Firefighter who drove boy left at station to hospital: "It was heartbreaking"
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -
Kansas City police are seeking more information after a child was left at a fire station this week by a man who said he could no longer care for the boy.
For firefighters at Station 17, the experience was heartbreaking, especially for the battalion chief who drove the little boy to the hospital after his father left him behind.
Pat Dujakovich is a veteran firefighter who has almost seen it all – that is until Monday about 11:30 a.m.
"It's the first time it's happened. I've been with the Kansas City Fire Department for 25 years and this is a rare occurrence. It's never happened before," he said.
Dujakovich was on duty Monday at the station and said he's never seen a parent use the fire station as a safe haven. The station is near 34th Street and The Paseo.
When the man arrived, he told firefighters he couldn't care for the child anymore. The firefighters gave the boy something to drink and let him play basketball before taking him to Children's Mercy Hospital. Dujakovich personally drove the boy.
"It was heartbreaking. We had a first grader with a backpack and his homework and somebody didn't want him. It affected all of the firefighters," Dujakovich said. "Everyone of us at the station have children and everyone wanted to take that kid home and make him part of their family."
The boy was turned over to the care of Missouri social workers.
The Missouri Safe Haven law allows parents to drop off infants up to 1 year old at fire stations, hospitals, police station or in the care of an ambulance worker - no questions asked.
"Sometimes parents hit their max and don't know what else to do and may act out of desperation," said Gail Saunders, a social worker with the University of Kansas Hospital.
Saunders said the fact that the case involves a 6-year-old could be a prosecutable offense.
Dujakovich said, either way, it was his duty to do the best he could for a scared child.
"We tried to keep him happy and let him know he was safe and everything was going to be taken care of," he said.
Kansas City Fire Department Battalion Chief James Garrett said the situation is unfortunate, but authorities are glad that the boy was turned over to authorities rather than being abused or mistreated.
Police said the investigation surrounding the boy is ongoing and he is now home with his mother.
Alisha Latimore was more than surprised when the Department of Family Services called her Monday.
"She said, ‘we have Donald Collier' and I'm like, ‘Donald? Is he okay?" Latimore said.
Latimore said the child's father was supposed to have Donald Jr. through Spring Break, but has been known to have issues staying in the boy's life.
"He's only there when he wants to be around, not when little Donald Jr. needs him to be around."
Latimore does not have a formal custody arrangement with the boy's father, but this ordeal is making her think differently.
"I'm a true believer of my mama and my daddy being in my life and that's what I want for my son," she said. "It just hurts me that a parent would do a child like that."
It's a struggle that made Latimore so emotional she had to stop the interview with KCTV5's Bonyen Lee.
"He deserves both his parents - period point blank," she said.
But, for now, Latimore said she's relieved Donald is home safe and unaware, for the most part, of what exactly happened and only remembering the fire station the fire station he visited earlier in the week.
All 50 states have similar laws protecting newborns. In Kansas, safe haven law allows infants up to 45 days to be dropped. Missouri legislators are working to change the law so it is the same as Kansas.
Controversy arose when Nebraska enacted a safe haven law that allowed any child under 18 to be handed over to authorities. Some parents traveled long distances to that state to do so.
Residents facing such difficulties with children that they are considering abandoning them are asked to call 211 or the area United Way's hotline at 1-866-320-5764.
KCTV5's Stephen Mayer, Emily Rittman and Abby Kerner contributed to this report.
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