Flag raising next week will bring more attention to problem that has claimed the lives of three Taft area children.

Three children have died on the Westside in the past three years because of child abuse, and the Taft City Council and Kern County Department of Human Services are making sure no one forgets child abuse and the victims and, when its ongoing, reports it promptly to police or to law enforcement.
April is now Child Abuse prevention Awareness Month in Taft.

Two representative of the Kern DHS attended Tuesday's City Council meeting and will be back in Taft in a week for a flag-raising ceremony.

Heidi Carter Escudero, accompanied by Doris Sons, talked about the problem and brought a stark reminder of lives lost and suffering caused by child abuse.

It was a map of Kern County, with blue and pink onesies representing a child that died at the hands of an adult.

“It is a beautiful visual; that represents a horrible tragedy,” Escudero said. “These are lives –These are children that lost their lives at the hands of their parents or caregivers.

Represented on the map were James Fanshier, killed in Taft in January 2011, Airick Amy, who died in September 2011 in Maricopa, and Trinity Hanna, who died in Taft in 2012.

Efforts to prevent child abuse are getting mixed results.

Child abuse cases that are reported and substantiated are going down, Escudero said, but the injuries inflicted on children is becoming worse.

The severity of the abuse is getting greater,” she said. “We've seen torture, we've seen the terror getting worse.”

It's hard to imagine terror worse than what has been seen in the Taft area.

On January 23, 2011, James Fanshier died in a small bungalow on Van Buren Street. His caregiver, the former girlfriend of the child's father, called 911 when the child stopped breathing. An autopsy revealed the child died from injuries inflicted through “blunt force trama.”

Dustin Wedel was eventually convicted of the murder and is serving a 31-years-to-life sentence.

On September 28 of the same year, 2-month old Airick Amy was found dead in Maricopa when firefighters and paramedics were called to a report of a child not breathing on a home on Cover Street.

The boys father, Jessie Amy, was arrested and charged with abuse of two older girls in the house, but no one has ever been charged with Airick's death.

Then on Jan, 25, 2012, Monique Hanna drove her 3-year-old daughter Trinity to a hospital in Bakersfield.

The child was pronounced dead there. She, too, had been beaten to death.

Her mother's boyfriend, Eric Foster, was arrested the next day.

Her injuries were so severe that torture charges were filed against Foster.

He eventually pleaded no contest to murder and is serving a 25-to-life term.

There will be another public event to raise awareness of child abuse.

On April 25 at 8:30 a.m., a special flag will be raised in front of Kern County Fire Station 21 here in Taft.

Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green, Kern County Supervisor David Couch, DHS interim Director Dena Murphy, and Kern County Fire Chief Brian Marshall will be in attendance

Employees from the DHS office in Taft and the staff from the West Kern Community Resource Center will be on hand to provide information, and the city's proclamation will be formally presented and read aloud.

The public is invited.