Why did 9-year-old Shylae Thomas of Flint (MI) have to die from abuse and neglect?
July 21, 2009 by Lauren Hager
Details of her death
It has happened again.
Although it’s been three months since Shylae Thomas’s emaciated body was found stuffed in a Genesee County storage unit, the recently released autopsy report revealed horrific findings.
According to the Flint Journal her death was ruled a homicide. She died of medical neglect, malnutrition and dehydration. Shylae’s adoptive mother is in jail on charges of second degree murder and child abuse.
Nine-year-old Shylae had lived a life of severe challenges. She was blind, deaf and mute. One can only imagine the extreme suffering she endured… not being able to express to anyone the torture inflicted upon her.
Need details of her life and death
As former chairperson of the Family and Children’s Services Committee in the Michigan Legislature, I dealt with the insidious issue of child abuse and neglect. I came to learn that the state’s system of protecting vulnerable children is fraught with inconsistencies and shortcomings in carrying out its responsibilities. With that in mind, I worked for four years with other legislators in authoring Ariana’s Law which gave increased authority and independence to the Office of Children’s Ombudsman to oversee, to ride herd, on the Department of Human Services.
Now it’s up to that office to do its work, to find out what actually happened in the dark life of Shylae.
I called for state review
I called the OCO yesterday to be a co-complainant on Shylae’s behalf. I was told that their investigation has begun but that it would take up to six months to complete their work. I was told that the Child Protective Services had been involved in the case before her death.
My questions for MI child protection workers
I have to wonder what CPS workers had noticed about her care. 1) Were there regular unannounced visits to her home? 2) Were the conditions of her care closely monitored? 3)Were regular visits to her doctor documented? 4) Why did a nine-year-old girl only weigh 33 pounds? 5) Why was she a victim of malnutrition and dehydration? 6) Did her adoptive mother have a previous record of not properly caring for children.
There are numerous unanswered questions. I’m counting on the OCO to issue clear-cut findings and recommendations as they conduct their investigation… and I’m hoping it doesn’t take six months to accomplish this task.
And furthermore, I’m expecting that these findings and recommendations will be made fully public so all of us, including CPS workers can learn from them.
I would hope that Shylae, Ariana, Ann Marie, Ricky and other precious kids who suffered tragic and painful deaths from abuse and neglect would not have died in vain… that we would honor their memories and pledge that other kids would not suffer and die as they did.