A 3-year-old boy who died of severe abuse on Easter Sunday is the third child in less than a month to die at Cook Children's Hospital due to severe child abuse, the hospital said.
Amari Boone was taken to the hospital Friday morning and later died of his injuries Easter Sunday at about 1:19 a.m., police said. Amari's aunt, Chasatie Boozer, says he had fractured ribs, two broken arms, bleeding in his brain and bruises. His death has been ruled a homicide, Fort Worth police said.
The Fort Worth Police Crimes Against Children Unit is involved in the investigation. They are asking anyone with information on the murder or abuse is asked to contact the CACU at 817-332-5036 or email FortWorthPDCACU@fortworthtexas.gov.
Boozer tells WFAA that the people he was staying with, who she calls his foster parents, are responsible for the severe injuries that put him in a coma. The state says he was living with friends of the family.
She wrote on a GoFundMe page for Amari's funeral expenses that he was the "smartest, intriguing, funniest child in the world."
“Justice needs to be served,” Boozer said. “Someone needs to be held responsible. The system failed yet another child.”
Child Protective Investigations says the boy was in the state's legal custody and was living with friends of their family. They are working with Fort Worth police to find out what happened and who is responsible, said Marissa Gonzales, Media Relations Director for Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
"Before the children were allowed to live in that home, background checks and visits to the home were conducted. The judge overseeing the children’s CPS case approved the placement," Gonzales said in a statement. "Amari’s younger brother has been moved out of the home and placed in a foster home."
Since March 17, eight children have been admitted to Cook Children’s Medical Center for injuries related to child abuse, the hospital said. Three of those children died. To put that number in perspective, Cook Children’s typically sees six child abuse deaths a year, the hospital said.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and Cook Children’s staff planted 2,055 pinwheels outside of the medical center to represent each child abuse visit in 2019. With isolation and stresses mounting due to COVID-19, the hospital says they could see even more pinwheels planted at the hospital next year.
“It’s heartbreaking. We’ve seen a substantial increase in serious child abuse cases at Cook Children’s recently,” said Jamye Coffman, M.D., medical director of the Cook Children’s Center for Prevention and Child Abuse and Neglect and the CARE team. “We can’t say for certain if the effects of COVID-19 are driving this increase. All we can do right now is sound the alarm about what we are seeing.
Abuse concerns amid stay-at-home orders
Experts are concerned about an uptick in child abuse while kids stay home during the coronavirus epidemic. Fewer suspected cases are being reported to the state’s abuse hotline, but child welfare advocates say that decline is artificial while children are out of the eyes of teachers and daycare workers, the Texas Tribune reported. Children with injuries are less likely to be spotted.
The National Domestic Abuse Hotline says abuse is about power and control. When survivors are forced to stay in the home or in close proximity to their abuser more frequently, an abuser can use any tool to exert control over their victim, including a national health concern such as COVID-19.
If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, call 1-800-799-7233, text LOVEIS to 22522, or chat online at thehotline.org.
In Tarrant County, 211 is another resource for parents. There is also the Texas COVID-19 mental health hotline, the National Child Help Hotline and Texas Youth Crisis Hotline are on stand-by with 24/7 staff.