Unheeded Warning Signs: Was Mother Charged With Killing Her Toddler Son Crying Out for Help?

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Camilia Terry, Emilliano Terry

Authorities are investigating whether Camilia Terry (pictured above), the Cleveland woman charged with aggravated murder in the death of her 3-year-old son, left a comment on an adoption article saying she didn’t know how to deal with the toddler.

RELATED: Missing 3-Year-Old’s Body Found In Trash [VIDEO], Mom Arrested

Police have charged Terry, 20, with aggravated murder in the death of her toddler son Emilliano Terry (pictured below).

According to an autopsy, the boy died of blunt force trauma to the head, and his skull was fractured.

Underneath a 2006 Yahoo article about putting a child up for adoption is a comment by someone who posted their name as “Camilia Terry.” It reads:

I HAVE A THREE YEAR OLD TODDLER I WANT TO PUT UP FOR ADOPTION WHEN I WAS PREGNANT WITH HIM I WAS GOING TO GO THROUGH IT BUT PEOPLE KEPT CONVINCING ME TO DO OTHER WISE HE HAS PROBLEMS THAT I DONT KNOW HOW TO DEAL WITH AND PREFER FOR HIM TO BE WITH A FAMILY WHO CAN HANDLE IT AND THE FATHER NEVER BEING AROUND NEVER HELPED HARD TO FIND TODDLER ADOPTION AGENCYS

According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, police are examining Terry’s social media posts.

“We are very aware of all of them,” said City Police Commander Ed Tomba.

It’s unclear whether Terry actually posted this note. It could be a cruel hoax that’s typical of anonymous Internet posters these days. However, we do know for a fact that Terry, who at the age of 20 had three children ages 5 months to 5 years old, had reached out to her area social services agency for help.

We also know that with a 5 year old, Terry likely first became a Mother at the age of 14 or 15. Up until just nine months ago, Terry, was in the custody of child welfare authorities.

What we need to know now is what steps should have been taken to prevent this young woman from reaching the edge and then, according to the police, diving over by allegedly murdering her own child?

Why did no one hear this young woman pleading for help?

According to police, Terry said that her son went missing while she was at a local park with all three of her children. The FBI became involved and found the toddler’s scent at the park. Police claim that Terry’s story slowly began to change and unravel.

Terry is innocent until proven guilty and should expect the same due process any of us would want if we were accused of a heinous crime. Her lawyer, John Powers, said there should be no “rush to judgment. She is devastated and heartbroken.”

Her grandfather, Lonnie Terry, said he had doubts about her guilt. “I’m pretty sure she is not capable of murder,” he told the Plain Dealer.

Rather than trying the case outside of court, we must ask what efforts were made to help Terry with her kids when she called social services asking for help.

The Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services would only say that the case remains open, but if the agency got a call that this young woman was struggling with her three kids, someone should have been dispatched immediately.


It may have taken all Terry had to make that call.

Sarah Deschamps, a family support specialist with Teen Parent Connection, an Illinois agency that serves  500 young mothers per year, said her agency would have initiated immediate and intensive support services had they gotten a call from a mother who said she needed help. That could include home visitation programs and connecting them with mental health experts. They would also immediately tell the mother what to do if they felt themselves reaching the boiling point.

“We would help her make a safety plan. If you are starting to feel overwhelmed what is your first step?  Putting baby in a crib and walking away or going outside and taking a walk or calling a friend and saying I’m really frustrated,” said Deschamps.

Teaching young mothers about child development so they understand their baby’s behavior is an important service they provide. They also screen the mothers for postpartum depression.

Setting up a system to support young mothers is one of the group’s priorities.

“Having support when the baby is crying and won’t stop or throwing tantrums is extremely important. Having someone to take the baby is crucial,” said Deschamps “People who have social support and have one or two lifelines fare so much better than the people who don’t.”

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