On the afternoon of July 13, 2005, a young girl was rescued from a run-down rental home in Plant City, FL. 7-year-old Danielle was found on a dirty mattress, emaciated and wearing a diaper. Her hair was crawling with lice and she was covered in bug bites. She was surrounded by her own feces.
According to police accounts, the home smelled worse than rotting flesh. Human and animal urine and feces covered the floors and the walls, while cockroaches overtook every part of the home. Trash lined the walls, and in Danielle’s room sat a pile of dirty diapers nearly four feet high off of the floor. When asked how she could let her child live that way, Danielle’s mother cried, “I’m doing the best that I can.”
Upon being rescued, social workers quickly learned that Danielle could not speak, simply because she had lived in isolation for the first seven years of her life. She did not know how to eat solid food, didn’t react to pain or changes in temperature, and could not engage with others in any way. After spending six weeks at Tampa Bay General Hospital, Danielle was placed in a group home and enrolled in special education classes at a local elementary school where it took her first teacher nearly a year to start teaching her. Despite already being nearly 8-years-old, doctors still had hope that she would be able to learn basic language.
After less than a year in group homes and hospitals, Danielle’s social worker decided she was ready for a permanent home. On Easter weekend in 2007, Danielle was fostered by a couple who could no longer conceive children, but wanted a daughter after having four sons. By October 2007, the family officially adopted the girl that they call Dani. Since her adoption, she has worked with a speech therapist every day and has learned to understand simple commands and associate symbols with certain words.