COVID-19: Leo’s Letter: A Tragedy in Fall River

“Between his return home on March 13, 2020 and his death on October 21, 2020 David experienced abuse, starvation, and was deprived of a safe and nurturing home environment.”

This statement is from the 106-page report of the investigation into David Almond’s death released only last week. Why were David and his siblings entrusted to their father when New York State authorities had slated them for adoption to another family? The Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) documents how systems in our state including the Department of Children and Families (DCF) either missed or didn’t take into account facts that should have prevented the father and his partner from having custody.

David, 14-years old, was one of three triplets who had autism spectrum disorder. The OCA report states that DCF’s lack of knowledge about disabilities was a factor in the poor decisions made on David’s behalf: “the lack of general knowledge about disabilities, and the lack of specific knowledge of how these children’s disabilities presented in them as individuals, resulted in state systems overlooking the risk factors and warning signs that precipitated David’s death.”

Ignorance about disabilities has significant ramifications. It is reflected in how we treat children and adults or in how we ignore their common human needs. Societal stigma leverages this ignorance, resulting in segregation and rejection. Persons with disabilities, committed family members, staff, and others must fight against a tide of bias, implicit and explicit. As the report states: “Children with disabilities are at least three times as likely to be maltreated than their peers without disabilities, and they are more likely to be seriously injured or harmed by abuse or neglect.”

David’s death may seem to some as an aberration committed by abusive caregivers. But his placement reflected lack of knowledge and egregious errors in judgment by professionals.

The goal of The Arc’s advocacy is to “foster social inclusion, self-determination, and equity across all aspects of society.” Let’s ponder that. Would David be alive today if social inclusion and equity were the norm?

4 Comments:

  1. My heart aches thinking about the tragic life and death of this young boy. Pls let’s all support the Arc and its critical advocacy that saves and enhances the lives of vulnerable people.

  2. Please support the ARC and ask the legislators to fund fair wages for the people who take care of our family members with disabilities in group homes There is no incentive to stay long term.
    Here in MA most agencies, pay little more than 14 dollars per hour. They work so very hard.

  3. There is so much more in the investigation that reflects the lack of knowledge across systems that contributed to the lack of safeguarding his life. New York State also missed in protecting David. And you’re right in that we have to make sure we address our workforce so that there are individuals on the ground who are doing their work grounded in good values and knowledge.

  4. David Almond’s story generates so many strong emotions. Please provide us with suggestions as to how we can channel these strong emotions to affect positive change so that these preventable tragedies do not happen. Other than donations to the ARC, letter campaigns? protests? Please provide specific guidance if able. TY!

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