Nick Silverio does not like ironies, because they almost always come with negatives.
Like a recent Saturday evening when South Florida media were buzzing with the news that 39-year-old Cheryl Arthur of Hollywood had been arrested for the murder of her 3-year-old daughter. Arthur has since been formally charged with the crime, which police say she blamed on stress and depression.
WONDERING WHY Silverio, a childless widower whose wife of 31 years, Gloria, was killed 10 years ago by a speeding driver, couldn’t help a wistful smile and a whispered “why?” as he read and watched story after story of how Arthur, clutching her dead child, was driven to a fire station by a good Samaritan, and how police said Arthur confessed to strangling the girl with a maniacal hug.
But Silverio’s “why” wasn’t a speculation about why Arthur would kill. People kill without good reason every day. No, his query was about why she didn’t just give the child to someone else who could care for her.
Thus the irony — while this mother was being arraigned for killing a child she didn’t want, Silverio was in the midst of a two-week high, celebrating 10 years of saving the lives of children whose parents haven’t wanted them.
In 2000, just months after Gloria was taken, Silverio founded A Safe Haven for Newborns in his Miami home. The nonprofit, which helps admittedly unfit parents get their children into foster care and ultimately into adopted homes, now has 44 chapters across the state and recently recorded its 140th child saved in Florida — most in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. When I caught up with Silverio this week, the number had gone up to 143.
Florida’s Save Haven Law, passed in 2000 shortly before Gloria Silverio’s death, allowed parents to drop off newborns up to a day old — later extended to three days old — at emergency rooms or fire stations, no questions asked. *
8 CALLS A DAY A Safe Haven for Newborns receives about eight phone calls a day from parents or soon-to-be parents asking how they can give up their children safely.
“Safely” is key, because since 2000, of the 47 babies abandoned in unsafe locations like parks and parking lots in Florida, 27 were dead by the time they were found.
Dumping your living baby in a parking lot may be pathological. But it’s also lazy, given the number of fire stations and ERs in this state — a combined 130-plus in Miami-Dade and Broward counties alone.
“It would have been nice to see this little girl as 144 saved,” Silverio says. “People sometimes dismiss us, because in keeping with Florida’s Safe Haven law we facilitate the safe handover of babies, newborns, basically three days old or younger. But what they don’t think about is parenting requires long-term planning.
“And sure, our circumstances can change from good to bad, but it’s my experience that we know pretty early on whether we can handle parenting or not. So my point is before your child reaches 3, or 5, or 7 years old and has to suffer abuse or even death, because life is getting to you, long before you reach that point, we’re here for you. And the truth is, in spite of the law, if you can’t handle your toddler or grade school-aged child, don’t hurt ’em. Call, and we’ll still help you get ’em to a safe place.”
Though he and Gloria were never able to have children, Silverio’s too nice, too diplomatic, to state the obvious, so I will: Killing your kid because life has put you down for a 10-count is selfish. Even used clothes get passed on to other people who’ll “care” for them.
That Cheryl Arthur reached critical levels of stress and depression isn’t hard to believe. Take a look around at the virtual forests of foreclosure signs, unemployment lines, and so on.
Still, it’s too bad she didn’t meet Nick Silverio first.