Broken Child (2000) - full transcript

An exploration into the effects of early childhood trauma, and the socially destructive impact that follows the victimized children into adulthood.

Where is she at?

I'll call you back later.

Come on.

A hot August afternoon
in Houston, Texas.

Child protection services and
city police respond to a report...

of neglected children.

Child Protection is the government
agency whose job...

it is to protect children
from abuse or neglect.

This is not her saying that
she's giving us permission.

This is just letting you know...

that we're taking custody
of the children today.



The children have been left alone
for three days.

They are dirty and
infested with lice.

The house is full of dog feces...

and has no electricity
or running water.

Where is he going?

The authorities decide to
take custody of the children.

There are eight in all.

This is the moment of their permanent
separation from their mother.

Okay let's have the bigger ones.
Get in.

Yeah I guess we could take
the bigger ones.

Okay.

Every year in the United States...

nearly one in twenty-five
children are reported to...

suffer abuse or neglect.



Child Protection agencies are being
overwhelmed by the crisis.

Later that afternoon...

a battered child arrives
at a hospital trauma center.

He's nearly dead.

The number of children
seriously injured...

from child abuse has
quadrupled in seven years.

The child sustained
the following injuries...

a multiple skull fracture,
dental damage...

a concussion and brain damage.

There was internal bleeding and
an open wound on his face.

His right eye was black
and swollen shut.

The child also suffered a stroke
a cerebral infarction.

The child was unconscious
upon admission...

and required vigorous support...

including dopamine
to increase blood pressure.

Did the agency find out later
from the mother...

how long she was actually gone?

Yes Ms. Sanchez, later said that
she was gone...

approximately three hours.

Because she had gone to purchase
some drugs and had used.

Child protection wants custody
of the battered child.

But first they must get approval
from a judge.

The mother left her son
with a stranger.

When she returned...

she found her child
nearly beaten to death.

Who was the man whose home that
you went to that did the beating?

I didn't know him.
I'd just met him the night before.

Alright.
And how did you meet him?

From him.

Well there I was walking
on the street and they stopped...

to ask me if I wanted to do
something for money and I did.

Talking about your trouble
with the law...

Nearly four out of five of
these custody cases...

are linked to drugs or alcohol.

During the last year what kind
of drug usage have you done?

The last year I just did crack
this year...

- for four days.
- You used crack...

on what kind of basis?

I did it all day and night.

Where would you get the a money...

- to buy the crack?
- I'd sell myself.

- And I'd steal.
- What do you mean by that?

My body, I would help...

- I'd tell people that...
- Would you prostitute yourself?

Is that right?

The court took custody
of the child...

but allowed the mother
occasional visitations.

This is his injury right there.

- What happened?
- He's had that. I guess that's...

where they hit, the man hit him.

- Hit him with what?
- The stick.

I'm sure he got upset with
him and he came and...

coz he probably cried,
coz I wasn't there.

And then this year...

is where they put the shunt in
for the fluid that is draining.

This is the shunt right here.

And it goes to here.

The child's placed in foster care...

but just before his third birthday...

he died.

His death certificate said
he died of injuries...

related to his abuse.

An investigator from
Child Protection has gotten...

a call about two young brothers
who may be in danger.

The family is already
known to the agency.

Each of the boys has been
taken away before.

The investigator reads
the report to her mother...

and her boyfriend.

Yesterday was Billy was foundalone
in the apartment.

The apartment door was unlocked.

He was extremely dirty,
so dirty he looked like...

he had been dipped in mud.

The child was soaking
on an empty bottle...

that had slime in it.

He had diaper rash
that is bleeding...

and a fully nasty diaper.

- He was left unattended...
- Children's emotional development...

can be seriously affected by neglect.

They may never fully develop
the ability...

to feel empathy for other people.

And may become indifferent to
the feelings and welfare of others.

The apartment also smelled
of sour milk...

dirty diapers, trash
and dirty dish water...

that had been in the sink
for some time.

I staff with my supervisor...

and would like to know
if there's a relative available...

that maybe you could place
the children with for...

a couple of days
while you clean the house up.

The children's mother
has a history of mental illness...

which began in her own childhood.

She grew up in a home troubled
by domestic violence and alcoholism.

Investigators are worried
about her fitness as a mother.

They want to remove
my babies from me.

And I don't think. They said
my apartment's unsanitary for kids.

A relative will take her children,
but only for a while.

The situation is made worse
because she is pregnant.

And has stopped taking her medication
which controls her mental illness.

Please, thank you. Here she is.

They'll take them for me.

This is Kathy Ford and I'm with
Children's Protective Services.

It is a familiar story.

Well known to child
protection workers.

A hurt child became
a damaged adult...

who is hurting her children.

