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After trauma, parents turn to comforting kids
When Federal Way resident Tiffaney Stenvers, 27, packed up Kaylee’s things last year and sent her to visit her father in Montana, she had no idea her daughter would not return.
A month later, Stenvers received the call that all parents dread. Something was wrong with Kaylee, her 16-month-old daughter.
Jeremy, Kaylee’s father, asked Tiffaney if she had any history of seizures in her family. She didn’t.
Jeremy said that Kaylee was unresponsive. Tiffaney insisted that he take her to the hospital.
A few hours later, doctors in Montana reported that Kaylee was suffering from brain damage and blunt force trauma. Her injuries were similar to if she had fallen off a two-story building.
“The doctors told me this is child abuse, there’s no way this was an accident,” Tiffaney said.
Kaylee was airlifted to a hospital in Spokane for brain surgery. Tiffaney rushed to meet her there.
Soon Tiffaney learned that a girlfriend of Jeremy’s, who was watching Kaylee at the time, was responsible. The woman admitted kicking Kaylee and causing her to hit her head on the side of a wood-burning stove. When Kaylee began to cry, the woman put her down for a nap.
“She still claims that it was an accident, that she accidentally kicked Kaylee into the stove and didn’t provide medical care for three and a half hours,” Tiffaney said.
Tiffaney was shocked to learn that the woman, whom she had known previously, would do such a thing.
“I’d seen her with the girls several times. Never once did she show any type of anger whatsoever; she was always totally calm,” Tiffaney said. “She always seemed like she was just the perfect mom.”
In the hospital, Kaylee’s condition worsened. She was 90 percent brain dead.
“She just wasn’t there, I don’t know how to explain it, but she was just gone,” Tiffaney said.
After three days, Tiffaney and Jeremy made the decision to take their daughter off life support.
The woman accused of killing Kaylee pleaded guilty to one count of negligent homicide in a plea bargain.
Tiffaney doesn’t want her daughter to be forgotten. On Kaylee’s birthday last year, Tiffaney launched the Kaylee Stenvers Foundation. The nonprofit aims to collect teddy bears and bring them to local hospitals for children who are suffering similar situations.
“We know it won’t solve the problem, but at least for that moment they know that somebody else does care what’s happening to them and hopefully it will put a smile on their face,” Tiffaney said. “It’s hard on the families. We’ve been there.”
Contact Margo Hoffman: firstname.lastname@example.org or (253) 925-5565.
For information on how to donate stuffed animals or money, visit www.kayleestenversfoundation.org.
In 2005, there were 1,460 reported cases of children who died as a result of child abuse or neglect in the United States.
Studies show that as many as 50 percent to 60 percent of child deaths resulting from abuse are not reported as such.
Children ages 3 and younger are the most frequent victims of child abuse fatalities.
Source: Child Welfare Information Gateway, www.childwelfare.gov.