A West Palm Beach grandmother is being charged with child endangerment after leaving her grandson with his abusive father unattended. The child was severely beaten by his father and suffered severe injuries as a result. The father was charged with attempted homicide.
This is a criminal negligence prosecution, which means the defendant is being charged for what they didn’t do as opposed to what they did do. The police say that the grandmother owed the infant a duty of care which she violated when she allowed her son to gain access to the boy without supervision.
According to police, the court had issued an order of protection for the child stipulating that he was not to be left alone with his father. The grandmother, however, did nothing as she heard the child’s unusually loud crying downstairs. The grandmother had been vested by the OCY with guardianship of the child. The law holds her responsible for assuming guardianship of the child and then violating a direct court order related to the child’s safety. Her son has been charged with attempted murder, child endangerment, and aggravated assault.
Investigators called from the hospital
The hospital admitted the boy and recognized that his wounds were “inflicted” by someone. The Office of Children and Youth was contacted to investigate what happened. The child showed injuries to multiple organ systems, broken ribs, bleeding in his brain, liver lacerations, and bruises all over his body. The physician said that the injuries were indicative of “non-accidental” trauma occurring over a span of time. The doctor alerted the authorities, and the authorities came after the child’s guardian.
OCY was already involved in the case when the father was determined to be unfit for parenting. He had been suffering from extended substance abuse issues and mental health problems. Guardianship was awarded to the man’s mother with the explicit instruction not to leave the boy alone with his father. That instruction was ignored, and the boy nearly died as a result of that. Now OCY wants to hold the grandmother responsible for failing to ensure the safety of the child.
The father had been acting erratically even as early as the child’s birth. According to hospital staff, he had to be removed from the premises for erratic behavior. That’s when OCY stepped in to ensure that the child was safe. OCY awarded the paternal grandmother guardianship of the child. Not only was the grandmother supposed to keep the child safe, but she was supposed to contact police as soon as her son began acting erratically so that he could be treated immediately.
Was the grandmother able to care for the child?
While the grandmother had a duty of care to ensure the child’s welfare, she could argue that the state negligently entrusted her with that duty of care by leaving an old woman and a toddler with a dangerous and psychotic grown man. If the grown man started acting up, what was the grandmother supposed to do? If she was in a position to call the police, then maybe they would intervene, but if a grown man wants to stop an elderly woman from making a phone call, he certainly can. So the negligence falls just as much on OCY as it does the grandmother.
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