Final Welfare Report Released of Mother Charged in Drowning Daughter

Final Welfare Report Released of Mother Charged in Drowning Daughter November 14, 2018
Picture Courtesy of GoFundMe

In August, a Florida mother dragged her four-year-old daughter into a river and let her go to drown. Shakayla Denson was charged on August 8th in the death of her daughter Je’Hyrah. During the original investigation, the media reported about a previous Department of Children and Families investigation between Denson and Hillsborough County. Due to the severity of Denson’s crime, Florida Department of Children and Families investigated the recent complaint against Denson. Today State Welfare officials said their last report on Denson did not indicate the child was in any danger.

In a report by 10NewsWTSP, a copy of the report contained details of the initial report between the county and Denson. According to the findings, the state concluded that Denson was not a risk to her daughter.

The original welfare case against Denson occurred in June 2018. The case related to a complaint made regarding Denson properly Je’Hyrah. A concerned citizen said that Je’Hyrah left her great-grandmother’s home and walked to a park six minutes from home.

When the incident initially occurred with Je’Hyrah, no one reported her missing. According to the review, Denson and her grandmother located Je’Hyrah shortly after she fled.

During the original investigation, social workers interviewed Denson about the event. She stated her daughter had never fled before this time. However, she did have an alarm system set up in her apartment to ensure her daughter remained inside.

The report goes on to indicate that Denson spoke fondly of her daughter. Caseworkers noted Denson appeared to understand her daughter’s behaviors and how to handle them best. Je’Hyrah had been diagnosed with autism and was non-verbal.

Caseworkers interviewed neighbors and extended family about Denson’s ability to parent. None of the people interviewed by the county expressed any doubt about Denson’s parenting skills.

Additionally, the report noted that Denson took proactive steps to enroll her daughter in programs for children with autism. Je’Hryah received services through the state and had a grant. Denson also got Je’Hyrah a safety bracelet in the event she wandered off again.

In the summary of the review, the state noted that Denson never had any reports of violence directed at her daughter. Based on their findings, the state determined there was no way for them to know Denson would harm Je’Hyrah in the future.

The state concluded with a statement that reads:

“In tragic events such as this, the human condition needs to seek a reasonable explanation for an individual’s behavior to make sense of a senseless act. Based on the information that was available in the previous investigation, a correlation cannot be made between the circumstances of the prior report and the events leading up to Je’Hyrah’s death.”

DCF report for Je’hyrah… by on Scribd


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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • persephone

    Nobody who doesn’t have a child with special needs can fully understand the continuous stress involved.

    Let’s be clear: I am not one of those people who pities the live parent more than the dead child.

    Denson obviously worked hard to get the help and care needed for her daughter, but being a single parent, with limited finances, and dealing with all of the necessary government claims and involvement, had to be completely overwhelming.

    Did any family ever step in and take care of her daughter for a day or two, just to give her a break? Probably not. Sometimes, just an afternoon free can make all the difference. I would bet the family was all how great and caring and loving Denson was, but never even stopped to consider what 24/7 life with a special needs child without support can be like. They’ll praise her to the hills, but never step forward to help in any way.

    If you know a parent, especially a single parent, who cares for a special needs child, and you have the ability to give them a few hours of freedom, please consider it.

  • KG

    I know you mean well, but you did just write a whole lot about how hard it was for the parent and almost nothing about the child. It is very rare in our culture to center the experiences of disabled people in discussions about them. Imagine how autistic people feel hearing mostly comments like this whenever one of them is murdered.

  • lady_black

    The autistic child has no problems with being autistic. They don’t know any different. And yeah, it’s very difficult for the parent(s), especially in the early years. I wouldn’t trade places with my daughter, or my sister, who have autistic children.
    I have pretty much dealt with them as I would any other child, with kindness and firmness, getting down on their level when talking to them. This mother was doing everything right, seeking early intervention (which is critical for special needs children). But let’s not deny that it’s not all rainbows and flowery meadows. I have to wonder if there was something going on mentally with the mother. Undiagnosed, untreated PPD for example. This could lead to her neglecting her own needs, and a state of hopelessness.

  • TinnyWhistler

    Providing support to caretakers of autistic children makes it easier for those caretakers to provide better care to the children. I hope it’s not controversial to say that doing high stress work without a break can lead to mental health issues and that untreated poor mental health can lead to bad decision making. When the person in question is solely responsible for a child, bad decision making can be deadly to the child.

    No one’s saying that the mother is more important than the child. We all agree that this was possibly the worst decision the mother could have made in these circumstances. Persephone was highlighting some red flags that could have been noticed before this happened and talking about how intervention may have prevented this tragedy. She was talking to people who may have the ability to provide actual, tangible support that may make the difference in preventing something like this from happening to another kid.

    Would you rather people NOT provide support to single parents with shaky mental health, in favor of telling them that they should care more about their disabled kids? That’s not gonna lead to better outcomes for the kids.

    What would you advocate that might have prevented this, other than reaching out to the mother?

  • persephone

    Since both I and my older son are on the spectrum, we’ve heard it. Dealing with school counselors for IEPs who didn’t know a thing about autism was a problem. We had to deal with transfers to other schools miles from our home because he couldn’t get the help he needed where he was. The district was just not able to give him what he needed, which is a real problem for most school districts. The money and personnel just simply weren’t there.

    It is stressful. It is hard on the parent. I’m not saying what she did was right at all. What I am saying is that too many people don’t step up, and too many people write off the children as acceptable losses when the parent turns murderous.

    I also understand why it happens. It doesn’t make it right. Understanding why something horrendous happens is not condoning it; it’s the start to finding way to prevent it.

  • KG

    You have never listened to an autistic person who learned to describe their experience to others if you think it’s easier for them than the parents.

  • lady_black

    I didn’t SAY that.

  • KG

    Advocating for support is wonderful, but in this context it’s important to center the victim rather than the killer. I’ve read essays by autistic advocates about how after hearing these stories they worried growing up that they were such burdens their own loved ones might kill them. I would recommend framing it as the child deserving more support and more people looking out for her.

  • KG

    Read your first two sentences.