September 14, 2015
When a toddler was murdered last month while being cared for by his mother’s boyfriend, FamilyWise staff recognized a pattern immediately.
At 10pm on Monday, August 24, Jessica Carr left her Pine County apartment and her two children – Dante Sears, 2 and Dante’s 7-year old brother – in the care of Jonathan Michael Loun, 31. Jessica was on her way to Grand Casino Hinckley for a late shift – one of three jobs Jessica had to earn money and support her family. She became distressed when Loun began sending her cryptic and erratic text messages.
Upon arriving home in the early hours of August 25, Jessica discovered a horrific scene (trigger warning) and a suicidal note left by her children’s babysitter. Initially unresponsive, Dante’s life support was cut off on August 29thand he passed away – two days after his third birthday. Jonathan Michal Loun was found later – alive – in the woods surrounding his sister’s residence with apparently self-inflicted knife wounds.
In Loun’s note, left for Carr, he indicated that one of the primary provocations that escalated to his beating of Dante was that the child urinated on him during a diaper change and was “whining” throughout the evening. This mirrors the June death of a Minneapolis toddler, left alone with her mother’s teenage boyfriend while at work, whose escalated screaming and crying elicited being stomped upon.
“When tragedies like this happen, the entire community grieves and wonders what could have been done to prevent it,” said Ann Gaasch, Executive Director of FamilyWise – a local nonprofit that has been working for decades to end family violence. “We know that most children who are harmed as a result of their behavior are hurt out of anger, frustration in the moment and often by adults using the same disciplinary methods used on them as child. They haven’t had positive role models themselves.”
While most of us understand that taking care of a child is hard work, what we often fail to acknowledge is that parenting is a skill. And that’s what we do at FamilyWise. We can teach about appropriate developmental expectations, positive discipline strategies, and the best ways to foster a child’s growth and development. “I believe that no parent or caregiver should feel alone,” Gaasch said. “No one should feel so frustrated that they resort to violence. Giving people the tools to be effective role models improves their children’s chances, while simultaneously contributing to their own well-being. Good parents aren’t born—they are taught. If you are a parent, please take advantage of the many resources in our community designed to support and teach parenting skills. And all of us who know parents need to play our part by encouraging them to seek out community resources and ask for help.”
Visit FamilyWise’s Parenting Resources page for links to other community resources.