The Port Arthur News
Often, it takes a tragedy to alert people to the horrors of child abuse.
The case of nine-week-old Faith Mason has evoked such a reaction. The Port Arthur infant, born July 13, is suffering from two broken legs, two broken arms, a dislocated shoulder, 19 fractures, severe head trauma and brain damage. She was brought to Christus Hospital-St. Mary for treatment by a relative on Aug. 18 before being transported to Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. Since then, Child Protective Services has received between 40 and 50 phone calls from citizens inquiring about the infant’s welfare, said Shari Pulliam, media specialist with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
“It just touched everyone — such a small infant that endured such physical abuse at such a young age,” Pulliam said. “We get calls daily from people wanting us to know that Baby Faith has touched their hearts, and if there’s anything they can do to help her recovery.”
Among those moved by Baby Faith’s plight are Lindsey Brackin, of Spurger, and Wanda Turmes, of Kountze. So much so that the two women decided to hold a drive to collect clothes, diapers and other baby products for Faith. Anyone wishing to donate can deposit items at Turmes’ home in Kountze, which she will then take to a local CPS office. The drive will continue through mid-October, Turmes said.
“This is the least we can do,” Brackin said. “These kids need to know somebody cares.”
Turmes said she finds the case especially poignant because five of her six children were adopted through CPS. Since gaining custody of her disabled sister’s daughter 12 years ago, she has adopted four siblings who had been separated in foster care.
“We deal daily with the effects of abuse and neglect they went through,” Turmes said. “The emotional needs are really huge when children are placed in foster care, so when a community can help with the other needs, it helps the family focus on the emotional needs of the child.”
Baby Faith’s case has sparked an interest in fostering and adoption, Pulliam said. A number of callers have expressed the desire to foster the infant if and when she is released from the hospital. Turmes said she hopes to see this interest continue long after Baby Faith’s case has left the spotlight.
“There are many, many Faiths out there waiting for someone to say, 'I will pick you,’” she said. “I don't think we recognize as a community until something like this happens.”
There are 250 such children in Jefferson County alone, Pulliam said, and nearly 30,000 at any given time in the state of Texas. Pulliam encouraged anyone interested in becoming a foster parent to visit www.adoptchildren.org, or to make a donation to the Jefferson County Child Welfare board, a volunteer organization focused on meeting the needs of children in foster care.
Pulliam also stressed the importance of calling 1-800-252-5400 to report child abuse before the situation reaches the severity of Baby Faith’s case.
“I think it’s important that our community not turn a blind eye,” she said. “The littlest victims need the oldest of us to be a voice for them.”
Anyone wishing to donate to the Baby Faith drive can contact Turmes at 409-246-8266.