Generation to generation...

the cycle is passed on.

Early trauma can shape
an entire life.

By the time children
are four years old...

psychologists can tell which of them
are likely to drop out of school...

or become delinquent.

Almost always, they are abused
or neglected children...

who've been exposed to violence.

It is the story of many
of these young criminals.

A life history that has left them
emotionally disturbed.

And there is evidence that some of
them may suffer from brain damage.

Making them even more prone
to acts of violence and crime.

In this laboratory...

researchers have found that
the brains of impulsive and...

violent criminals are abnormal in
almost identical ways.

And the stories they tell
about growing up...

have striking similarities.

As a young child...

this prisoner was beaten
on his head for punishment.

He was neglected and
emotionally abused.

In school he struggled
with learning disabilities...

and an uncontrollable temper.

Finally, he joined a gang
and the violence of the street.

The tormented child
who was a victim...

has become a danger to society.

A small rundown motel
south of Seattle.

It is a home to thieves,
drug dealers and prostitutes.

And for some weeks now,
it has been Patricia's home.

The manager lets you smoke crack,
sell crack, sell pussy...

prostitution, whatever you like.

Know what I'm saying?

As long as you pay him.

Kind of looks the other way,
does he?

Yeah...

And I'm so glad I'm in
this house than...

any of those other
mother fuckers. okay?

- When I said If I...
- Patricia stays at this motel...

because the rent is negotiable.

She can pay when she has the money...

by the day or by the week.

It depends on how good
her business is.

Patricia has been working as a
prostitute for fifteen years.

And right now
she's eight months pregnant.

- Oh damn, what's going on here?
- Reverse.

This motherfucking
lighter work great.

It's like me and every time
I started going it's like...

you go like this far.

Fuck man. What's really
going on with this shit?

For most of her career
as a prostitute...

Patricia s been addicted
to crack cocaine.

She's been smoking crack
during most of her pregnancy.

Sometimes for days at a time
without stopping to sleep.

Her drug abuse may be
damaging her baby's brain...

before it is even born.

This motherfucker here is starting
to really just piss me off.

Cuz this motherfucking lighter here
is just totally, totally fucked.

The motel sits by a busy highway

in an area that's well-known
for prostitution.

Patricia is nervous about the police.

She's been arrested and jailed
many times and...

has warrants out for her arrest.

And then the po po was out.
Just dramatically. Okay?

Police everywhere,
stopping everyone, everybody.

Kent and Des Moines
was out here, last night.

Boy...

It was wild, put it that way.
It was just real wild.

Working yesterday?

Yeah I worked the street yesterday...

a couple times.

What did you do specifically?

Oh I would say blow jobs.

How much money did you make?

Seventy bucks.

Or more than that I think,
a hundred and something.

And in, in between working
you were smoking crack?

- Yeah.
- Been up for?

Three days.

Three long days. I'm tired.
I gotta go. I have to lay down.

I'm tired.

Is it harder to do all this
when you re pregnant?

Oh yeah, I mean my back is killing
me right now. I need to lay down.

I'm serious, I need to lay down.

Whatever it is...

I hope...

for her benefit, for her sake,
for her benefit, for real.

Something like this is junk, I'm
telling you. I mean I'm not playing.

- I stopped.
- Tell me about it.

Motherfucking men,
those sorry ass brothers out there.

So what makes you think I ain't going
to get that bitches ass?

Alicia is Patricia's business
and drug partner.

She is also a prostitute and
helps Patricia buy and sell...

drugs to supply their crack habit.

Alicia has a long criminal history.

And like Patricia,
she is also pregnant.

I'm a robber.

Went to prison for first degree armed
robbery with a deadly weapon.

Assault in the second degree.
Got out.

Went right back for parole violation.
Got out.

Fucked up again and then went right
back for another...

probation violation.

Got out. Stayed out for awhile,
went back home to North Dakota.

Was out for about three year
in North Dakota.

Came back to Seattle.
Wasn't even here for a couple weeks.

Fucked up again, who cares?
Shot somebody.

Um, he deserved it and
he should've died.

And I really don't care.
And I went to prison.

And then about in three-and-a-half
years got out.

I've just been out since April.

Alicia's been on the street
since she was very young.

When she was ten years old...

she witnessed the murder
of her father.

At thirteen, she's into prostitution.

Throughout her adult life...

Alicia has had serious
psychological problems.

Sometimes I've felt like
I really wanted to die.

Sometimes I really have
tried to do it.

These are marks that
I've used from...

coming from razor blades.

I had ten stitches in this one.

Eight in this one,
and thirteen in this one.

I really must have something
wrong with me...

for me to go out here and...

do the things that I've been doing,
about what I'm doing now.

For what? Ain't got shit.

