When Parents Feel Out Of Control, Children Too Often Suffer

Police arrested a Phoenix, Arizona couple two days after firefighters responded to the hotel where the family was staying and pronounced one of their one-month-old babies dead.

Court documents show the mother had gone to the store earlier in the day when the father called her to come home because the baby "was choking and unresponsive."

According to the father, he saw his partner "perform CPR" on the baby. A few hours later, the infant stopped breathing again. They called 911. Firefighters responded and pronounced the baby dead. While they were still there, the other one-month-old baby started to have trouble breathing. A 15-month-old, a four-year-old, and a six-year-old were in the room as well.

The other one-month-old baby was brought to the hospital where doctors found the infant had "traumatic head injuries to include necrotic tissues and brain bleeds." The baby was then transferred to a Children's Hospital and the remaining children were taken into the custody of the Department of Child Safety.

Physicians examined the three remaining kids and found all three to "have a lice infestation . . .; extremely soiled diapers; and insects crawling out of their ears." They found the 15-month-old had "multiple skull fractures."

According to court documents, the man admitted to hitting the woman after losing his temper. However, he "denied hitting, harming, or hurting the children." He said he "was too scared to hold the small children." He also said his six-year-old child "would hide under the bed when he yelled," and his four-year-old child "would cling to [his mother] and cry."

But police said the four-year-old told them the father "threw [the baby who died] on the ground."

The mother denied everything, claiming her partner "would not harm his children." The mother had no criminal history, but the father has previous arrests and convictions for domestic violence and vandalism.

The couple admitted to investigators that they failed to get medical attention for their children when they should have. News Staff "Phoenix couple accused of child abuse in baby's death, 2 other children's head injuries" www.azfamily.com (Jan. 13, 2020).

Commentary and Checklist

Approximately 700,000 children are abused in the U.S. annually. In 2015, about 683,000 children were victims of abuse and neglect.

Children in the first year of their life had the highest rate of victimization of 24.2 per 1,000 children in the national population of the same age.

In 78.1 percent of substantiate cases of child maltreatment, the perpetrator was a parent of the child victim.

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1,750 children died as a result of abuse and neglect in 2016.

Unfortunately, researchers estimate one in four children will experience some type of child abuse during their lifetime.

Some parents may not be emotionally equipped to manage the challenges of raising children. For example, in the source article, having five children six and under in age may have been too much for the parents, and especially for the father. It is also possible that one or both parents have a history of being abused as a child.

Whatever the case may be, both the father and the mother may be subject to criminal prosecution – the father for the abuse and neglect and the mother for the same. Both would have to face a termination of parental rights procedure in civil court.

If you know of a parent who seems overwhelmed, here are some steps to help them manage those feelings:

  • If they feel overwhelmed, sleep-deprived, or out of control, they should seek immediate help.
  • Learn what steps to take if a baby or child won't stop crying. No one should ever shake a baby. Shaking can result in permanent serious injury or death.
  • They should participate in parent or caregiver parenting classes and programs that teach coping skills, conflict, stress, and anger management, and financial management.
  • If they have an alcohol or substance addition, they should get support to get sober.
  • Do not let anyone, including family members, caretakers, boyfriends, or girlfriends, take care of a child or your children, if that person is acting overwhelmed, sleep-deprived, depressed, out of control, or interacts negatively with a child physically or emotionally.
  • If you know parents, make yourself available to assist. Work with your community, clergy, and schools to develop and offer programs that can educate and support parents.
  • Report suspected abuse. Call your local department of family services or the police. You do not have to be certain. If you have a reasonable suspicion, report.
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