It shouldn’t hurt to be a child

Joey’s Story

Nine-year-old Joey and his younger sister, five-year-old Alisha, endured years of abuse from their stepfather. Late last night, their cries awakened their neighbors, who immediately called the police.

At 3 a.m., the two children were forcibly removed from their home with only the clothes on their backs. As the car took the children away, they held each other, trembling in fear. Joey watched in shock as the police slapped handcuffs on his stepfather while his mother stood screaming in the driveway. Meanwhile, authorities made countless calls seeking a foster home willing to take both children. But none had room for two. In the predawn hours, Joey is separated from Alisha. As he’s led away, he turns back to see Alisha crying—begging him not to leave her. Joey made a brave face—a good big brother wouldn’t let his little sister see him cry. “I’ll come back for you,” he said. The door closed behind him. Filled with anxiety, questions and fear, Joey doesn’t know how to make sense of what has happened on this night. More deeply, he fears he will never see his sister again. He assumes it’s his fault.

It’s a sad story, but it’s not fiction. It happens every night to dozens of children in southwest Florida.