That's the point Jocelyn Pridemore, the nurse, tried to make when she called the DCF to report that David Nieves Jr. was in peril.
But she could not get the DCF to act. The agency, records show, bungled basic casework and supervisors never held caseworkers accountable.
DEATH IS REVIEWED
"It is clear there was a pattern of escalating domestic violence in the home putting David and his siblings at risk," the agency wrote in a review of David's death.
David was not an easy child. He suffered from Cri-du-chat (cry of the cat) syndrome - a genetic disorder causing mental retardation, stunted growth and facial deformities. Babies with the condition make cat-like cries.
Pridemore, a social service worker for Easter Seals, visited the family twice a week, checking on David.
Pridemore said David's mother, Lydia Molina, tried to take good care of him - at least until she hooked up with Alfredo "Freddie" Guerrero, described by friends as charismatic, handsome and flirtatious. The state of Florida calls him a burglar, armed robber and now a child killer.
He left prison in February 1999 and soon moved in with Molina in unit 138 in the Little Tadpole Mobile Home Park.
On Aug. 5, 1999, Pridemore said she drove to the trailer park and Guerrero greeted her carrying David. The boy had a large bruise on the side of his neck and face.
Guerrero hollered to the other children: "Tell her what happened!"
"The children looked terrified," Pridemore recalled.
Pridemore spotted the mother standing silently behind Guerrero.
Guerrero told her that David had slipped from his grasp, and he caught him by the head and neck before he hit the ground.
"'I have to report this,' " Pridemore told Guerrero and Molina, citing the Kayla McKean Act. "Freddie was pacing. . . . He was agitated."
"Child was seen with a bruise on face and cheek," the report said, mentioning his genetic disorder. Response: "immediate."
But investigators said they couldn't find the trailer and downgraded the case in priority. By the time they found David, five days later, the bruises were gone.
"I told them exactly how to get to the house," Pridemore told The Herald. "I even offered to drive them there myself."
Pridemore immediately quit after calling the DCF, saying her job was stressful and that David's injuries were "the final straw."
The agency's initial finding: no immediate threat to David and two siblings. "Both she and paramour are committed to caring for the children."
As in all cases of suspected abuse, a Child Protection Team was supposed to staff the case, but that didn't happen.
DAVID'S PERIL GROWS
Two months later, a DCF supervisor heard about David's case from other Easter Seals workers and sent an e-mail to colleagues saying the boy was at "high risk" for harm. The family was isolated, Guerrero was a felon and "child has a high-pitched cry, likely to frustrate a caretaker," she wrote. She, too, called for the Child Protection Team.
On Feb. 21, 2000, Pridemore watched an evening news report: Guerrero had been charged with killing David.
"I just broke down and cried," she said.
According to police, Molina came home that night after winning $40 playing bingo and found David with some yellow goo dripping from his nose. Guerrero called it the flu.
Later that night, David stopped breathing.