Having had a personal opportunity to speak with Ms. Liles after all this time, she shared `Florida's Child' - Bradley McGee's life story with me. In her heartfelt words, she explained how she still advocates child abuse prevention, and still follows case of Sheryl Coe, Bradley's biological mother. Today, we revisit Bradley's brief time on earth:
Most of you didn't know him. Most of you may never have heard of him. He was an innocent toddler, just a little over 2 years old. He wore face of many a child. Bradley, fondly known as `Braddie' to his foster mom, (Kip Liles), also bore fatal scars of abused & neglected children everywhere.
His story begins nearly two decades ago. At very tender age of just four months, Braddie was abandoned in a shopping mall (by his biological mother). Fortunately, an on-duty pretzel vendor took him to a local hospital where Braddie was quickly introduced to `system' of governmental child supervision.
After living in a safe foster home for nearly two years, `system' sent little Braddie back to his biological mother and stepfather. In merely 66 days after reintroduction into his original home, Bradley's life tragically came to an end (by hands of his parents). Did Bradley become sorrowful product of a poorly constructed childcare system?
Bradley McGee, sadly, like many other abused & neglected children are often returned to their biological families only to find ill-fated tragedy awaiting them. In Bradley's case, countless pleas fell on deaf ears prior to his horrific murder in 1989. A number of persons, especially Ms. Liles, made several attempts to have Bradley removed from his neglectful home, all to no avail.
Upon his return, little Bradley incurred insurmountable, and brutal physical abuse. Beating after beating, his abusers finally took his small, innocent life by dangling Bradley by his ankles and repeatedly plunging his head into a toilet bowl. When they finally retrieved battered tot from bathroom, they continued their torture by placing him in a cold shower to quiet his screams, and then beat him (with pillows) until his small body curled up into a fetal position. What was their reason for his fatal beating? He had soiled his pants. In end, Bradley purportedly ended up on a life-support machine where he died alone.
Bradley's mother (Sheryl Coe) had repeatedly mocked child welfare workers in past by `hiding' when they (caseworkers) arrived at their mobile home to check on Bradley. [It is my personal opinion and review of said case, that logically, at some point, caseworkers should have made an effort to attain a warrant to enter premises.] Psychologists who interviewed Coes found that they were `immature and explosive.' How could a judge rule in favor of them (Sheryl & Thomas Coe) with this afore knowledge? The reason for ruling was because psychological documents were never introduced into hearing - a slight oversight?
Upon jury-trial commencement, Thomas Coe was sentenced to life in prison and Sheryl Coe was sentenced to 30 years; however, Ms. Coe was released after 9 years of time served. To date, she is again in clutches of yet another court battle to retrieve another biological son in foster care.
Bradley is still remembered by Kip Liles (former foster mother), neighbors and by those who watched live news reports as incredible drama unfolded on television. While I lived in Florida at time, Bradley's story tugged at my heartstrings and resides in my thoughts forever. His story, like so many, needed to be told and retold until no child is left to wayside.
Below are some alarming statistics and information on Child Abuse & Neglect cases in United States alone:
According to US Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children & Families, 2.6 million reports of child abuse or neglect were filed on 4.5 million children, of which 896,000 cases were substantiated in 2002 alone. In other words, a little over 12 children per 1,000 became victims of abuse or neglect by legal standards.1 But what substantiates abuse or neglect?
In a report by National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information, over 40 percent of allegations are made by friends, neighbors and relatives. Sixty-one percent of all reports were found to be unsubstantiated, 30 percent of all reports included at least one victim of child abuse or neglect, and remaining reports were closed for other reasons. In 2002, 1,400 children died due to abuse or neglect. Infant boys were found to have highest rate of fatalities - 19 per 100,000. Incredibly, nearly 1/5 of child victims had been placed in foster care at some point in time. 2
According to ChildHelp USA, `...homicide is leading cause of injury deaths among infants (under one year of age) in United States.' Furthermore, ChildHelp USA reports that '...the actual incidence of abuse and neglect is estimated to be three times greater than number reported to authorities.'3