The arrest this week of a Turlock woman charged with murder in the death of her 2-year-old daughter is the latest in a tragic string of alleged violent acts against children throughout the region.
Although it's impossible to say for certain what instigated each of the incidents, three infants or toddlers are dead while a baby was protected after its mother's alleged threats were overheard.
Abinesh Kumar, 30, of Modesto is charged with shaking his 7-week-old son to death in August.
Maria Elena Torres, 31, of Modesto was baby-sitting an 18-month-old girl in February when the baby died, an apparent victim of blunt force trauma. Torres is charged with murder.
Cashel Sophia Phin, an 18-year-old high school student from Modesto, has been charged with attempted murder after prosecutors say she tried to put rat poison in the bottle of her month-old daughter in May.
And in the most recent case, Brandy Lee Rose Devine, 25, is accused of killing her daughter, 2-year-old Stephanie Torres, in their Turlock home.
Service providers in Stanislaus County want to get the message out that, before the situation gets too drastic, there is help available for people who might do harm to a child in their care.
"Even if we only have one facility open, we're always going to have a path that leads to where that facility is," said Todd Venturini, a board member for the Children's Crisis Center. Though budget problems have led to cutbacks in staffing and the number of children that can be served, Venturini said the staff always will work to help a parent or caregiver who is struggling.
"All of our staff, I think, have a vested interest in meeting that mission," Venturini said.
The Turlock Family Network, which reopened recently after closing because of its lack of funding, also offers help to anyone caring for a child in Stanislaus, Merced and San Joaquin counties. The private nonprofit organization doesn't offer respite care like the Children's Crisis Center, but it does have classes and services available to help people cope.
"We also have the parent mentor program," said director Beverly Spielman. Similar to the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, parent mentors pair a young or new parent with a seasoned mentor who can provide advice, guidance to services and a willing ear.
"We really stress the emotional part," Spielman said. "Sometimes, they just need someone to listen to them."
Although Turlock Family Network doesn't remove the children from the parents, mentors are known to come over at a moment's notice to help the struggling parent or caregiver.
"Maybe they're having a heck of a day with the kids and they call and say, 'Can you come over for a minute?' " Spielman said. "It's just a positive encouragement to continue going and providing for their children."
Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2343.
Children's Crisis Center 24-hour crisis counseling-intake scheduler: (209) 577-4413
Turlock Family Network:(209) 668-3363