It’s disheartening to think that there are parents out there who don’t provide sufficient food, care, or emotional support for their own children. Sadly, this problem continues to plague society to this day.
Child neglect is a serious problem that, like all forms of abuse, can have long-lasting effects on the victim, even after it ends. Sometimes, all it takes is one person—or one family—to help put an end to this abuse.
So when Florida police officer Michael Holste received a call on July 13, 2005 about a pale, thin face in the window of a neighbor’s home, he realized something had to be done before the
This house in Florida had been inhabited by a family for three years, yet no one ever reported having seen any children playing in the yard or coming and going from the home. People assumed that whoever lived there must’ve really wanted their privacy.
On July 13, 2005, however, Florida police officer Michael Holste received a phone call about a pale, thin face in the window of the home. After witnessing the mysterious face, a neighbor became suspicious and called the police. Officer Holste arrived to investigate.
After entering the home, Michael was shocked by what was waiting for him inside. There was animal feces smeared all over the floor, seemingly chewed-up old food, garbage, spider webs, and thousands of cockroaches. Who did this? And who would ever live in these conditions? As Michael would learn, it would only get worse…
Yet, none of these were what startled Michael the most. It was the girl he found that was easily the most horrifying surprise of all. She was six years old, starving, surrounded by garbage, and wearing nothing but an old and dirty diaper.
“When I entered the room, her eyes widened,” Michael said in an interview. “She opened her mouth and then crawled sideways, like a crab, to the corner, pulled her knees to her chin, and wrapped her arms around them. Then she started making grunting noises.”
Michael was horrified; he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. The girl, whose name he learned was Danielle, was immediately taken to a nearby hospital to be treated. Though she was six years old, Danielle spoke and behaved like a six-month-old.
It turned out that Danielle had a mother who, clearly, was not caring for her properly. After spending little more than a day in a county jail, her mother was sentenced to two years of house arrest and three years of probation. Luckily, Danielle was immediately taken away from her; she wouldn’t have to be subjected to such a horrific lifestyle any longer.
Instead of being sent to an orphanage, Danielle was adopted by Diane and Bernie Lierows, a couple who already had four sons. They always wanted a girl, and they said that they knew from the moment they first saw her that Danielle belonged in their family.
Danielle and her new family still have a lot of challenges to deal with. Years of abuse left her developmentally disabled, and she continues to struggle with the horrific psychological pain of her past. It’s likely she’ll suffer from these issues for the rest of her life.
“She has seven or eight fits a day, and she’s very concerned with food,” Bernie said in an interview when asked about his new daughter’s eating habits since being rescued. “She often eats until she has to throw up.”
Diane and Bernie have to resort to drastic measures to ensure that Danielle won’t eat every item of food they have in their kitchen. The Lierows lock their refrigerator with a chain, because otherwise she would empty everything out. This is likely due to the fact that she never knew where her next meal would come from.
Danielle’s childhood was unbearably terrible, but she’s doing better now with her new family. Her adoptive parents hope that she’ll eventually reach independence, but at the moment, they are satisfied with the baby steps that she’s been taking.
“Having Dani in our lives is like a roller coaster. One that we don’t want to get off of,” her adoptive father said in an interview. He stressed how every day living with her is rewarding in many ways and a good challenge.
Luckily, she found a family that cared for her in the ways that she so desperately needed. Allowing her to lead any sort of normal life after what she endured as a child is extremely important and inspiring at the same time.
Dani also shares her home with the couple’s adoptive sons. Having siblings—especially when they’ve experienced and can understand a small part of what she went through—is an important part of rehabilitating her into the real world and preparing her for a potential future to make lasting relationships with people.
Despite Dani’s tragic past, her new family makes every effort possible to maintain a normal lifestyle. They regularly spend time with each other and do their best to be as supportive of each other as they can.
Danielle and her family visited the set of Oprah to share her story. When you watch her bravely tell the world what happened to her in her own words, look at the way she decides that she has to take her life back and live it on her terms…
Danielle finally found hope after such a dark beginning to her life. We’re sure that good things will continue to happen to her! Please visit this site to help raise awareness about this serious issue.
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