What was wrong with this story?
Girl Endures Childhood Neglect, Makes Amazing Progress With Adoptive Family
December 24, 2016
Imagine a house so filthy, moldy and infested with roaches that it caused investigating cops to vomit in the bushes and representatives from the Florida Department of Children and Families to openly weep in their cars. That's precisely the kind of scenario Plant City police detective Mark Holste encountered after responding to a child abuse call on July 13, 2005, reported the Tampa Bay Times. After wading through rooms splattered with urine, feces and a nauseating amount of cockroaches, Holste recalled finding Danielle, an emaciated 6-year-old girl wearing a diaper, in a dark room the size of a closet. He later told the Tampa Bay Times it was "the worst neglect situation I've ever seen."
Danielle, who was immediately removed from the home and transported to Tampa General Hospital, was in unthinkably bad shape. Despite being nearly 7 years old, she weighed in at 46 pounds and couldn't walk, talk or even eat food. Developmentally, doctors likened her to an infant. Dr. Kathleen Armstrong, director of pediatric psychology at the University of South Florida medical school, told the Tampa Bay Times that 85 percent of a child's brain develops during her first five years of life. Therefore, Armstrong described Danielle as environmentally autistic, given the major lack of human interaction she had endured.
Danielle, still in diapers, was placed in foster care after her six-week-long hospitalization. Her advocates within the court and foster care system were wary of what to expect for her future. Luanne Panacek, executive director of Children's Board of Hillsborough County, recalled to the Tampa Bay Times, "It makes you think about what does quality of life mean? What's the best we can hope for her? After all she's been through, is it just being safe?"
However, Danielle got her first tastes of unconditional love and a "forever" home when Bernie and Diane Lierow adopted her in 2007. The Tampa Bay Times reported that the couple had always wanted a daughter and felt that God had placed "Dani" in their lives for a reason. Despite her ongoing behavioral issues, including tantrums and a frenzied relationship with food, Bernie and Diane were able to potty-train Dani. In 2011, the couple checked in with The Daily Mail, reporting that "now, she can go to the cupboard, get a glass and get herself a drink of water. And she’s much more open; she will look at people now, and sometimes she will go to people she doesn’t know that well."
When the OWN network checked in with the Lierows again just last year, Dani was 15 years old and a high school student. Bernie reports that Dani has made even more noticeable progress in recent years, actually enjoying school and speaking in short verbal phrases. She's even said, "I love you," to him. While Bernie acknowledges the challenges their family faces in raising Dani, he states that he wouldn't change their circumstances for the world. He tells OWN, "Having Dani in my life, it has been a roller coaster ride, and I don't want to get off."