It's too late to save 2-year-old Darisabel Baez. There might have been signs, but those who saw them either chose not to act or didn't know what to do.
The toddler was beaten to death with a video-game controller by her mother's live-in boyfriend, Harve L. Johnson, in April 2008 at her York City home.
But it might not be too late to help other children. Darisabel's death, which left people in her
community wondering how they could have helped, was the catalyst for beginning a free, annual two-day training workshop to teach people the "red flags" of suspected child abuse, said Beth Bitler, program director for the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance.
The second year of workshops will be held in York on June 22 and July 12. Sessions are geared toward helping the general public, neighbors, friends, acquaintances and family members respond appropriately when they suspect abuse, Bitler said.
Scenarios: The workshops are part of the national Front Porch Project, an initiative to help community members become more aware of the signs of child abuse and to take action before it occurs.
"There isn't anybody who hasn't had one situation where they just said, 'You know, I don't feel right about something with this child,'" Bitler said. "Things that come up most often is parents being nasty, just short-tempered to a child and calling names, saying things like, 'C'mon, you're so slow, I want to get the F out of here' in a store."
She said many adults who have witnessed abuse or seen concerning interactions between a child and a parent don't know how or when to respond.
The incidents range from seeing a parent "drag a child down the street by the arm" to realizing a child is spending a lot of time at home alone, she said.
"You might be shopping in Walmart and a child is having a tantrum and the parent is getting wild, and you're wondering if the child will be safe when they leave," she said.
How to help: The appropriate course of action varies from situation to situation, but the workshops will give insight into possible solutions for various scenarios, Bitler said.
In the store scenario, it might be appropriate for the witness to go to store security or a store manager. He or she could also, for lesser incidents, talk to the parent or child in an attempt to defuse the tension, she said.
"You might say something like, 'Gee, you really have on a cute T-shirt,' or to the parent, 'When mine was that age it was tough. Hang in there,'" she said.
The workshop will also teach people to intervene safely, not putting themselves at risk, as well as some of the warning signs that abuse might be occurring, she said.
The signs, which don't prove child abuse, include the child being shy and withdrawn, the family or the child being isolated, stressed-out parents who seem to have struggles they're not able to handle, grades dropping, domestic violence between adults, and animals being mistreated.
Sexual abuse: Also presenting at the workshops will be Caroline Tyrrell, community outreach specialist with York County Children, Youth and Families.
She said she will encourage people to report any of the red flags they see in children, informing people about ways the county agency can help and how to make a referral.
The workshops will also inform people about sexual abuse, the number of referrals for which have increased because of awareness gained through the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse allegations, she said.
-- Reach Christina Kauffman at email@example.com.
A two-day workshop on how to identify and intervene when witness to suspected child abuse will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, June 22, and Thursday, July 12, at New Grounds Roasting Co., 284 W. Market St., York. Participants should arrive at 8:30 a.m. to sign in.
Registration is required by calling Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance at 238-0937 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The sessions are being held by the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance, with co-sponsors WellSpan Health, the York City Bureau of Health and the York County Office of Children, Youth and Families.
The workshops are funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.