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Woman rescues naked toddler walking along street

| Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Collette Brewer was driving on Lincoln Street in Parks about 9:45 a.m. Tuesday when she saw a naked toddler walking through the grass in the parking lot by the Century 21 building.

Horrified, Brewer pulled over just as the little boy was close to the sidewalk near the traffic-packed road.

"He was completely naked and soiled down his legs," Brewer said. "I gave him my daughter's nightshirt out of my car so he was covered and called 911."

Brewer phoned state police in Kittanning and asked for help at the Century 21 office, where employee Ginger Jones helped the young woman and the unidentified child.

They scrubbed the child clean, said Jones, of Gilpin. She said she was "a loving grandmother who is sickened by what just happened."

By lunchtime, the 2-year-old was in the custody of Armstrong County Children, Youth and Family Services. The boy's 17-year-old aunt and baby sitter faces criminal charges.

The Tribune-Review News Service is not identifying either child by name.

While Jones, Brewer and the toddler sat on the steps of the Century 21 building awaiting state police, a 17-year-old girl arrived and said she was the boy's aunt. She said she had been staying with him in a nearby house in the 1100 block of Washington Street.

An attempt Tuesday night to reach the boy's parents was unsuccessful.

According to the aunt, the boy, who will turn 3 in September, left the home around 9 a.m. while she was sleeping.

The investigating officer, state police Tpr. Brian Wolfe, said an inspection of the Washington Street property showed the home had no door locks. The aunt said she had been up all night "doing laundry" and fell asleep at 6 a.m.

"I watch this child, yes, and me and (the boy) were both asleep," said the girl, who is not being identified because she is a minor and facing criminal charges. "He must've woken up and left the house. How was I supposed to know?"

The aunt said the boy's father was at work. She said she didn't know where his mother was.

Brewer, a Rural Valley resident, and another Century 21 employee played with the boy. Brewer gave the toddler her lunch to eat. He sipped water and ate quickly and quietly, apparently unaffected by the chaos going on around him.

Brewer works with developmentally delayed toddlers as a coordinator for the Family Counseling Center of Armstrong County.

She said several cars "flew by the child without stopping," including five cars in front of her.

"I was just doing what anyone in my situation is supposed to do," Brewer said. "I saw the boy, and I knew he needed my help."

During the investigation, Wolfe spoke at length with a CYFS caseworker at the scene, who refused to identify herself, and also the aunt. The child eventually was turned over to the caseworker.

The aunt began to cry when told the boy would be placed in foster care.

"I've been in and out of foster care," she said tearfully. "It's so traumatizing for a child."

The aunt hugged the boy for several minutes before the social worker took him away for placement around 11:45 a.m.

Wolfe said the baby sitter will be charged as a juvenile with endangering the welfare of a child, which is a misdemeanor.

Brewer brushed off the characterization of being a hero, saying she only did the right thing.

But she was angry with the child's aunt.

"That girl never even thanked me or Ginger for getting him off the streets and putting clothes on his back and feeding him," Brewer said, and headed for work.

Dennis Demagone, administrator of Armstrong CYFS, declined to discuss the specifics of this case, citing state confidentiality laws. But, he said, a very young child almost always is placed in foster care.

Under state law, Demagone said, there must be a hearing within 72 hours to determine if the child should remain in CYFS custody, followed within 10 days of that hearing by another hearing to determine if the child remains in foster care, goes to relatives or returns home under CYFS guidelines.

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