September 22, 2021
Danielle Crockett's life changed for the better when she finally saw the light of day and was adopted by a loving couple, Bernie and Diane Lierow. Also known as "the girl in the window," Danielle represented the worst case of child neglect.
There was a time when hardly anybody knew about Danielle's existence. She spent her early childhood as a feral child, confined within the walls of a tiny, ramshackle room in a rental home in Florida. She endured starvation and neglect for the first 7 years of her life.
Her birth mother, Michelle Sara Crockett, had two teenage boys from a previous relationship and moved to Tampa Bay when Danielle was a baby. She had no means of sustaining her family and would often come home wasted from her time at casinos.
Danielle's two half-brothers guarded her, and nobody in the vicinity knew that Michelle had a daughter. Born on September 21, 1998, it wasn't until she turned 7 that a neighbor saw her pale face in the broken window. She was found by detective Mark Holste, who told Tampa Bay Times:
"It was the worst neglect situation I've ever seen."
Holste worked in the Plant City Police and found Danielle on July 13, 2005, in response to a report citing severe child abuse. The feral kid lay on a torn, shabby mattress and was only wearing a diaper.
When the detective asked the girl what her name was, she said nothing. As it turned out, Danielle had never stepped outside the closet-sized dilapidated dark room. She had never attended school or interacted with anyone and had never eaten solid food.
When she turned 18 years old, she became eligible for Social Security and Medicaid and began living in a group home.
She was rushed to the Tampa Bay General Hospital, where the doctors revealed that she couldn't walk, talk, or eat her own food, and her developmental stage resembled that of an infant. In October 2007, she was adopted by Bernie from a foster home.
Bernie and Diane began calling her Dani and gave her the tender love and care which she never got from her birth mother. The couple had 5 sons, but their affection for Dani was endless. They even wrote a book together, sharing their wonderful experience. They told Daily Mail:
"If, by telling Dani’s story, other kids get a home, her suffering will have been worth something."
The couple shared that welcoming Dani into their life changed everything for the better, and they felt a connection with her the moment they saw her in foster care. Bernie also shared that he had always longed for a daughter and was grateful to God for Dani.
Following Dani's adoption, the couple also welcomed more foster children. Bernie also worked diligently to ensure Dani didn't harm herself or the house and learned to acclimate to her surroundings. He even tried teaching her sign language. Bernie further added:
"I told myself, this is the way it is. We adopted her. I'll never give up on my baby."
Things became hard for Bernie when Diane left him. They divorced in 2015 after being married for 18 years. Despite the cumbersome times, he never blamed Dani and tried his best to look after her. However, it became hard for him to take her out.
Eventually, Dani turned 18 and became eligible for Social Security and Medicaid. After Christmas, Bernie dropped her at a group home with lots of toys and clothes, assuring her that he loved her but couldn't look after her as a single parent.
Bernie often pays visits to Dani. He still loves her with all his heart and even went on to share that if he ever got a chance to do things all over again, he would gladly welcome Dani and spend his time raising her.
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