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Recent Bay area child deaths sadden advocates | Crime

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Recent Bay area child deaths sadden advocates
Crime

New Port Richey, Florida -- Watching the news these past two weeks has brought Maureen Welch to tears.

"It's just so sad," Welch says of reports of a Tampa mother leaving her 7-month-old in a bathtub.

A Citrus mother accused of beating her 2-year-old daughter to death.

A Largo man charged with killing a child his girlfriend had left in his care.

"I just sit and cry. I say it's just so sad, you know? These pretty little things -- it's awful," said Welch.

For nearly 20 years, Welch cared for the victim of such a horrific crime. Her adopted daughter, Christina, had suffered from severe brain damage at the hands of her father. In 2010, Christina died from those injuries.

Welch has fostered hundreds of children over the past 24 years.

"The ones no one else wanted," she says.

When she sees the cases of neglect, abuse and death -- she's overwhelmed.

"I just don't know what would open their eyes... I just don't know," she says.

While several categories of violent crime have seen declines in recent years, the number of children killed by someone close to them, such as a parent, a step-parent, boyfriend or girlfriend has not in some Bay area jurisdictions.

"And that's what makes it so sad. This is not like an adult who says this is a dangerous situation. I've gotta leave. I've gotta get out of this situation," says Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.

Sheriff Judd says so far this year, they've had no such cases in Polk County. But last year they had a six.

They included the February 2012 case of a suicidal mother killing her one-year-old son. A stepfather charged with killing an 11-month-old in August. And two months later, a teenager so afraid her parents would find out she was pregnant, she told detectives she killed the infant at birth.

Sheriff Judd believes there are several factors: babies being born to mothers that are too young, economic stress, and moral decay.

"Get some help. Call someone. Pick the phone up for God's sake and dial 911," he urges.

Sheriff Judd, like Maureen Welch, prays for a turn-around. But both note 2013 is already off to a disturbing start.

"People just don't realize. I wish I knew the solution. I really do. But I don't," said Welch.

Child advocates say there are plenty of parenting courses out there. The Department of Children and Families offers help and counseling to those who need it.

Sheriff Judd says sometimes it's a simple as walking out of the room for a few minutes or calling someone to talk to. But if need be, Judd says call 911.

They'd rather respond to that phone call, he says, than the alternative.

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