an 18-year-old sister who is pregnant.
On Monday afternoon, Lederman, a veteran child-welfare judge with a history of overseeing some of South Florida’s most notorious child-abuse cases, demanded answers.
“He looks like he just came out of Auschwitz,” Lederman said. “This is like a neon sign for child abuse. It would have been obvious to anyone who came in contact with this family the last few years.”
Among those who came in contact: a child-abuse investigator from the Department of Children & Families, a mental health counselor from Jackson Memorial Hospital and educators from the 9-year-old’s school — who called the state’s child abuse hotline recently seeking help for the boy.
Lederman set a hearing for next month to hear from all those people. “It appears to me that there has been gross negligence here,” she said.
The boy — who is not being named by The Miami Herald to protect his privacy — was found wandering the neighborhood near his house, at 1417 N.E. 152nd Street, at about 8 p.m. Saturday night. North Miami Beach police say he had jumped out the window of his parents’ home “to escape his abusers.”
Paramedics rushed the boy to the hospital, where he begged for food and told caregivers he had not eaten in three days. His body showed “permanent marks of abuse all over,” according to an arrest report.
His tiny body weighed as much as a 2-year-old’s. His hands and feet were “swollen from the lack of food,” the police report said.
“The victim appeared to be extremely abused,’’ a police report said.
The boy’s mother denied hitting the child but “admitted to failing to protect her child from others and not properly supervising him and getting him medical treatment in a timely manner,” the police report said. The boy’s father also denied hitting the boy but admitted he allowed “others” to hit him, police said.
At the hearing Monday, Lederman was told that DCF’s history with the family went back to 2007, and that the agency had received reports on the children as recently as this month. One recent call to the state’s abuse hotline, on Dec. 11, was designated a “special conditions report” instead of an abuse report — meaning child-protection workers were asked only to inquire whether the parents wanted help from the state, not to determine whether their children were being abused or neglected.
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- World Wide Protest against Child Abuse: Tuesday, 6th March 2012 (victims-unite.net)
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