ERIC FORBES is the poster child for how the Department of Family & Children Services (DFCS) can fail a child. In LESS THAN ONE YEAR, there were TEN CALLS to DFCS, in which teachers suspected the child was being abused. Nothing was done, and now Eric Forbes is dead. And his case is not the one one. I’m calling for an “ERIC FORBES ‘Mandatory Referral’ Child Protection Act.”
There are so many things in today’s world that I simply do not understand; in recent weeks, one thing has moved to the top of the list: The reported unconscionable abuse, and certain death, of twelve-year-old Eric Forbes.
I did not know this child, but I have wept profusely nearly every day since learning of the horrific fate that awaited him at the Paulding County (Georgia) house where he lived with his younger sister, Erica, and their father, Shayaa Forbes, 32, who is now accused of Eric’s brutal murder.
On October 11, Shayaa called 911 to report that his son, Eric, had drowned; however investigators found the child had been the victim of longstanding, repeated child abuse consisting of multiple areas of bruising, human bite marks, lacerations, and the nails on his big toes pulled back half-way. The father was arrested for murder.
Through my anger and tears I pondered, Where was the mother? Didn’t she know this was going on? What about his teachers and fellow students, didn’t any of them see bruising or suspect anything? If they did, why didn’t they report it to the Department of Family and Children Services? How did this abuse go on for so long? Why didn’t someone do something? Some answers have since been revealed, and none of them are good.
In media interviews, the boy’s mother, Ashlei Majors, said she left the residence years ago because Shayaa was “violent.” Despite that, he somehow had custody and the mother left her two kids behind to live with him [Really?] It’s been reported that she hadn’t seen the children in two years and hadn’t spoken to Eric in two months. He had football games, there were PTA meetings, there were weekends for fun and laughing, all of which she reportedly missed.
She also missed the Oct. 25 family memorial service. According to public records, when she appeared for a child custody hearing regarding the daughter, Majors was arrested on October 23rd for a probation violation in Dekalb County.
On Oct. 29, at Shayaa Forbes’ bond hearing at which the cause of death is officially “Battered Child Syndrome,” it was revealed that past and current teachers at Eric’s schools, had, in fact, reported suspected child abuse to DFACS ten times in less than a year. DFACS reportedly did two investigations, but, after hearing from [yes] the father that the boy’s injuries were “just due to football injuries,” reportedly DFACS dismissed the cases as “unfounded.”
On that same day that a Massachusetts judge sets a $500,000 bond for a man who allegedly abused a dog, the Paulding County Chief Judge Tonny Beavers, set a bond of $30,000 for Forbes, and we have an abused, and now dead, child. Again, I don’t understand. Has even the judge dishonored this child’s life?
America, we have a problem. There is too much brutality, violence, and family dysfunction in our homes. We must work diligently to effectively abate and stop the social proliferation of child abuse, domestic violence, and children falling through the cracks of the very agencies that exist to protect them. (Many local news agencies have requested comment from DFACS, but to date, no reply.)
Fortunately, Eric spent six years with an uncle, former marine Ahmed Burden, brother of the accused. Burden took the children overseas with him, and early photos show smiling, happy faces of both children. Approximately four years ago, the children were returned to the parents, and while the ‘violent’ father had custody, seemingly the rest of the family had little to no contact with the kids. At the family service, a pained aunt said, “We didn’t get to know Eric.”
In some of Eric’s later photos, I could see in his eyes the pain and fear he suffered. I attended both the family service (where his ‘fragile’ body laid; reportedly, his skull had been brutally cracked), and the memorial held in the Paulding community. I drove by the house in which Eric lived; it’s deep in a cul-de-sac, mostly obscured by trees. A near-hidden house of horrors. I’ve visited his grave; and after hearing about the DFACS disgrace, I contacted three state senators’ offices, asking how to propose an “Eric Forbes’ ‘Mandatory Referral’ Child Protection Act.” In it, I seek mandatory referral of a child to an independent physician and counselor to further investigate repeat complaints of suspected child abuse. I need help moving this forward. How do other states handle repeat complaints of suspected abuse?
In Eric’s honor, may anyone–including his friends and classmates–who ever heard directly from Eric of his abuse, or saw bruises and injuries that Eric explained away (probably out of shame and fear), may your parents get you some counseling, but also encourage you to share your observations with investigators, and testify. Do it in honor of Eric’s memory, and for children like him who yet live and need to be rescued. See Eric’s Legacy.com page for tributes, and feel free to add your own. Also see a segment from WXIA 11Alive’s special, ‘Failed to Death’ in which I address my call for legislation [4:55 time mark]: http://on.11alive.com/1aYRWHz.
Copyright 2013 Dr. Melody T. McCloud. All rights reserved. Bitly link for this post: http://bit.ly/17viqQf .