Bernie and Diane Lierow always loved having a big family. After all their five children were grown up and four moved out of the family house, the couple decided they still had more love they wanted to give to a child in need.
The couple wanted to adopt a child, so they reached out to an adoption agency, little did they know how much their lives were about to change!
At an adoption event to meet potential adoptive children, Diane found herself very drawn to a picture of a young girl who was unable to attend. The couple asked about the little girl, but the adoption agency responded with a warning not to adopt the girl. “All they would say was ‘you definitely don’t want her’. Eventually one of the ladies told my wife; ‘there’s something wrong with her, that girl isn’t suitable for adoption’” dad Bernie recalled.
But the couple decided to seek the girl’s social worker told them a story that crushed their hearts. The girl had suffered unimaginable neglect.
The girl, Danielle Crockett, who many knew as “the girl in the window” was rescued from her home after a concerned neighbor called the police and said something strange and terrible was going on at her neighbor’s house in 2005.
The neighbor had spotted a thin, pale face that she didn’t recognize staring out of the window. Investigator Mark Holste and his partner arrived at the home and what they saw will forever remain etched in their minds!
“It was the most outrageous case of neglect I’ve ever seen. It sounded like you were walking on eggshells. You couldn’t take a step without crunching German cockroaches.” explains Holste.
The officers found Danielle abandoned at the back of the house on a soiled mattress. Her very tiny room was filled with dirty diapers. Danielle couldn’t talk or eat solid foods. Aside from that, she was covered in lice and fleas and weighed only 46 pounds even though she was almost 7 years old then.
All those years of neglect and devastating living conditions had severely damaged the 6 year old girl and left her with the mental capacity of a baby.
Doctor Kathleen Armstrong, who examined Danielle, diagnosed her with “environmental autism”. Since she hadn’t had any human interaction for a long time, she had simply withdrawn into herself.
After reading all this in Danielle’s reports, Bernie and Diane Lierows were heartbroken! ”It made me cry just to read how she had been kept and the conditions that she had been found in,” Diane says.
The couple still wanted Danielle to be part of their family. When Danielle finally moved in with the couple, it was no walk in the park.
“We didn’t know if she’d ever eat with a fork and a spoon..You start to think: I don’t know how far this child is going to go.” Diane says.
Danielle suffered meltdowns several times a day. She would eat without controlling herself until she got sick, since the first years of her life she had had to survive through starvation.
With a lot of love and constant encouragement, Danielle began to make gradual progress! Soon she was able to brush her teeth, wash her hands and even go to the bathroom alone. These tasks were all a big achievement for Danielle.
”She has already surpassed all the expectations the specialists had for her at the time she was found,” Diane told CBN
“Small steps are big steps for someone who’s disabled. She’s learned to do things we never thought she would do.”
While speech is still challenging for Danielle, she regularly greets Bernie with a “Hey Dad”, and has even said “I love you” to her parents.
Danielle’s progress so far assures the family that their little girl will have a bright future for her and have high hopes for what she can achieve.