Charita Goshay: Mourning the youngest victims
If it’s possible for something to be simultaneously wondrous and heartbreaking, it is the sight of more than 1,000 pinwheels on the green space on Market Avenue in downtown Canton, Ohio, each one representing a child who has been neglected or abused in Stark County in 2007.
In observance of Child Abuse/Neglect Awareness Month, the Stark County Department of Children’s Services is planting the pinwheels and recently flew special flags over the Stark County Courthouse and at city halls in Massillon, Louisville and Canal Fulton.
Perhaps they should have flown at half-staff.
Three weeks after turning 1 on March 6, Mizia Sisson’s mother told police that her boyfriend sat Mizia on a dresser in their Perry Township motel room, punched him in his head and slammed him to the floor, killing him.
The day after Mizia died, the Stark County Department of Job and Family Services assumed custody of a 2-year-old who suffered a skull fracture so severe surgeons had to remove fragments from her brain.
In June 2006, Jaydee Briggs of Massillon was nearly 5 months old, an age at which babies begin babbling in earnest and exploring the world around them.
By now, she would be walking and saying her first words. Instead, she became the youngest sex-crime victim ever investigated by Massillon police. Her father was arrested last week, charged with rape and murder.
We teach our kids to avoid strangers, but children in this community are being killed and mangled by those they love and trust. Only the names and faces change.
Children’s Services spokesman Bill Burgess and social worker Monica Morton are among those who have the stressful and sometimes misunderstood task of protecting children -- sometimes from their own families.
There are many reasons why a family can go haywire: Frustration, emotional dependency, drugs, immaturity and in some cases, selfishness. And it happens everywhere, not just among the poor.
“It’s frustrating, because there’s a lot of education out there, yet it happens,” Morton said. “There’s no way to predict when somebody’s reaching the breaking point. (A) mother is forced to work, and they think they’re leaving their kids with an appropriate caregiver. The boyfriend gets frustrated. Often, he’s baby-sitting kids that aren’t even his.
“Our ultimate goal,” Morton said, “is to preserve the family. Despite what they may go through, these kids still love their families.”
Morton said because of the emotional nature of their jobs, caseworkers try to look out for one another, claiming victories whenever they can.
Blinking back tears, she said, “Another caseworker handled the case, but every time I think about the little boy in Perry, I have to keep telling myself, ‘At least we saved his sister.’ ”
If you are a parent in need of help, call Children’s Services’ Families in
Need program at (330) 455-5437.
You can reach Repository Writer Charita M. Goshay at (330) 580-8313 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org