Burying The Innocent: Program Offers Proper Burial For Abandoned Children
A story in the newspaper almost 15 years ago changed Elissa Davey's life forever.
"A baby was found in the trash in Chula Vista. You read about that in an article sitting on the couch with your children. Then your day starts and you forget and you're off running," Davey said.
But she couldn't forget and instead sprung into action.
That's when the Garden of Innocence was born; a place for counties to bury the babies and children left for dead whose parents never came back for them.
"They're human beings, they deserve the dignity, they deserve a place on the lawn that says they were once here. They deserve a new name. They deserve a blanket. They deserve a toy. They didn't get one," Davey said.
"Unfortunately these children have been left in a dumpster; they've been left on the doorstep of a firehouse or a hospital. The bottom line is these are children who nobody has claimed. They don't have a name. They don't have a family. All we know is they're Baby Doe," Fresno County Supervisor Henry Perea said.
Right now, the people who are abandoned or unwanted in Fresno County are buried in a desolate cemetery, with only numbers identifying them.
Supervisor Perea says our babies deserve better.
"Here's a child who didn't have a chance. They're never going to school, they're never going to feel the love of a mother and a father, never going to get married; all of the things we take for granted sometimes," Perea said.
The remains of each child will be placed in a small urn.
Then they'll bury the urns in boxes and give the children the kind of farewell they deserved from the beginning.
"We try to get the local Knights of Columbus, they've always come and volunteered their time and they give the babies full color guard when they come into the garden. So they bring the dignity. The love comes from the amount of people who will show up to send these babies home," Davey said. "We pass that child in that little urn from one person to the other, so that we can say we touched this child and this child has touched our hearts."
It will be a final farewell for at least 18 Fresno County children whose parents may have abandoned them, but others have not.
"When I heard 18 I was shocked. At first I was shocked, second I was very sad that you could have children in any community that are forgotten," Perea said.
"They deserve to have that little day of recognition to show that I was here, but now I get to go home with all of you to send me off," Davey said.
The 18 abandoned children in Fresno County didn't happen all in one year.
County officials say the number has increased over the last several years and the county waits until it has a certain amount of unclaimed people to bury them. The county averages about three to four abandoned children a year.
Once the Garden of Innocence is approved, coordinators will ask the community for donations of things like blankets and poems to bury with each child. They hope to have the burial ceremony within the next few months.
The Mountain View Cemetery in Fresno donated the plot of land and is also covering the cost of maintaining it and burials.
If you'd like to help, you can visit their website at www.gardenofinnocence.org.