But I still do it.
That's what the fuck's confusing.

Why? And I really couldn't answer.

You know?

Later that day...

a friend stopped by
to visit with Patricia.

Oh I felt something there.

Oh yeah, you'll feel
all kinds of shit.

Well my daughter was
my easiest labor.

My daughter was...

an hour-and-a half labor.
One push and she flew out.

- Oh my gosh, don't you just...
- And my a two boys were C-sections.

I had one caesarian.

- All the rest...
- Yep.

No this is my sixth.

- Your sixth?
- Yeah.

Oh my God, no.

It's a big boy.

Patricia's other children
were taken away by Child Protection.

And if this baby tests positive
for drugs...

it will be taken too.

Patricia knows she's putting the
health of her unborn baby at risk.

It's not good.

It's not good.

- Are there...
- It s not healthy.

Would you rather
not think about it or...

I don't wanna think about it
because see when...

That's why I smoke crack cuz
I a lot of things...

I don't wanna deal with...

in reality so I don't, I just...

smoke crack to forget about it.

And the health of your unborn child?

It's terrible.

You know? It's really terrible.
I mean I thank God...

for blessing me and I just pray that
he'll bless me on this one too.

Did you hear mom calling you?

That's why you didn't play
in the tub.

Did you see Jon, a mom...

At a home in the suburbs
of Atlanta...

it's bedtime for Jonathan.

His parents have been trying
to coax him into the bathtub...

but he's steadily refused.

Okay.

Tonight is like many other nights.

Come on.

- Before something goes wrong.
- Damn it.

I'll give it to him.

- I got ya.
- Okay.

Okay.

Allison and Randy must control
their son until his tantrum subsides.

When Jonathan's in a tantrum
or he's in a severe rage...

the number one priority
that we have...

is protecting him...

from...

harm and protections ourselves...

from him.

Jonathan's hurt me badly enough...

that I've had to get
medical attention.

He's biting to cause you pain.

He's scratching to draw blood.

He's hitting you to hurt you.

There you go. Day, okay,
Daddy will hold your feet, okay?

Alright.

Randy takes care of
the cooking and chores.

Caring for Jonathan
is mostly up to Allison.

That's the only tooth brush
I have for you.

Here honey, put toothpaste on it.

Here you go.

You gonna do it?

Okay, come on.

Is he like this every night?

He, yep.

Every night I'm wiping the teeth...

which is why they're turning yellow.

When he was nine months old...

Child Protection took
Jonathan away from...

his biological mother
and placed him in...

foster care where he lived with
many different families.

Allison and Randy first took him
as a foster child...

then decided to adopt.

Jonathan clearly had problems...

but no one understood how badly
he'd been damaged.

We thought as new parents...

and especially to have
a special child...

that it was something
we were doing wrong.

No one else was having
these problems we were having.

And as we kept investigating
we found out everybody was.

Aaahh go.

Jonathan.

Don't.

Soon after Jonathan came to stay
with Allison and Randy...

his behavior became unmanageable.

That's when they took these
home videos to show therapists.

Records show...

that in the first months of Jonathan
life he was badly neglected.

And was taken from his mother
by Child Protection.

Then Jonathan lived
in many different foster homes...

and may have been abused
in one of them.

No way.

But Jonathan's greatest injury
came before he was even born.

His biological mother
was a drug user...

and an alcoholic...

and her drinking damaged his brain
when he was in her womb.

She was drunk when she gave birth.

Jonathan was born with
fetal alcohol syndrome...

which has severely affected
his behavior...

and development.

Are you ready for your medicine?

Jonathan is now eight years old.

During the years he's been
with Allison and Randy...

he's learned to express affection,
something he couldn't do before.

I love you too baby.

Mornings are usually a good
time for Jonathan...

but his mood could change
at any moment.

What are giving him?

Depacote.

Ritalin.

Clonadine and Melaril.

Without it he couldn't go through
daily functions at all.

Oh no I mean if I have to draw it
if I fax you the drawing...

If I fax the card could you...

a keep, I mean just,
just the prices for me.

Jonathan.

- Is ready.
- That's my phone, not a gun.

You butt curt.

- Put your foot down.
- Jonathan takes six different...

psychiatric medications...

which help him think more clearly
and control his behavior.

But no combination of drugs
has ever worked completely.

Jonathan is always volatile
and has a history...

of self-mutilation
and threatened suicide.

His unpredictability is one of
the family's biggest problems.

Jonathan.

Child care for Jonathan
is almost impossible to find...

because no one is equipped to handle
the severity of his tantrums.

Allison must take him with her
every where she goes.

Come on.

Come on.

Okay.

It's alright. Okay.

Alright?

Get out of the way.

Get out of the way. It's alright.

