A 38-year-old mother of 5, Malista Ness-Hopkins, was released on bail September 12 after having been arrested for five felony counts of child abuse on July 28. The children, ages 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6, were removed from the home by Accomack County Social Services in response to a complaint made about the home. Social workers found the 2- and 3-year-old children in cribs with makeshift tops screwed onto them. The home was said to be filthy, infested with bugs, and reeking of urine. The children were also reported to be dirty and covered with insect bites.
Usually, I would be totally unsympathetic toward any parent who treated their children this way and who lived in such deplorable conditions, but something struck me differently in this case.
First, Ms. Ness-Hopkins’ attorney told the court she was an overwhelmed single mother, which is easy to believe, with 5 children in the home ranging from 1 to 6 years old. Probably at least 3 of them were in diapers or pull-ups, which would be enough to overwhelm any parent, single or not.
Second, one sentence in the story spoke volumes to me–the young (age 33) father of some of the children died unexpectedly in May of 2016. This most likely left Ms. Ness-Hopkins depressed, grieving, alone, etc. She reportedly was a college student who made honor roll in 2010, so her issues are not due to lack of intelligence, but probably more due to depression and isolation. With no reports being made until the oldest child was 6, apparently she was able to care for them adequately until July of this year. That’s after over a year of trying to do it all on her own while dealing with the grief of losing the father to her kids. Cut her some slack, maybe.
The judge who granted bail did so on the condition she gets a mental health evaluation and follows any treatment recommendations.
The Virginia child abuse hotline number is 800-552-7096.
Thanks to Sabrina for the tip.