HILLSBORO, Ohio — Is a 5-year-old boy who weighs just 28 pounds another case of a child starved and abused in the Tri-State?
In this new case in Highland County, like the one involving an 11-year-old girl in Brown County uncovered a few weeks ago, a relative accuses the suspected abuse of going unnoticed for years.
How does that happen?
The boy’s grandmother, Debbie Miller, said his aunt and uncle, Shanna and Rodney Kimball, had custody of him. Court documents say they abused him from 2016 to 2019.
"Things kept getting worse for this child," Miller said.
Miller said caseworkers removed her grandson from the home six months ago, but she said she reported her suspicions of abuse in 2017.
“I wrote Children's Services a letter and told them that they need to help this child or he would die,” Miller said.
Only when doctors got involved did Job & Family Services remove him, Miller said.
The boy weighs half what he should weigh and lacked potty training as of October, Miller said. She said the boy was corralled in a room by himself for years.
WCPO called Highland County Job & Family Services to ask how suspected abuse could go unnoticed for so long, but the office is closed on Fridays.
The boy was already in the court system, so wouldn’t you think a case worker would do regular checks to make sure he was OK?
“I know, which is so stunning, right? Just that that can even happen,” said Tracy Cook, executive director of ProKids.
But Cook said that once a child is placed permanently, there are no more welfare checks. It’s case closed.
“At that point, it's believed that the child is safe in that placement, and the county turns their scarce resources toward kids coming in the front with active abuse and neglect allegations,” Cook said.
Job & Family Services does not have enough case workers to continue check-ins, Cook said.
When it comes to protecting kids, Cook said, the public needs to be more involved.
“The truth is there's not a single one of us that is helpless. There's something every one of us can do to help these children,” Cook said.
You can become a ProKids volunteer to follow the kids through the court process.
You can report abuse, but gather your facts carefully so case workers understand the seriousness.
“It's about every child out there and someone to speak for them,” Cook said.
She has a point. Did you know that 99 percent of kids who have a Pro Kids volunteer with them are not abused again?
In this case, Miller said her grandson is getting healthier in a new foster home, but she wishes help had come sooner.
"Our system is not perfect, I'll give you that. There's errors. But there's got to be a point where somebody is held accountable,” Miller said.
The boy’s aunt and uncle are out of jail. They are scheduled to be back in court for a pretrial hearing on Jan. 8. A jury trial is set for Jan 27.