Calm down. Are you ready to go home?

You hot?

Are you hot?

Yeah?

Okay.

We've had worse visits
where they've...

asked us to leave.

And we've been asked, you know...

or they've walked around with us
to make sure we could...

finish our shopping.

I'm talking.

And I don't even think...

I don't even think
I got what was on my list.

Jonathan's volatile behavior
is not...

the only symptom of his abnormally
functioning brain.

He doesn't fell pain like
you or I would...

like most people do.

Jonathan was in school
watching a movie or...

listening to a story at school
and he just reached right up...

and yanked out
his permanent front tooth.

He reached up...

and just as easily as...

he could pulled...

his tooth out just like that.

There was no struggle.

He just grabbed hold
of it and pulled it out.

Had the root all the way
attached to it.

It was just gushing blood.

Stay over by the wall alright.

Okay buddy.

What you got?

Dr. Grisham is Jonathan's therapist.

He visits each week at Jonathan's
school which specializes...

in emotionally and behaviorally
disturbed children.

We want the pen back in this back
when we finish, right?

Jonathan has learning disabilities
especially with language.

But many of his skills
are fairly normal.

That was a good swing.

That wasn't good enough.

Jonathan's higher level
brain functions...

have been affected
by his mother's drinking.

Jonathan simply doesn't have
what I call the brakes...

and the planning ability.

He lives in the moment. If he wants
to do something he does it and he...

the consequences of his behavior,
he has difficulty learning from it.

If something bad happens
when he does something...

the next time he can't think about
that and say oh yeah that...

that happened last time,
I'm not gonna do that this time.

- Nice one.
- He is definitely at risk...

especially when he hits
adolescence of...

becoming incarcerated for...

his poor impulse control
and violent behavior.

That was good.

It's amazing the range
of his behaviors.

When he's in a good mood
and he's doing well...

he can be very caring, very gentle...

just a wonderful loving kid.

And then at other times
you see him and he...

he's not, he would...

hurt virtually anybody. I mean
he's in a rage. He wants to hurt.

He does want to hurt.

And to see that range of behaviors...

to him it must feel like he's two
different people in some ways.

He looks just like
all the other kids.

You know it doesn't look like
there's anything wrong with him.

And that's something that...
I've battled with for years...

almost wishing sometimes that...

he looked like he had
something wrong with him.

Cuz then it'd almost be...

an explanation to the public or
an explanation to other people...

when he acted up and
we had a tantrum...

when he'd scream at the top
of his lungs over nothing.

Yeah you can't have that at all.
This is the same thing as a weapon.

Okay? It's got a pointy edge here,
and it's got a straight edge here.

I'm not using it as a weapon.

You are not to have these things.
You understand that?

There's only one knife
and it's hidden.

When people come over
we share a knife.

Jonathan cannot be around knives.
It's too tempting to him.

When Jonathan was five, he once
became upset with his babysitter.

She fell asleep
and later awoke to find him...

holding a kitchen butcher knife
to her throat.

Jonathan is fascinated
by weapons of all kinds.

I always knew, in my heart...

that at some point Jonathan was going
to be involved with the law...

but when he was seven and arrested...

and I saw him there in handcuffs
riding in the police car...

it was like everything,
my whole world just crashed.

I couldn't believe
that it was starting so early.

Why...

would mommy not want you
to have this?

Because of what I did.

What did you do?

Yeah.

What did he say?

Cuz he went down to Bill's last time
and got a gun and a knife.

You're very lucky
you didn't kill anybody, didn't you?

Yeah.

Jonathan broke into
a neighbour's garage...

and went straight to the guns
that were kept there.

When the neighbor confronted him...

Jonathan began shooting.

Jonathan was in the garage
and had a gun.

And when the neighbor got in there...

Jonathan was looking for the bullets
to load a forty-five caliber.

He had it open and ready to load.

And Jonathan fired the pellet rifle
or the air rifle at him...

and still had
a pocket knife with him.

Jonathan took the knife,
which he had opened...

and tried to gut him with it
across his stomach.

As Jonathan's gotten bigger
and gotten stronger...

he's more violent now
than he ever was.

I mean for over a year now he's been
able to lift me off of him...

when I'm restraining him.

I can't... you know
there's gonna be...

it's not gonna be much longer
that he's taller than I am.

It took a long time to admit
that I was afraid of...

what he might possibly do.

Lay back down. It's hard
to sit here as a mother...

and say that I'm afraid
of my own child...

and then one breath laters,
one breath later...

say how much I love him.

And know that deep down
inside my heart and my head...

that fear is there.

Fear?

That he may possibly harm us.

Kill me. Kill Randy.

Lay back down.

Okay, lay back down Jonathan.
You're gonna hurt yourself.

