Candles, Flowers and Teddy Bears Do Nothing to Help a Dead Child…and Even Less for the Living.

Where were all the grief-stricken Alvarado Park neighborhood residents when a young mother was spending the night in the park because she had no place to go? What if she’d knocked on a door and said, “Can I spend the night here?” Would any of them offered her shelter? Maybe it’s because grief and outrage are easier than outreach.

Nearly four thousand dollars was raised for a funeral, so the toddler “could be buried in a tuxedo” as one person interviewed by the ABQ Journal stated. Think how that money could have helped Baby Angel and his mother: counseling, parenting classes an apartment.

The situation of “Baby Angel” is repeated over and over again throughout the city and state. The only difference is that Baby Angel’s situation ended with murder. As a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) for children in state custody, I’ve seen first hand the emotional wreckage of child abuse and neglect, the outcome of parents ill-prepared to be parents, parents who suffer from drug and alcohol addiction and a myriad other emotional issues.

There are thousands of children living in emotionally or physically abusive or neglected circumstances in the State. If they are taken out of these homes, where do they go? In 2007 nearly 2500 were in foster care and good, loving foster parents are in short supply. It’s a tough job requiring a high degree of emotional courage to take in these damaged children. Wonder if any of the people crying at Baby Angel’s planned funeral at a multi-media mega-church would be interested in taking in one of these lost children?

Toddlers are cute and their abuse is heart-wrenching. But when they grow up to be angry, lost teenagers they’re not so cute any more, especially if they mug you for your iPod or break into your house. Visit the Juvenile Detention Center and see 12-year olds in handcuffs. Once upon a time they were toddlers in monster truck T-shirts playing with toys. They are Baby Angels growing up to be tomorrow’s addicts, criminals, and yes, abusive parents.

Every Sunday that Albuquerque Journal runs a tiny little column about a child in state custody looking for a “forever family” after parental rights have been terminated. Usually there’s a two-page spread of shelter animals awaiting adoption. “Special needs” dogs needing homes occasionally make the front page. Certainly the humane treatment of animals is important, but what about children?

Instead of taking candles and teddy bears to a memorial, make a contribution of time and effort or money to the damaged children of the community—yes, even the surly, un-cute teenagers—who are still alive. There are plenty of organizations, these are just a few: Cuidando Los Niños provides services to homeless children and their families 843-9408. (Look in the faces of the children on their website
Big Brothers Big Sisters 837-9223 .
New Day Youth Shelter 260-9912
Bernallilo County CASA 841-7388
Sandoval County CASA 720-7030

And, if you’ve really got a lot of courage and want to help, become a foster parent. 1-800-432-2075

Do what you can for the living children and their families who need help. They are all Baby Angels in waiting.

Update: Just for perspective in 2007 there were nearly 9500 reported case of abuse or neglect in Bernalillo county. Of those reports nearly 4500 were found to have merit warranting a CYFD investigation. People, that is JUST Bernalillo county. It's a lot of children needing help.

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Athena--this is exactly my reaction to this entire sad story. Great post. Indeed, no one cared about "Baby Angel" and his mother when he was alive--but now people are coming out of the woodwork to profess their concern. Thanks for reminding us that there are ways we can help people like Ty and his poor mother. The other thing I would add is that if you see or know of a parent who is abusing a child or you suspect a child is being neglected or abused, it is your duty to report it. Don't just turn your head and pretend it doesn't concern you. It concerns all of us.

I think you should send this post to the Journal as a letter to the editor if you haven't already.
I have to agree with you. It seems several folks came forward to say they had been seeing the child & his mother around for quite some time. Where were the crying girls then? Scared to get involved?

I don't have any answers or insight to this tragic situation. I hated the way this thing immediately took off from baby found to we gotta get him a tux & a casket. We didn't even know who he was or where he was from. Obviously such an amature would not be far away & the perp would be found. I felt like some of the neighboring women took this up as a mantle for their own selfish reasons. It must be a way for them to cope with what has happened in their own front yards. I do hope they donate some of the money they collected to help living children.
Actually Anthony, people were aware. The ABQ Journal reported, "Officials with the Children, Youth and Families Department at the time were investigating the grandmother [of Ty] for possible abuse and neglect, but she was never charged. The grandmother also has young children of her own, officials said. The allegations under investigation had nothing to do with Ty." The grandmother had kicked out her daughter and grandson. It's exactly the kind of multi-generational abuse/neglect I described in my post and maybe CYFD was too overwhelmed to investigate Ty's situations. See the statistics in my post update about the scope of the problem of abuse and neglect. It is staggering. There are simply are not enough agencies or personnel to help. The purpose of my post was to encourage people to do something for the living children in danger. It's not "the organizations" problem or failure--it's OUR problem as a community.
Of course this kid's remains should be treated with respect. The community gets big points for that.
I agree completely with Athena's post. Neglected children are very easy to to care about as an abstract concept. Athena's point that local agencies need our support to prevent further horrible events like this is well taken.
It takes a lot of effort to parent your kids in a nomal, healthy situation, taking on foster kids is not for the faint of heart. But even taking a few hours a month to volunteer with one of these organizations would be a fitting tribute to this kid.
Thanks mombat. You're right just a few hours a month could make a difference. This is from the great organization Cuidando de los Ninos website:

"We have an incredibly successful program working with very young children and their families to help them become rehoused after a period of homelessness—but we need more helping hands.

Once you visit with the children you'll want to help them thrive. Loving arms are needed to hold, rock and read to these wonderful children. So if you’re aged 16 -160, we'll welcome you with open arms. Monday-Friday, 8am-5pm (6:30pm on the 2 nd and 4 th Thursdays). We also need generous folks to work in our kitchen, offices, playgrounds and yards. And of course we need people who know how to fix things!

Call Katie Sonnen at (505) 843-6899 x101."

So, even if you don't want to work with the kids directly YOU CAN STILL help. I
Of all the organizations out there for children, what if you want to work with children but have your own 8-5 employment? Are there places out there weekend friendly? Evening friendly?
Maybe try New Day. It's a shelter for homeless teens and runaways. These kids have been through a lot and some have never had a positive adult role model in their lives. Yes, some of them are angry and have an attitude but they still need help. The likelihood of success for kids who "age out" of foster care is dismal. Also, I think Big Brothers Big Sisters would be more favorable to 8-5 folks because you can do something with the kids on weekens.
Maybe the reason some of the members of that community are grieving is because they didn't get involved and not so much the loss of a child that was just another face of the homeless. I guess you can call that selfish and placing candles and teddy bears as a memorial a waste, but far be it for me to tell people how to grieve.
I'm so glad you said this, Athena.
Thanks for giving people details on practical and useful ways of reacting to this horribly sad story.
This story and the situations surrounding it have haunted me. Thank you for putting into words exactly how so many of us have been feeling.
bravo Athena. The grand gesture, there is something creepy about it.


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