HICKORY, N.C. -- Members of a special state investigative team say it's clear that the system failed 10-year-old Zahra Baker and they even have some ideas how it happened.
No matter which child advocate you talk to, it seems an obvious and tragic conclusion at this point.
“We try to look at what can we do in the future,” said Monica Thomas, the head of Hickory’s Child Resource Center. But it is too late for Zahra Baker. “Kids fall through the cracks.”
Brett Loftis heads up the Charlotte-based Council for Childrens’ Rights. He is also a member of the state task force that will try to figure out how this happened.
“It’s absolutely unbelievable that someone would first abuse a child, and then dismember a child,” he says. “It’s unthinkable.”
Especially he says, because there were warning signs, a lot of them. Multiple DSS visits in two counties.
“It takes a very long time for communication to happen between counties and for responses to be coordinated,” Loftis explains.
That amount of time is too long in some cases.
“There are some structural problems with the way our system works,” Loftis says. “There’s no strong connection between the hundred departments of social services around the state. There’s no data system that connects the two of them.”
Add that, he says, to major cash cuts in recent years, and the combination, can be tragic. Both he and the head of Hickory’s Child Resource Center say community members are the best hope.
“You would wish changes would come before tragedy,” Loftis says. “But, in fact, people pay more attention when there’s a tragedy. The best way to honor this little girl is for every citizen to stand up and demand child abuse stop.”