The Girl in the Window

The Girl in the Window

Danielle, 6, was rescued from unfathomable living conditions. Can the love and care of her adoptive family compensate for a lifetime of neglect?
When police detectives found her, Danielle was pale, malnourished and unable to talk. She was naked except for an overflowing diaper, covered in cockroach bites and wouldn’t make eye contact with anyone. She was almost 7 years old. Except for minimal nourishment, it appeared that the girl had been entirely neglected — physically and emotionally — for much of her life. The pediatric psychologist who first examined her said Danielle’s was the worst case of neglect she had ever seen and called her condition “environmental autism.” Some called her a feral child.

Two years after being removed from her abusive home Danielle was adopted by a loving family who saw her photograph at a foster care event. Her new parents have taught her life skills such as proper toileting, how to feed herself, have put her in occupational and speech therapy and hope to teach her to talk. Danielle’s lack of nurturing during the critical first years of her life was devastating, but her parents hope their love — and intensive professional care — can help heal her scars.

This emotionally powerful project by the St. Petersburg Times (TampaBay.com) includes a multimedia story with video and audio slide show components, as well as five separate audio interviews and an in-depth story about Danielle’s life. The project is reported three years after Danielle was removed from her abusive home so the details are reconstructed through interviews, police reports, medical records and court documents. The audio interviews with her adoptive family, a police detective, a speech therapist, a pediatric psychologist and Danielle’s biological mother (rationalizing her daughter’s maltreatment) all provide poignant details into this child’s disturbing life — and her road to recovery.

Prepare for a heart-wrenching immersive account that follows a trajectory from the depths of despair to a rising plateau of hope, as it demonstrates how her loving adoptive family, and the health-care professionals they have recruited, struggle valiantly to help Danielle compensate for a lifetime of neglect.

Story: Lane DeGregory
Photos, Video, Audio: Melissa Lyttle

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