A 10-year-old girl found locked in a urine-soaked closet and severely malnourished continues on the long road to recovery. Local experts say her case of abuse is not all that uncommon.
The little girl weighed less than half what she should, and was stuck in the closet likely for months, maybe years. Her mother, Jacole N. Prince, 29, is charged with first-degree assault, abuse of child and first-degree endangering the welfare of a child.
Inside an apartment, a little girl's world shrank to the 3 by 6 closet where investigators say her mother kept her locked up. A place with very little food, where bathroom and bedroom were one and the same.
"This became normal behavior for her. We know it not to be normal, we know it to be completely atrocious," Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said. "Children perceive things differently and she was trying to survive in a horrible environment."
The little girl is now recovering physically at the hospital. But the next step will be to teach the girl life shouldn't always be a struggle to survive.
That is where groups like The Children's Place come in to help in the long road to mental health recovery.
"Let them know that there are adults in their world that can keep them safe, there are adults who will treat them well. They can have that normal childhood. They can get food when they're hungry, they can get help when they're hurting," said Roxane Hill, vice president of development at the Children's Place in Kansas City.
Hill says, while this case is shocking, sadly it is not unusual.
"We have had children who have not been fed, we have had children who have been locked away," Hills said.
Each case takes special care, a different approach from adult trauma counseling.
"They'll use play therapy, they'll use some art, seeing tables, those types of things to help them tell their story, tell the trauma story for them to be healed," she said.
A process of opening the girl's mind, now that the doors around her are no longer closed.
An anonymous tipster called the child abuse hotline at the Division of Family Services bringing that life-saving help from Kansas City police.
Experts at The Children's Place say that is an important reminder, that if anyone sees signs of child abuse, they should report it.
Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
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