Struggling families: Cleveland health professionals cite Safe Haven law, counseling, crisis nursery

CLEVELAND - Cleveland healthcare professionals are encouraging parents who struggle with their children to seek help in a variety of ways.

The plea comes in light of the death of 3-year-old Emilliano Terry, whose body was found at a recycling facility in Oakwood Village on Monday night. The boy's mother, Camilia Terry, is the suspect in the little boy's death.

"It's important to remember that it's normal to feel stressed as a parent, that that's something we all experience. But there are services available," said Emily Plank, a professional clinical counselor at Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center on Cleveland's east side.

The center offers individual and group therapy sessions, as well as teen parenting classes.

Ohio's Safe Haven law is another resource for families in crisis with newborn babies. The law allows a parent to drop off an unwanted child, no older than 30 days, at any hospital, police department or fire station in the state, or by calling 911 without prosecution.

"If a parent just needs to come in and drop a child off for the child's safety, we're happy to accept that child," said Dr. Jennifer Bailit of MetroHealth Medical Center. Bailit noted the hospital has never received a child from a parent.

Since the "safe haven" law went into effect in 2001, the Save Abandoned Babies Foundation has documented 73 cases where a parent dropped off a child at a designated safe haven location in Ohio.

"[Motherhood] is not easy. It can be hard. But that's when you need support and family," said Candy Kapiniski, a mother of a premature newborn who is hospitalized at MetroHealth.

Kapiniski and other mothers weighed in about motherhood and news of Emilliano's death at the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

"As a parent, you just have to deal with obstacles that come your way," said Melinda Phalin, whose daughter Alice was born premature and is also hospitalized at MetroHealth.

Both mothers are familiar with Ohio's Safe Haven law, but believe more needs to be done to publicize it.

Parents looking for help may call the Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center helpline at (216) 229-8800. For children older than 30 days and younger than 11 years old, Providence House in Cleveland temporarily accepts kids and offers family counseling.

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