Each year on the last Friday in April, a memorial flag is displayed at Lucas County Children Services headquarters on Adams Street to remember the children lost to violence over the last year.
The flag depicts blue, paper doll-like figures of children holding hands, but in the center there is a chalk outline of a missing child, to symbolize the victims of abuse and neglect.
At Friday’s ceremony for Child Abuse Prevention Month, the broken link was 18-month-old Elaina Steinfurth, whose decomposed remains were found months after she went missing from her East Toledo home.
Dean Sparks, children services executive director, said Elaina was the only child to die because of abuse during the last year, but it was one too many.
“We lost her in the most shocking possible way. The tragedy captivated our entire community, and still today we struggle,” he said.
Elaina was reported missing on June 2 from 704 Federal St., where her mother, Angela Steinfurth, was staying with her then-boyfriend, Steven King II. Her decomposed body was found Sept. 5 in a computer box in a detached garage behind the home.
Steinfurth and King are serving life sentences for her murder. She was found guilty in Lucas County Common Pleas Court of murder and obstructing justice; King was found guilty of aggravated murder, tampering with evidence, abuse of a corpse, and obstructing justice.
Dona Brown, Elaina’s great aunt, was among the 125 people who attended the ceremony. She said she never would have imagined a year ago that she would be present at the annual memorial, much less for a relative.
“I will be so glad when we don't have to do these anymore” said Ms. Brown, who wore a T-shirt in honor of Elaina.
Children Services said the 7,323 reports of suspected abuse and neglect made to the agency in 2013 were slightly less than the previous year’s total. However, the 952 confirmed cases in 2012 were almost 14 percent higher than the year before.
Between April, 2012, and April, 2013, the deaths of 12 children in the county were attributed to neglect and abuse, the highest in many years.
Carol Contrada, president of the county commissioners, praised the staff of Children Services for their work to protect the community’s most innocent citizens.
“We care about our children. Everyone in this room cares deeply and wants to stop child abuse, stop child neglect, and love each other as the family we are,” she said.
“We care about each child lost. We will not tolerate any more.”
Contact Mark Reiter at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6199.