Dear Citizens For Good Government,
I’m a great Aunt…3 times over! No, I didn’t do anything extraordinary to gain that distinction. My nephew presented our family with his second daughter on May 11. His eldest sister, my godchild, had a girl last year. This gives my sister and her husband three granddaughters ages 3 and under! They are precious, beautiful angels and the thought of anything bad happening to any one of them makes my blood run cold with fear, then hot with anger. I’m sure each of you feels the same about the children in your lives. That’s why I’m betting you’re as upset as I am with the latest Jeremiah Swafford article printed in the Shelby Star on May 23, 2010.
My blood boiled as I read that article! Sixteen months! Sixteen months since Jeremiah was beaten to death and still no resolution in this case. Resolution!!!??!! What am I talking about—resolution! Heck, there’s not even been a so-called “state-mandated” review as to why this horrendous thing could have happened to this poor innocent!!! Doesn’t that strike you as odd? Doesn’t it strike fear into your hearts? Doesn’t it make your blood boil?
I cannot believe that DSS Director Karen Ellis can be so blasé’, so cavalier, in her attitude in accepting this timeframe! To quote: “…the process of his review will begin in August…the review could be completed by October or December.” October or December? What happened to November? We’re talking 5 months here, people! Sixteen months since the death, then another three months until the review might even begin and then another five months before we have the result of that review! That’s TWO YEARS, folks! Talk about closure! Talk about timeliness! Talk about somebody doing her job!! NOT!!!!
“Required State review process”! Are you kidding me??? Sixteen months ago this child was viciously murdered. The details and pictures were splashed across the Shelby Star and the Charlotte Observer with coverage on all the local TV stations. And no one thought to get the State involved immediately in order to obtain this “review” which is supposedly required by state law for all children who die as a result of abuse and neglect and who also had contact with Child Protective Services within 12 months of their death? Now, it will be August before this “in-depth state child fatality review” involving state and local groups will examine how agencies protected this child. Let me tell you how the Cleveland County DSS protected this child….it DIDN’T! The Agency was repeatedly contacted and given plenty of opportunity to intervene, to step in, to get involved, to save little Jeremiah’s life.
Instead, DSS chose to turn a blind eye to the plight of this darling little boy who suffered so atrociously not because of any crime he himself committed, but because of the crime committed not only by his abuser(s), his murderer(s), but by an Agency whose whole criteria for being is for the protection of children. God spare me—and YOU—that kind of protection! God spare my great-nieces that kind of protection. I thank God they don’t live in Cleveland County!
Are you not afraid, people? Are you not incensed? Is your blood running cold with fear yet? How about boiling hot with anger? Will you just sit by and do nothing? NO! You must not sit by and do nothing! You must call and write DSS, your State and House Representatives, your County Commissioners, the Sheriff’s Department, the Cleveland County Attorney and maybe even the Attorney General of the United States of America because it is quite obvious Cleveland County authorities aren’t concerned enough, incensed enough or have been goaded enough by you, the electorate, to do anything to speed up this process.
And while we’re on this subject, why hasn’t Mary Accor done something? She’s a County Commissioner and on the DSS Board. I know for a fact that Robert A. Williams called her the minute he heard that little Jeremiah was in the hospital not only notifying her DSS had a problem here, but also requesting she personally get involved. What happened, Mary? Didn’t want to interrupt your weekend? Children don’t get help on Saturdays in Cleveland County? Why was there no response from you? What about Karen Ellis? Don’t tell me Karen didn’t know about this from the get go! Cleveland County residents, I call on you to deluge these people with your outrage. You live here! You have a stake…a huge stake…in making sure no other child has to suffer like Jeremiah Swafford suffered. That no other child has to die like Jeremiah died…horribly, brutally!