Okay lay back down.

Child, you're gonna
hurt yourself, hon.

Okay.

Is the bad side when you get mad?

Yeah. You don't wanna see it.

Really.

Why not?

Well this side of me is like evil.

It's like the devil.

That's the side.

Okay?

Do you like that side of you?

No.

And sometimes that side can be good.

In a different way. Like right now.

That side's being good.

He knows he's different.

He also knows he's very special.

And we've made it
clear to him that...

what happened when he was
a baby wasn't his fault.

But he has got to learn...

to get a handle on it.

Or else he's not gonna have...

mom and dad and all these
things that he loves.

He's gonna be put away somewhere.

In the eighth month
of her pregnancy...

Patricia decided to leave
the motel and signed herself...

into drug treatment.

Not long after that...

her son was born with
no apparent health problems.

But Patricia had smoked crack cocaine
during much of her pregnancy...

and her baby could suffer effects
that will not be known for years.

In other ways though, she felt lucky.

You know when you were pregnant
and you're a prostitute, it's scary.

It's real scary.

A couple of times rubbers broke.

You know what I'm saying?

So I had a chance on either
it being Danny's...

or somebody else's baby.

And plus the risk of AIDS,
viruses, you know...

infections, all that. You know?

That at least I did believe in
safe sex, you know I have to admit.

You know?

Ain't that right big boy.

Patricia and her baby
moved to a halfway house...

where they live with other mothers
who are recovering drug addicts.

This is her fourth
attempt at rehabilitation.

Part of the treatment
is group therapy.

I'm Patricia, Phase One and
I have six children.

I have six kids.
In my custody I have one.

My name's Deena, I'm Phase Two A.

I have two children, a son, eleven,
and a daughter, eighth months.

And my drug of choice was
intravenous methamphedamines.

My name is Lulu.

I'm a mother of six.

The children of these women have...

all suffered from their mothers'
drug abuse.

And most of these women
have abused themselves.

Like Patricia...

they were sexually
molested as children...

and have been victims of
physical and domestic violence.

I have a hard time
dealing with the stress.

I have a hard time dealing with
the difficulties of my life...

but so far today I am clean
and sober...

Many of the women
have a history of mental illness...

and have brain injuries
from being abused.

Problems that make rehabilitation
even more difficult.

And like Patricia...

some have had their children
taken away by Child Protection.

She's gone forever.

And that envelope
will be closed and...

sealed until she's eighteen
years of age.

This mother has just permanently
lost custody of her child.

I'll be just...

It's okay, get it out, Tiffany.

It's okay to.

Alright ladies...

Okay.

You wanna do the...

Do your serenity prayer.

- Okay.
- Okay.

- God.
- God.

Grant me the serenity...

to accept the things
I cannot change...

the courage to change
the things I can...

and the wisdom
to know the difference.

At the halfway house the women have
a chance to nurture their children...

and form stronger bonds with them.

It is the kind of care some of them
lacked when they were growing up.

Yeah this consists
of the chore of...

of the porch. You gotta do
the windows and the phone and...

sterilize the phone
and do the windows.

And there's another window out here.

These used to have windows,
but the kids tore em apart.

Beautiful, I love this one.

This is the first Christmas
in fifteen years that...

Patricia has been off drugs.

During her life of addiction
and prostitution...

her first five children were
taken away from her.

The oldest is now fifteen
and Patricia knows he is homeless...

living on the streets of the city.

She has decided to try and find him.

Saturday night in Baltimore city...

where scenes like this one
are common.

Baltimore has one of the highest
murder rates in America.

He's dying. They shot a couple guns.

Okay, we've got the ambulance
on the way.

- We've got some more people.
- Right?

They won't let me back in there.

I heard somebody got shot
in the arm eight times.

It made me scared.

It made it real scary.

I just didn't want to leave out
the house...

to go to school anymore.

Cuz of what that happened.

It is estimated that one in five
inner city children suffer from...

post traumatic stress disorder.

Which is the modern name
for wartime shellshock.

The victims become
emotionally numb...

and may have difficulty
controlling their anger.

Constant stress may even disrupt...

chemical balances
in children's brain.

Affecting their behavior
and ability to learn.

Like many other children
in the neighborhood...

this boy lives in poverty.

His father is in jail and his mother
can barely feed and clothe him.

This morning he's looking
for something to wear to school.

And these my pants.

- Ma'am.
- I want them read.

I got them read.

There are seven hundred students
at the Westport school...

which stands at the center of...

the Westport neighborhood
of south Baltimore.

It is both an elementary
and middle school...

with grades kindergarten
through eighth.

Good morning to the Westport family.

Good morning to all the staff,
students, and parents.

Let's have a good day today.

