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Home with parents not always safest place for children

Many of us are puzzling over the perfect Christmas gifts. Here’s an idea for some children:

Get them away from mommy and daddy.

In my business, the “big story” always takes precedence. But for some children, it isn’t whether President Trump will be impeached. And what worries them has nothing to do with North Korea.

It’s whether mommy’s boyfriend will get angry and break a toddler’s ribs. It’s whether daddy will do anything about the bedbugs that keep biting or the rat that crawled out of the garbage bag.

At this time of the year, we like to think of children with sugarplums dancing in their heads. But I just finished skimming records of child abuse and neglect cases the West Virginia Supreme Court has dealt with just this month.

Legislators sometimes discuss the challenges faced by Child Protective Services workers. The agency does not have enough caseworkers to handle child abuse and neglect cases adequately. We know that. You may wonder what stakes are involved in the CPS being able to do its job adequately.

Try this, from the Berkeley County case of K.T.-1, R.B., M.B. and D.O. (the high court protects children by using only their initials): Their mother wants custody of the kids restored to her. She lost it after, in June 2018, the authorities reported K.T.-1, then 18 months old, was admitted to the hospital “with multiple large, ‘baseball-sized’ bruises on her sides and back and bruising to her pubic area.” She also suffered a punctured bowel, along with fractured ribs.

Or consider the case of A.R. and J.M., from Braxton County: There, in December 2017, DHHR workers found 4-year-old J.M., with “several open wounds on her face,” living in a home with no food except for a package of snack cakes and a bottle of orange juice. The home was in deplorable condition. While DHHR workers were there, they saw “a large rat” crawl out of a trash bag inside the home. They also told a court that two convicted sex offenders were living there with the mother.

How about A.B.-1 of Summers County, 15 years old in November 2017 when she revealed her stepfather “forced her to have sex with him,” then “threatened that he would impregnate her if she told anyone about the abuse?”

In Mingo County, the father of C.C. and M.C., confronted by CPS caseworkers about a home infested with roaches (even inside the refrigerator), bedbugs and fleas, told them to “take the God-damn kids.” Their mother seconded that, explaining that she “won’t have them to clean.”

Justices dealt with an Ohio County case dating back to 2013. It involved N.R., then 3 months old, taken to a hospital with “injuries indicative of child abuse.” Later, her father “admitted to breaking his daughter’s leg because he was frustrated, breaking her clavicle by squeezing …”

A Wood County case file noted that when B.F. was born, “the child tested positive for methamphetamine, amphetamine, THC and Suboxone.” It added the mother “admitted that she snorted heroin in her hospital room right before delivering B.F.”

By the way, the file from one Kanawha County case noted it had to be handled by a Wood County CPS worker because the home county’s staff was overwhelmed.

Sorry to ruin your day, but I thought you might want to know a few of the stories behind the CPS report.

Mike Myer can be reached at mmyer@theintelligencer.net.

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