Forty-two North Carolina children are dead. All of them victims of abuse and neglect and all had contact with DSS 12 months before their deaths. There’s a pattern here, folks, and its not a good one! It’s a pattern of indifference—a pattern of neglect—by the very people who are sworn to protect these defenseless children from indifference and from neglect. Is this not also a form of abuse when the people who are supposed to be the buffer between the abused and their abusers show such callous disregard? Why are there not enough caseworkers? Why, when there are repeated reports of abuse, are these reports not taken more seriously? Why isn’t the child removed from a potentially dangerous situation before tragedy strikes? Why does it have to end in tragedy? I know there are not enough foster homes to go around. Do we need to look into opening up orphanages again? We need “safe houses” for these defenseless little ones.
Forty-two dead North Carolina children since 2007 who have not had an “in-depth child fatality review” which is intended to protect and prevent future deaths! Some protection! Some prevention!
We have high unemployment in North Carolina. We have lots of educated people graduating from our colleges even as we speak desperately looking for Social Services jobs. Let’s hire them! Let’s help ease the heavy caseloads of DSS employees so that we don’t have another child that goes thru the hell that poor little Jeremiah had to endure. What about using unpaid “interns” to do a lot of the filing, and other “gofer” jobs so that DSS caseworkers can concentrate on the child?
Cleveland County residents, can you not hear poor little Jeremiah Swafford as he lies scared, cold, and alone, shivering in fear and pain, crying in agony in his crib, his poor little body battered and bruised? Crying for comfort, crying for an end to his torture, crying for someone to love him? Can you not hear him even now, still cold and all alone, still in the dark, still hoping someone will love him enough to care, crying out from his grave for the justice he was denied in his short life? And with those cries echoing in your brain, resonating in your heart, can you still sit by and do nothing to help him? Won’t you please demand justice for this defenseless toddler?
When we read about children like Jeremiah, we do (and should) feel outrage. And after we stop snorting with hysterical laughter when we read that for 100 counties, the state agency is allotted TWO reviewers to schedule, coordinate and be in charge of an “intensive review” of each case, we should also feel outrage! It’s an impossible task! What a joke! Who sets these rules anyway?
You know, we live in the Bible Belt. People here go to Church…a lot! Sundays, Wednesdays, Church parking lots are full. Lots of Bible studies are going on I bet. Anybody studying Matthew 18:6? “But whoever shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” Someday, we will all be called to Judgment. We will all have to answer about the things we did or didn’t do.
What are YOU going to do about ensuring that not another child has to be abused, or killed? Robert A. Williams can’t possibly be the only person in Cleveland County concerned with ensuring DSS is kept on its toes with regard to protecting the lives of the children they are sworn to protect. Or is he?
Missy, A Concerned Citizen
Missy, thank you for your letter. We believe your heart is in the right place, but you have fallen into the same old bureaucratic trap that DSS always uses. That is “DSS can cure all the problems of the world if they could just hire more people and spend more money.” Think about this. Never in the history of DSS has DSS actually cured one single problem in our society. But before I go on about all the issues, let’s stick to the murder of 42 children and Jeremiah Swafford as that was the subject of your letter.
First, that article in the Star saying 42 children were murdered who had had contact with DSS/Child Protection within 12 months of their deaths. How many children were murdered without any involvement with DSS at all? The article in the Star didn’t say. The Star also didn’t say that the State of North Carolina requires every county to have a Child Protection Team to investigate the death of every child. Where is the Cleveland County Child Protection Team and why have they NOT already investigated the death of Jeremiah Swafford. Why was this fact not reported in the Star?
My figuring is the Cleveland County Child Protection Team (which includes DSS, Sheriff’s Department and District Attorney) already knows what happened to Jeremiah Swafford, what DSS didn’t do that they were supposed to do and all other such information. I am convinced it looks so bad on DSS that this and probably the other 41 child fatalities are just being covered up. And drug out too, hoping to get people like you to demand that DSS hire more people.
But I have a solution and I have said it before. Fire the whole DSS Child Protection Department and send all reports of child abuse to the Sheriff’s Office. Make the Sheriff send Deputies with a badge and a gun to arrest child abusers. Hire more Deputies if you want to hire more people to protect children. And protect the rest of us too!!!