When a parent leaves their child in someone else's care, there is always a little apprehension. But that anxiety subsides when they leave them with a trusted family friend. At least that's what one East Texas couple thought. Until, their worst nightmare came true. One local mother has advice she thinks every parent should hear.
Allyssa is just a few months shy of her 3rd birthday. But that's the only thing shy about this little bundle of energy. On this day, she spends the afternoon jumping, running and giggling at a Tyler park. "She's just a sweet, wonderful, lovable little girl," says Veronica White, Allyssa's mother.
But her innocence was stolen from her in January of last year. "It's just very sick for someone to even think of that, let alone do it," says Veronica.
At just 14 months old, Allyssa was sexually assaulted, by a long time family friend. She was left in the care of 28-year-old Edwin Lee Smith while her mother, Veronica White, ran some errands. She returned to find her baby bleeding. "Within a minute, I was on the phone with 911."
The little girl, barely able to speak at that age, was life-flighted to a Dallas hospital. "I think they ended up putting 15 stitches, between externally and internally, on her and she's still scared. She's going to have that scare for life," says Veronica.
Edwin Lee Smith was found guilty of molesting a child and sentenced to 40 years in prison. Veronica and her husband had known Smith for many years and didn't think twice about leaving their little girl in his care. Veronica explains, "He lived where there was a daycare in his home. He was around toddlers and infants everyday. He just seemed like this wonderful person who was great with children."
They learned a hard lesson, one they want all parents to remember. "Just watch closely and pay very good attention for any kinds of unusual signs, and make sure the kids are able to communicate with you," says Veronica.
The past year and a half has been difficult for this family. Her husband lost his job, they had their electricity turned off twice and the stress forced Veronica to drop out of college. "I would start thinking about what had happened and what she had been through. I would stay up for days. I had gotten to a point where I couldn't fully function."
When all else failed, they turned to the Children's Advocacy Center of Smith County. "It was so wonderful for it to be available because we were to the point that we had nothing."
The center helped them get their lives back on track with counseling and basic daily needs. "They helped with laundry detergent, pull ups, even toilet paper, tooth paste and clothes. I mean there wasn't any money for it," says Veronica.
As the healing process continues for this family, they keep a close eye on Allyssa, but they know it's something they will always have to deal with. Veronica says, "At some point in her life, I'm going to have to explain to her why we're so over protective of her."
There is a way you can help abused children in East Texas. The Children's Advocacy Center of Smith County is currently holding it's annual "Bids for Kids" silent auction. For a list of all the items up for auction, go back to our home page and click on the community page. To bid on an item, call the Tyler Morning Telegraph INFO connect line at 903-533-0600. The auction runs from August 1st through August 10th.