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Why the family told Govi’s story

A notable case of child abuse and neglect in the area: The boy called Govi was rescued from this duplex in De Soto in 2010.
A notable case of child abuse and neglect in the area: The boy called Govi was rescued from this duplex in De Soto in 2010. tljungblad@kcstar.com

Too often, Kansas City sees cases of child abuse that shock the psyche.

Children locked away, or chained up. Starved by their parents. Beaten. Deprived of simple things like sunlight. A hug. Love.

The stories never get easier to take. And all we can do is read the headlines, one after the other, and hope that these nameless, faceless children survive and somehow start to heal.

But rarely do we ever know what becomes of them or what it takes for them to regain some of what they’ve lost.

If we knew more, if we knew that these broken children can be whole with the help of community – with the love of a family – maybe there’s something more that could be done to help others like them. Maybe more people would volunteer at agencies that help severely abused and neglected kids. More people might be prompted to call the hotline numbers in Missouri and Kansas so a child can be rescued.

It’s why a mother in the Northland agreed to let us tell Govi’s story.

To know him and more about where he came from and where he is now is to understand the toll that child abuse takes on this community and what we can do to help our most vulnerable victims.

Five years of abuse cases

August 2010: Authorities found Govi in his mother’s attic in De Soto. Born with Down syndrome, Govi was malnourished and dehydrated and had wasted away to little more than bones and skin. He had been in the attic for at least nine hours when deputies found him. His mother had been taken to jail earlier in the day and didn’t tell deputies she had put her son in the attic on a mid-August day. His biological mother received an 8 1⁄2 -year prison sentence.

June 2012: A hotline call led a police officer and social worker to a Kansas City apartment where a 10-year-old girl, weighing 32 pounds, was locked in a closet amid her own urine and feces. She was severely malnourished. The girl, known only as LP in court records, told authorities that some days she wasn’t allowed to eat. Other times, she had to eat in the closet or behind a couch. She hadn’t been to school in five years. Within a year of her rescue, LP needed — and received — a new heart. Her biological mother still awaits trial.

February 2013: A frail teenage boy in dirty clothes was found in Kansas City, North, handcuffed to a steel pole in his family’s basement. The 17-year-old boy, who family members said was bipolar and had been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, told police his father typically woke him at 4 a.m. and allowed him to use the bathroom. The father fed him oatmeal and then would lock him back up until he got home from work around 2:30 p.m. He would be allowed another bathroom break and be served ramen noodles before being handcuffed again. The teen’s father was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

May 2013: A 9-year-old girl from Blue Summit told authorities she had been locked in her family’s basement, with little food or water, as punishment for a school suspension. She wasn’t allowed to use the bathroom inside and had to go outside to relieve herself. She reportedly used a small Tinker Bell blanket to shield herself when she relieved herself outside. The girl said she was told she couldn’t use the bathroom because she had allegedly infected her father’s girlfriend with a rash. The girl’s father and his girlfriend both received 7 years in prison.

March 2015: Authorities in Independence picked up a malnourished 10-year-old boy after he ran away from home. Authorities said the boy, who weighed 40 pounds, had been forced to stay in the basement, where he slept on a bed soiled with feces and where bottles of urine littered the floor. A younger sibling told police the boy was often beaten for “stealing” food and the door to the basement was tied shut. The boy’s biological mother and her partner each were charged with abuse or neglect of a child causing serious emotional or physical injury.

Reporting abuse

Kansas

Kansas Protection Report Center: 800-922-5330

Missouri

Missouri Child Abuse/Neglect Hotline Unit: 800-392-3738

Laura Bauer: 816-234-4944, @kclaurab

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