Charges are pending against the teenage parents of a 6-week-old Darlington County girl in connection with her death.
“This case is under investigation, but I can tell you that the mother, 17-year-old Heather Pingitord, and the father, 19-year-old David Rush, will be charged with unlawful conduct toward a child by legal custodian,” Darlington County Sheriff Wayne Byrd said in a press release.
Deputies were called to an area hospital Tuesday morning after Victoria Nikole Rush was brought in by EMS with no signs of life and later pronounced dead. It’s not clear who called EMS.
“The child had injuries consistent with a non-accidental death,” Darlington County Coroner Todd Hardee said in the release.
Victoria’s body was sent to Newberry for an autopsy, after which Hardee ruled the child’s death as a homicide and turned the investigation over to the sheriff’s office.
Investigators called the her parents, who’d recently moved to 1634 Shilow Drive Lot 24 in Darlington from New Jersey, to the sheriff’s office Friday for questioning. Victoria was the only child living in the home with them, sheriff’s Capt. Andy Locklair said.
The nature of the injuries Victoria suffered aren’t being released because of the ongoing investigation, but more charges are possible, he said.
Lack of knowledge about child care is one reason why a teen parent might neglect a child, said Dr. Kathy Saunders, program director and medical examiner for the CARE House of the Pee Dee, a local child advocacy agency.
“The largest part would be lack of education,” she said. “There may be a lack of knowledge and resources and many aren’t able to take their children to the doctor. Kids parenting kids just doesn’t work. They are trying to parent and they are young kids themselves.”
Teen parents have trouble meeting their own basic needs, so they often can’t provide the basic needs for their child, Saunders said.
Others reason for neglect may be a lack of a bond between a baby and his or her parents. Some parents don’t form a bond with their baby at birth, she said.
“They really haven’t attached to the baby,” Saunders said. “If that bond isn’t established ... and they have no in-rooted feelings, then that can lead to neglect.”
In some cases, she said, a parent may have been abused or neglected as a child and, as a result, doesn’t have a role model for child care.
Saunders said many studies have been done over the years that show there are risk factors associated with young, unwed single mothers.
“I know that plays a role in (neglect),” she said. “We know that’s a reoccurring theme.”
Saunders also said she believes the economy has a lot to do with the neglect and abuse of children.
In 2008, the CARE House treated about 800 children. As of June 30, about 500 children have been treated by CARE House staff, with 62 percent of those being physical abuse cases, Saunders said.
“We are going to be over a thousand this year,” she said.
Child neglect can be prevented if parents take advantage of medical resources such as Baby Net, South Carolina’s interagency system of early intervention services for children under age 3.
The state Department of Social Services offers parenting classes and many hospitals offer classes prior to a new parent being discharged.
Additionally, parents can get information from Keeping Kids Safe at Home, a public awareness project that aims to educate residents about he prevention of the maltreatment of children up to age 3. Keeping Kids Safe at Home is offered through Prevent Child Abuse Pee Dee, a program of the Pee Dee Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Assault. Adults can obtain information about child care through the coalition’s ChildHelp Pee Dee 24-hour helpline by calling (866) 867-9857.
Information also can be obtained from the CARE House by calling (843) 629-0236.