LONSBERRY: How many more Brooks must die?

There were two monsters in the courtroom last week.

One we saw, and one we didn't.

The first sat at the defendant's table, the other was across town at the county office building, and spread through the community in a system and a process that didn't work and won't explain itself.

Erica Bell will probably be convicted on Friday, but the other culprit is guilty today and must answer today.

Brook Stagles is dead because some witch tortured her to death, because she was punched in the bowel and left to bleed out and rot within. She's also dead because nobody did anything about it. 

Because in the face of repeated evidences of abuse nobody came to her aid. 

Those maggots will answer to God someday.

But the system that failed her must answer to the people today.

And it must begin a process of reform today.

Because child protective knew. The county social workers knew. They had been called, repeatedly. Just like politicians have been told, repeatedly, that they have overstrained and underfunded the system that is supposed to protect children when they are surrounded by animals.

The rot in human society is spreading, and the most elemental of functions -- like caring for children -- are falling apart. As the tendency to savagery spreads, as people go feral, the need to protect the young grows in volume and urgency.

It is a legitimate and overriding government function. 

And in Monroe County it is failing. 

Arguments to the contrary can be held across a table covered with Brook Stagles' autopsy photos.

There is no doubt that child protective services in Monroe County is inadequate, and there is no morality in ignoring that reality. 

Yes, it is a complex problem with competing agendas. The union wants to play it one way, the folks with law suits want to play it another, people trying to set up or topple political careers have their own objectives. And the people in power are sitting there in silence, hoping it will all go away.

The entire mess is despicable. 

But the need to act is clear.

Monroe County government must publicly recognize the problem and commence a process to fix it. It must look honestly at case loads and at an industry that, across America, is often flawed. Excuses about hiring and overhiring and everything else must be pushed aside. Bad case workers must go, the best people must be brought in, and the county executive and legislature must fund and oversee this agency appropriately. That will mean more money and higher standards, and a buy in from taxpayers who will have to foot the bill.

The union must not protect weak caseworkers, the county must not hide behind budgets, Democrats must stop playing games with phony legislation, Republicans must shake off their silence. This isn't about setting up the next county executive's election, it's about little children being beaten, raped and killed.

And the community and government that are letting it happen.

And that's what really happened to Brook Stagles.

She was born into a cesspool, and the rest of us were perfectly content to do nothing about it. 

And the bruises and the bodies will continue to stack up until we demand and pay for a Monroe County child protective services agency that actually protects children.

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