What should you do if you suspect a child is in danger?
After 13 children were allegedly starved, shackled and tortured by parents Louise and David Turpin inside their California home, many are wondering how something like this could have happened in their suburban neighborhood without anyone noticing.
On Monday, Dr. Phil McGraw discussed the case with Dr. Charles Sophy, the medical director of the Department of Child and Family Services in Los Angeles, about ways to respond if a child is believed to be in danger.
“The thing that people should be doing is they can call the police and get a welfare check,” Sophy explained. “Ask them, ‘Just go check on this family. I’m not sure everything’s okay.’ You’re not alleging any abuse or neglect — vou’re saying something doesn’t seem right and you can do that anytime. That will trigger CPS (Child Protective Services) if needed.”
He explained onlookers should not assume the children will actively try to escape if they are being abused.
“That’s one of the biggest problems we have in any foster care situation,” Sophy said. “No matter what we say to a child or tell them how bad their parents were or they see how bad or dangerous their parents were, they love them and want them.”
Sophy, who has met with the siblings, said they are being treated at different hospitals based on their age, but officials are trying to keep them together whenever possible. The youngest alleged victim is 2 years old while the oldest is 29.
“They’re trying to keep the sibling group together because they’re being ripped away from, believe it or not, the people they love,” he explained.
Authorities said the 13 siblings were discovered when their 17-year-old sister crawled out of their home through a window on Jan. 14.
She reportedly dialed 911 immediately after escaping, and told authorities that her siblings were forced to live in filthy conditions and were sometimes chained to furniture.
Authorities later reported the siblings were allowed to shower once a year, and given one meal a day. The 29-year-old weighed just 82 pounds.
The Turpins appeared in court earlier this month and entered not guilty pleas to numerous charges, including torture and child endangerment. Bail was set at $12 million each.
Their next court date is Feb. 23. If convicted of all charges, they could face a maximum sentence of between 94 years and life in prison.