Darnel Ramsey teaches math
and reading in the middle school.

He grew up in neighborhoods
like Westport.

But he says things have been
getting worse.

He sees children having
a harder time than he did.

As a teacher these past few years
have been mind boggling...

where I'm just totally amazed daily.

Some of the things I see,
even though I was raised...

in this environment still amazes me.

- Come here.
- No.

Let him go. Come here.
What's wrong? Come here.

- Who?
- I'm gonna...

Who?

Where? Come here man. Come here.

Be cool Joe. What did I tell you
it's Friday. It's Friday, right?

Calm down. Take some breaths.

You've been good all week.
Don't start that man. Deep breath.

I see anger.

Kids can't solve a problem
without fighting.

You just look at a kid's face
and see the trouble in his eyes.

There's a trouble in his face of,
of his home life.

Alright,
gentlemen get my room picked up.

Kids are just neglected.

These kids on a day-to-day basis
tell me about...

what they have seen dead bodies
in abandoned buildings.

I have little kids at sixth grade
raising three younger brothers.

Clothes, they're washing clothes,
feed their little brothers.

I just had a conversation with
this kid actually he pretty much...

told me was his three options...

was to sell drugs, use drugs or die.

Eleven or twelve years old.

He knows his options and
he's not willing to change.

What do I do? What can you do?

After school Benny Warren
and his friends...

sometimes go to
a small neighborhood playground.

It is rundown and
has no basketball hoops...

but they feel safe there.

Benny has a reputation as a tense
and anxious person.

It's not safe outside.

There's a lot of killing.

And a lot of drug dealers.

And people all kidnapping children.

Where I living at,
my brother got killed...

from the alley,
where the alley I live in.

And my brother, he got killed
on a Seven-Eleven.

But that's because of a girl.

My brother got killed over money.

And they ain't even taking nothing.

They just killed him.

What happened?

He was coming back from
buying me and my sister...

a coat and some boots.

And they took him in one of
snatched his chain...

around there. Then they um...

theys took his money.
And then they ran.

Took him in the alley and set him up
and shot him in the back.

And then they shot him in the leg.

Benny's brother was shot in the alley
just behind his house.

It happened two years ago
when Benny was ten.

Since his brother was killed...

he's suffered from stomach pains
and began having problems...

with his temper.

The end of the alley where
his brother died...

has become piled with trash.

- Saw your brother here.
- Yeah I did.

And that, I went
and called the police.

What did you see?

Just nothing but him dead.

Benny remembers the crime scene.

The bloody shirt and
the chalk marks...

where they found his brother's body.

Like many crimes in Westport,
the murder has never been solved.

Benny has become filled
with fear and worry.

Couldn't even hardly sleep.

Worrying about...

I gotta help my mother
pull through...

the worries and the trouble.

And my make sure my family's safe.

Every morning when
Benny goes to school...

he passes the spot where
his brother died.

Alright. See how many times
eight goes into nine.

How many times does it?

- One.
- Since his brother was killed...

Benny's fallen two grades
behind in school.

He should be in seventh grade,
but he is in the fifth.

His reading skills
are at a third grade level.

Eleven and...

- One eighth.
- one eighth.

The average child is two to three
grade levels below.

And once the children enter school
and they're behind...

it seems as though...

its real difficult
for them to catch up.

So the next year
they're still behind.

And then next year
they're still behind.

Alright, from that day
she has not been here.

Okay.

- A total of seven days.
- Okay.

So now we need to find out whether
she was incarcerated before...

- or during the holiday.
- Okay.

Denise Taylor runs
the Westport Middle School.

This morning one of her problems...

is an eighth grader who's been
absent over a week.

The student was arrested
in a crack house...

and is currently in jail.

On a daily basis I have to be...

mother, father, social worker,
doctor, sometimes lawyer...

sometimes sister, brother...

sometimes even a preacher.

These kids are in need of everything.

Fights at Westport are common.

Grudges from the neighborhood
are often brought to school.

Gail Adam's an assistant principal...

who often helps supervise
the cafeteria at lunch time.

She fractured her wrist breaking up
another fight not long ago.

Diondre.

I'm not taking that shit
from my little brother.

What's up? Come on.

I said stop it.

Stop it.

The boys are brothers.

And the reason for the fight
is unclear.

Recently the boys' mother
died of AIDS.

Their grandmother started
caring for them...

but then she died too.

The brothers now live in a crowded
and difficult situation with an aunt.

There are not official records...

but the Westport staff says
an alarming number of students...

do not live with even
one biological parent.

What time did you go to bed
last night?

Late.

Why were you sleeping today in class?

Woke up too early.

You woke up too early.

You talk to your aunt last night?
Is something bothering you?

You sure?

Didn't you eat dinner last night?

