Miami Valley Community Organizing In Response To 10-Year-Old's Death
It’s not often that we touch on stories like that of 10-year-old Takoda Collins. The boy, abused both physically and sexually for years, died back in December.
Since then, Takoda’s father has been arrested, along with two other women living in the home. And it’s been revealed that, despite numerous complaints from teachers and others over the years, the police, courts and children's services across multiple jurisdictions were not able to connect — at least, not in time to save Takoda’s life.
Polly Parks and Karen Bocko are founders of a group called Takoda’s Call.
Polly and Karen were so moved by what they heard — so outraged — they’re organizing people together to ask questions about how children are being cared for here in the Miami Valley.
POLLY: when I read the words about how he was locked in an attic, naked, abused — something just hit me in a place that I can't explain. And then the more I read, the more that I was like, this can't happen again. This, this is ridiculous. And then when, the news came out that there were 17 calls made from the teachers. It moved me up out of my chair. I said, you know, something's got to be done. And I'm just a regular citizen of the Miami Valley and, I mean, that's just who I am. You know, if if things are bad, if things are broken, then we can do better.
Karen feels the same way.
KAREN: How 17 calls cannot be acted on. We have questions about the way the system works, the lack of transparency, the lack of accountability, and those all contributed. And everyone in that process, everyone in that hierarchy has responsibility for this.
POLLY: You got children that that are invisible. They're not they're not being looked after. They're fallen through the cracks. we've got a major problem here and we've got to work together. To make this better. No one person has all the answers. But together we can fight the fight and we can save children's lives.
So, Polly and Karen have started a website - Takoda’s Call Dot Org - and are asking people to reach out and get involved. 65 people came to their first meeting.
POLLY: Honestly, I thought maybe we would have 20. So, you know, three times the amount. I felt like that was very tell-tale of the people in the Miami Valley, that this is something that's very concerning to them. What I got from that meeting is, people are frustrated. They want answers. They're concerned. They're afraid. You know, what do we do now? Seventeen calls was made, and this child is dead. Who do we turn to now?
It’s really struck me that teachers were the ones who made those calls to child services and the police. But once Takoda’s father decided to take him out of school — to homeschool him — those complaints stopped.
I wondered, did Polly and Karen think changes in homeschooling laws need to be made?
POLLY: Now, I've got to do a disclosure here. We are not against homeschooling. I have friends that homeschool, very good parents and people that are homeschooling.
POLLY: You know, we live in America. Parents should be allowed to do what they need to do for their family and their children. But what we are against is just turning a blind eye to folks who have issues in their life, who are abusing their children,
KAREN: We're against the people who are using home schooling, [yes] to cover their criminal behavior at the risk of the children. That's what we're against. Not home schooling, but the use — the misuse of homeschooling.
JERRY: So, what’s next for your group?
KAREN: We're taking it a step at a time. Both Polly and myself are just everyday citizens. We're working our way through the system and we're trusting that energy that vitalized us to guide us in the right direction. And the fact that we have people from every walk of life coming to us and sharing their stories or sharing their expertise, they're guiding us along the path.
POLLY: Yes. Just one last thing. You know, people are reaching out. We just want to say, if this is a subject that you have a heart for, please, please reach out to us
Jerry Karen and Polly, thank you both for speaking with us today and good luck in your efforts.
POLLY: Thank you so much.
KAREN: Thank you very much.
Polly Parks and Karen Bocko. Their organization is Takoda’s Call Dot Org.
Since our conversation, another baby has died in Montgomery County from what the coroner's office described as “blunt force” injuries. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services has started a review of how Montgomery County handles its child abuse cases, and now Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has put together a task force to study those issues as well.