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Open & Disclosed

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Open & Disclosed
April 2006

Like Jeffrey Baldwin, he was supposed to be put into a safe home where he’d receive love, support and encouragement, but instead Dave Witzel endured a living nightmare.

The physical and sexual abuse he claims to have suffered at the hands of his foster parents that started at the age of six still haunts him and the effects of their neglect can be spotted when he smiles. He was treated so poorly that he had lost all of his teeth by his early teens.

“My upper jaw, my lower jaw, 14 years old and I've had to wear dentures my whole life,” he admits.

Witzel (pictured) felt compelled to be in the courtroom when Justice David Watt handed down his verdict Friday afternoon. He believes the system that failed him is still flawed and led to the horrific and degrading conditions five-year-old Jeffrey was forced to live in.

“They're supposed to provide safety and protection and health and care, I never got it,” he said. “... I was in that home for four years.”

He said he reached out for help and complained, but nothing happened.

Ontario coroners investigate about 20 cases of child deaths deemed suspicious every year and they believe there are important lessons Children’s Aid Societies can learn from those examinations.

There was no background check conducted on Jeffrey’s maternal grandparents, despite the fact that they had previous child abuse convictions.

"The circumstances surrounding Jeffrey's death have been a matter of public interest," Ontario’s chief coroner’s office said in a release.

"Issues to be addressed at the inquest include the Toronto Catholic Children's Aid Society's involvement in Jeffrey's placement and the role that agency, and others, had in monitoring his well-being prior to his death."

New regulations have been introduced for all Children’s Aid Societies that require them to perform record checks on all adults living in a home where a child is being placed with a relative.

Although Witzel's and Jeffrey’s cases have many awful similarities, he pointed out the tragic difference.

“People, please don't take this the wrong way. Jeffrey was lucky. He died,” he said.

“The rest of us are living hell. We're part of the walking dead.”

April 7, 2006

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