Did your aunt fix dinner last night?
So what did you eat?

- Nothing.
- Nothing.

So I imagine you are hungry.

You probably need both.

Hunger is a problem at Westport
and for many of the students here...

the schools breakfast and lunch
programs provide much of their food.

The demands to cope with student's
problems grow bigger each year.

Get ready.

Good. Willy turn around.
Turn around and stop.

Devonte that was really great.

Kevin would you like to
try it for us, please.

- Yes.
- Could you sit nicely please.

Put your finger where it belongs.

Kevin put your finger
where it belongs, please.

Ms. Martel teaches kindergarten
at Westport.

She's been a teacher
for fifteen years.

Her students she says,
are becoming harder to teach.

More are impulsive
and have difficulty paying attention.

I don't know how to stop.

Well go ahead, do it. Take it please.

Do it all by yourself.
Show Willy and Devonte...

how to do it, okay? Come on.

The children are harder to handle.

I see children who can't
follow the rules...

children who are
constantly yelling out...

talking out loud when you're
trying to read a story...

children who are talking when
you're trying to read a story...

those types of behaviors.

I need you to help me
pass the paper towels out, okay?

This year one of Ms. Martel's
more difficult students...

is five-year-old Kevin.

Kevin needs a lot of
individual attention.

I cannot handle my group
when he's aggressive...

and when he won't cooperate.

I would like for you to put your head
down until I call your name.

Okay?

Ms. Martel, he put some
scissors in my arm.

Just after reading group...

Kevin stabbed a little girl
with a pair of scissors...

so he was expelled from class
for the rest of the day.

Kevin is often in trouble
and has no friends.

The only problem now
I'm having with him...

he seems to be doing
a lot of fighting.

- Fighting?
- Yeah.

Did you yank him out?

Kevin's aunt Gloria comes to school
when there is a problem.

She has been caring for Kevin
since he was a baby.

Why you been fighting? What happened?

What happened?

Kevin was nine months old
when he came to stay with me.

He didn't even get a chance
to really...

really know what a mother's love is.

Kevin's mother was
married to a drug addict...

who abused and beat her.

She was worried about her safety...

and relied on her sister Gloria
if anything happened to her.

I promised my sister...

that I would do everything that
I possibly can for Kevin...

that I know that she would do.

It was June 11th...

when Kevin s mother got killed.

His father killed his mother.

Kevin was right there.

These are home videos of
Kevin s mother before she was killed.

She s holding Kevin when
he was a baby.

She was running out the door.

And he was that's when
he stabbed her in the head...

when she went to turn around...

and throw her hand up and
he stuck her right in the heart.

And the kids say that she was...

swung around, spunned around
and she fell.

He saw the whole thing.

But us, you know,
we always thinking because...

they babies, you know that
he ain't gonna know, you know?

Kevin s aunt thinks that he is still
haunted by...

the violent experience
of his mother's death.

That deep down he remembers
what happened.

Kevin dreams of dangerous men
coming to hurt him.

But he has nightmares now.
Every now and then I hear...

Now I go I say, you alright?

Did you see that man?

Along with his nightmares...

Kevin's other problems
Kevin are getting worse.

He's been prescribed
medication for hyperactivity.

But his behavior is increasingly
impulsive and defiant.

He's been fighting
and cursing at this teachers.

And Kevin has begun stealing.

Through no fault of his own,
Kevin is in danger.

More than most other children...

he is vulnerable to the affects
of violence and poverty.

After Patricia left
the halfway house...

she was able to get a part-time job
and an apartment.

She's been off drugs
more than a year.

I can say I gotta home today.

And I can come in any time
I want, you know?

And there ain't
no rules and regulations.

You know what I'm saying just...

only the main one
and that's to be clean.

This is DeAngelo

When he was a week old...

and this is when he was
first born DeAngelo.

DeAngelo, this is DeAngelo
and that's DeAngelo.

And these are really
important because...

I never was able to keep pictures.
I never was able to...

actually have a collection
of pictures...

because I'd always lose them.

Because I'd be moving
to motel to motel...

and so this is a lot for me...

to be able to have 'em
on my mirror...

and wake up and see my pictures.
They're still here.

One of the pictures was taken with
her fifteen-year-old son Gregory.

While she was in drug treatment...

Patricia found him
living on the streets.

Living on the street,
you know, I steal clothes and food.

It's the only way to get by.

It s the only way to get money,
break into cars like get jackets.

- Whatever.
- Yeah whatever.

Whatever's in there, you know or...

taking people down. You know.

You pick out a certain guy
and you follow him.

If someone sees us calls the cops...

the cops won't be there
within like five...

five minutes, ten minutes.

Then we have enough time to
beat his ass, take his money...

and get the hell out of there.

