For the past several months, community members and government officials have taken a unanimous stance against child abuse by publicly supporting Kilah’s Law.
Now, the family of Kilah Davenport and Justice For All Coalition founder Jeff Gerber are working to establish a nonprofit to help victims of child abuse and their families.
In May, 3-year-old Kilah ended up in critical condition after her stepfather allegedly beat her severely, causing a broken clavicle, fractured skull and damage to 90 percent of her brain. She spent two months at Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte and under went several surgeries.
Since she’s come home, Kilah has slowly but steadily made progress. She’s eating solid food, albeit baby food, and she’s working on learning to hold her head up again. She even smiled for an entire day this week, her grandmother, Leslie Davenport, said. Her family is confident that, with time, Kilah will be able to stand, talk and, eventually, walk again.
Because of the extreme changes to Kilah’s way of life, her family has had to remodel some of their house to accommodate those adjustments. They’ve created a bedroom downstairs for Kilah, changed the bathroom to make it handicap accessible and paved their gravel driveway to create a smoother surface for the wheelchair.
“We had to move Kilah and (her mom) downstairs so she wouldn’t have to carry Kilah up and down the stairs,” Leslie Davenport said. “Then we started looking at the driveway. It’s hard if you’re trying to roll a wheelchair across gravel.”
Luckily, they’ve had a handful of friends who’ve pitched in to help make these changes. But not everyone who deals with debilitating child abuse is as fortunate.
That’s where the nonprofit comes in.
“(The Davenports) feel like they never would have made it if it weren’t for the help of the community,” Gerber, founder of the Justice For All Coalition, said, adding that the family is hoping to pay it forward through the nonprofit.
The Kilah Davenport Foundation would be a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to providing financial assistance to children and families facing debilitating factors stemming from child abuse. The funds would help the families pay for things like wheelchairs, leg braces and various renovations and projects to make homes suited to accommodate the child’s new living conditions.
But the Davenports don’t want to stop there. After first-hand experience walking through a seemingly endless number of hospital procedures and medications, the family wants to use the nonprofit to educate others on how to handle the child’s recovery, particularly from a medical standpoint.
Leslie Davenport works in a hospital and is considerably familiar with medical procedures and terminologies, so she knew “by instinct” what questions to ask to make sure her granddaughter was receiving the right treatment. But most people don’t know how to handle this, she said.
“I kind of knew instinct-wise what to ask, but the majority of the public don’t work in hospitals,” she said. “When you start giving a 3-year-old child medications, you need to know what it’s for. When you’re in the hospital, sometimes you get mixed signals. When you have that many answers to the same question, you either take it or question why. I’m afraid the majority of the public is taking (doctors and medical staff) at their word.”
Gerber said they’re in the process of finalizing the nonprofit. They’ve already submitted the application documents and are waiting to be approved, which he expects will happen within the next two weeks.
The Kilah Davenport Foundation isn’t the only thing he’s working to implement. When he found out Joshua Houser, Kilah’s 23-year-old stepfather, may spend as little as four to eight years in prison if convicted, he was appalled and vowed to change the North Carolina child abuse laws.
He and Michael Alvarez, mayor of Indian Trail – where the incident took place – have worked together for several months to form Kilah’s Law. If passed, the law would raise sentencing guidelines for anyone who causes permanent debilitating physical injury to a child from a Class C felony to a Class B-1 felony, increasing sentences to 25 years to life in prison.
N.C. Rep. Craig Horn is one of the law’s main supporters and is helping draft the bill. The nonpartisan bill has received tremendous support from both sides of the political line, Gerber said. He’s toured six N.C. counties and given presentations to 23 different municipalities. Every board and council has unanimously passed resolutions backing the law.
“The public not only supports Kilah’s Law; they’re demanding Kilah’s Law,” Gerber said.
Kilah’s family and friends are confident Kilah will continue to improve and, over time, will be a spokeswoman against child abuse.
“I truly believe there will come a time when she’s standing next to me, traveling the country, telling her story,” Gerber said. “That’s my goal for Kilah Davenport … for her to travel the country with me, telling people about how she beat the odds.”
Leslie Davenport said seeing the amount of progress Kilah – who wasn’t expected to live more than 24 to 48 hours when she first arrived at the hospital – has made has been an encouragement to everyone.
“God’s got a different plan for Kilah,” she said. “The devil tried to take her away from us and that didn’t happen. (She’s) coming back full force. She’s going to be able
to tell the world that she’s a miracle.”