Born with Chromosome 9 Ring disease, young Quentin Douglas Wood was unable to care for himself; he needed constant care and help with tasks as simple as raising a fork to his mouth. Under the care of his father, Quentin was slowly deteriorating. His older sister, Valerie Wood-Harber, noticed his weight loss and became gravely concerned about Quentin and his older brother, Cameron.
Cameron had filled the position of Quentin’s caretaker, Wood-Harber charges, because their father, Michael Wood, was neglecting both children. The brothers were constantly sick, and in Quentin’s condition, bouts of pneumonia can be fatal. She also suspected physical abuse of both children. She reported her father to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services in December 2012 and made multiple unsuccessful attempts to have a caseworker assigned to her family. Yet no investigator ever came to the house, she says.
Quentin Douglas Wood died January 4, 2013, at age 15, of acute pneumonia that authorities ruled natural. Wood-Harber says she later found out that Cameron was instructed to change Quentin’s soiled diaper after his death to avoid suspicion.
An angry and grieving Wood-Harber took Quentin’s case to social media in July 2013. She posted photos showing Quentin looking happy and well-cared for when she herself had custody of him, and other photos showing his later surroundings–a dilapidated house littered with trash, feces, and dirty laundry–and evidence of the boy’s alarming weight loss. Wood-Harber is demanding justice not only for Quentin but for the thousands of suffering children who go unnoticed by Child Protective Services each year.
An estimated 12 out of every 1,000 children in the United States are mistreated, 62 percent of them through neglect. Yet those social workers tasked with identifying these children have suffered for years from low pay and overwhelming caseloads. Problems with Child Protective Services have not escaped mainstream media. In 2010, for example, The New York Times reported on a study, concluding, “Child Protective Services investigations had little or no effect.”
Since Wood-Harber’s post in July, her demand for justice has been covered significantly by only one mainstream media source, CNN. Her online petition, however, has more than 430,000 signatures.
Valerie Wood-Harber, “Justice for Quinten,” Change.org, December 14, 2013, http://www.change.org/petitions/justice-for-quinten.
Valerie Wood-Harber, “Justice for my Brother,” Imgur.com, December 14, 2013, http://imgur.com/gallery/T9Vr1.
“Child Abuse and Neglect Statistics,” American Humane Association, December 14, 2013, http://www.americanhumane.org/children/stop-child-abuse/fact-sheets/child-abuse-and-neglect-statistics.html.
Dana Ford, “Woman Cries Foul over Brother’s Death, Calls for Investigation,” CNN, October 29, 2013, http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/29/us/oklahoma-boy-death/.
Nicholas Bakalar, “Child Abuse Investigations Didn’t Reduce Risk, a Study Finds,” The New York Times, October 11, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/12/science/12child.html?_r=2&.
Student Researcher: Shannon Brown (Frostburg State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Andy Duncan (Frostburg State University)