Gregory started living on the streets
when he was thirteen.

He was five when he was
first taken from his mother.

After spending years in
many different foster homes...

he tried living with a relative.

But there, he says,
he was severely abused.

That's when Gregory
decided to run away.

I was with my buddy John, and like...

we decided that we need
a place to go.

And this is the only
place that we know...

under the bridge.

I don't like letting people
know that I'm homeless.

And like they would talk
to you and you're like...

oh you going to the shelter tonight?

And like you're talking to
somebody and they hear that...

you know, what are they gonna think?

- What do you think they think?
- I don't know.

Are you afraid they'd think?

That I'm dirty and I'm fucking...
I'm a bum and whatnot.

I'm probably gonna be a bum
for the rest of my life and...

I'm useless, worthless or something.

Yeah.

Hey Gregory?

Time to wake up.

After Patricia found Gregory
on the streets...

they began spending time together.

And when she got her apartment...

Patricia asked him to come
and live with her.

Why don't you get us a couple plates.

See that's the thing.
I don't want to be inside.

I want to be outside.

But you're inside when you work.

- I want to skate.
- Patricia cared for...

Gregory as a small child.

But during the many years
they were apart...

they had become strangers.

Patricia made no excuses and tried
her best to explain what'd happened.

He knows everything about me.

He knows about my prostitution,
he knows about my addiction...

he knows why I wasn't with him now...

that he's able, capable of...
you know, of understanding.

I'm afraid for my son.

He's been exposed to everything.

Everything.

Murder...

with guns.

Prostitution.

Drugs.

Copping drugs.

Everything.

Where'd you go man? Fuck you.

Why'd you bail?

I don't know.
I was gonna stay there for awhile.

Owh really?

See I'm wondering where the hell
you guys know each other from.

Sometimes Gregory disappears for days
at a time back onto the streets.

Streets full of other troubled youth
where alcohol and drugs...

are a way of life.

Where's my pipe man?

How come it just disappeared.

After Gregory was taken away
from Patricia...

she would sometimes visit him.

She always promised
that they would soon be back...

together and have a home,
but it never happened.

Patricia always fell back into drugs,
prostitution and jail.

I'm not gonna stay mad
at her forever, you know?

Of course I have my moments...

like reminiscing about the days.

She just left me and
never was there for me and...

you know?

She'd come and go.
She'd be gone for weeks or whatnot.

Somebody would have to watch me.

I was lost.

But I have no one to turn to and
no one to tell me how to live.

She chose crack over me.

I don't wanna talk about it.

I don't like talking about things
that are making me sad.

I got to know how you feel.

And I want to know what's going on.

And alls I can say is
I'm trying my damnedest to...

to try to be your mom today.

You know I lost you. I lost three
of my other kids behind crack.

I'm not doing that again...

because you guys
mean everything to me.

And it's so hard, you know with...

when I tell you this,
I mean it from my heart.

And I want you to be able
to trust me.

I want you to be able to come home.

I want you to be able
to put your trust...

in my like you used
to when you was a baby.

I don't know.
I have my doubts, you know?

I have my doubts.

I don't... I'm just getting
to know you now.

It s not like you know,
you can't just jump...

in the picture and be my mom
all of the sudden.

- That's right.
- You know what I mean.

That's right.

Gregory continued to spend
time on the streets...

and soon he was in serious trouble.

Not long after these
scenes were filmed...

he was involved in an
assault and robbery...

outside a convenience store.

Gregory was arrested and found guilty
of robbery in the first degree.

He faces more than
two years in prison.

Outside the court room...

his mother waits for word
of Gregory's sentence.

I'm scared for him, you know?

And he says I just wanna go home.
He just wants to go home.

And I'm glad he said
he wants to go home because...

that's where I want him at home.

I don't want him locked up
like I was.

I don't want him to
follow my footprint.

That's all.

The judge decided Gregory
would benefit more...

from drug rehabilitation than jail.

He has begun treatment.

And will be on probation
for one year.

But the emotional scars of
his childhood will stay with him.

Lasting pain from which
he might never fully heal.

Abuse and neglect can shape
an entire life.

And with each new injury,
the psychological damage deepens.

Children's minds and emotions can be
harmed in countless ways.

A neglected child
may never learn empathy...

or caring for other people.

A child traumatized by violence...

can become emotionally
and intellectually crippled.

These hurting children can be helped.

And there are people
trying to help them.

But often the harm is too great
and helps if it comes at all...

comes too late.

So violent and criminal behaviors
should come as no surprise.

Child protection workers...

counselors, foster parents
and teachers...

all witness these troubled
children growing worse...

more disturbed, more angry.

All of them know much more
could have been done...

that these children,
might not have been lost.