Leonard Pitts: Who cares about Florida’s children once they’ve been born?

03/18/2014 7:38 PM

09/12/2014 6:31 PM

Who speaks for Ghanson Debrosse?

Before he was born, many people did. Anti-abortion groups did. Churches did. Protesters did. And lawmakers did. Florida, for instance, requires that a woman undergo an ultrasound before getting an abortion, and the provider must offer her the option of viewing the image.

Ghanson was not aborted. He was born, Oct. 26, 2010, to a teenage mother, Fafane Caze. During his short stay on this Earth, he endured enough pain for a lifetime. Police say that when he wet the floor, his mother burned his genitals with a lighter, and when he soiled his diaper, she beat him with a broom handle. They say she once hurled him across a room where he crashed into a table. And that in a fight with the boy’s father, she used him as a weapon, trying to throw him at the man.

Ghanson died on Jan. 21. He had burns on his face and fingers. He had scars in the shape of belt buckles.

The Florida Department of Children & Families knew Ghanson was in trouble. It received three reports on its hotline. But the agency concluded there was no reason to remove him from that house.

So the answer is obvious. Who speaks for Ghanson? No one did.

He is one of 477 Florida children no one spoke for or spoke forcefully enough for, 477 who have died in the past six years from drowning, crushing, starvation, neglect and the inattention of a system that should have protected them, but did not. In Innocents Lost, a report by Audra D.S. Burch and Carol Marbin Miller published this week by the Miami Herald, we learn that the number of children dying has spiked since DCF made a deliberate decision almost a decade ago to sharply reduce the number of children taken into state care and to slash “services, monitoring and protections for the increased number of children left with their violent, neglectful, mentally-ill or drug addicted parents.”

Money was saved. Children were not.

And there is an irony here too acute to ignore.

We have these great debates over children who are not yet born. We have marches and shouting matches and legislative protections for children who are not yet born.

But what about the children who are already here? How is it they can groan in hunger, how is it they can be shaken to pieces, slammed into walls, mashed under car tires while those who should protect them do not, yet there are no marches, no demonstrations, no placards lifted or lawmakers making speeches?

“Abortion stops a beating heart,” goes an old anti-abortion slogan. But so does a skull fracture.

Not that it is only abortion foes who are indicted here. Rather, the indictment extends to all of us who watch with complacent silence as budgets are balanced on the backs of the the voiceless and vulnerable.

Somehow, there is always enough money to give another billionaire another tax break. Somehow, we always find a way to build the new stadium to keep the team in town.

But who speaks for Shaiunna Hare, 2, crushed by a python kept, barely secured, by her drug-addled mother and the mother’s boyfriend?

Who speaks for Kaleb Cronk, 1, run over by a pickup truck in his mother’s driveway after she went inside and left him unattended?

Who speaks for Logan Hancock, 2 months, who died of a skull fracture? His second.

Who speaks for Emanuel Murray, 3 months, allegedly thrown from a moving car by his mother’s boyfriend?

Who decries the fact that we had the chance to intervene and did not?

The implication is as clear as it is appalling. We will argue, protest and legislate over a child’s right to be here before she arrives.

Once she gets here, though, she’s on her own.

About Leonard Pitts Jr

Leonard Pitts Jr

@LeonardPittsJr1

Leonard Pitts Jr. won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2004. His column runs every Sunday and Wednesday.

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