It’s the photo that sparked outrage like no other: the now-infamous “heroin” photo posted last week by the East Liverpool, Ohio Police department showing two adults passed out in a car that had been driving erratically with a small child in the back seat.
The adults were later identified as the child’s grandmother Rhonda Pasek and her friend James Acord, not as his parents as was first thought.
On social media. people alternately praised and scolded the police department, and alternately judged and had compassion for the addicts in the photo—many feeling they deserved it for child endangerment, and many feeling that publicly shaming them was wrong, and/or that the child’s face should have been blurred out of the original photo.
Today, NBC News is reporting that the 4-year-old boy, who was in his Pasek’s custody for because his own parents had been deemed unfit, will now go to live with a great aunt and great uncle in South Carolina. Pasek had only recently won custody on July 25, just a few weeks before last week’s incident, for which she remains in jail.
Some of Rhonda Pasek’s family members are decidely unhappy that this has all been made public.
“The city of East Liverpool humiliated my family and humiliated that little boy,” Pasek’s sister, who asked not to be identified, told NBC News.
“They could have blurred his face and they didn’t. And now they’re taking him away from my sister. I’m not condoning what Rhonda done, but what they did to her and what they’re doing to her grandson is too much,” she said.
She also told NBC News that she has custody of the 4-year-old’s sibling, who is 3. She said she and Pasek had been raising the kids because Pasek’s son an his girlfriend have not been able to manage being parents.
“It’s the old story,” she said. “No education. No jobs. My sister has fought for two years straight to get this child.”
Fought for two years straight…and then gave it all up for drugs just six weeks later. That’s the hard reality. Knowing that he was with his grandmother for just six weeks, my heart breaks for this child even more! I can’t imagine the effects this instability is having on his young life. I pray the situation he is moving into will be stable and loving, and that he can stay there long-term without having his life turned upside down again.
The judge who gave Pasek custody told the local East Liverpool newspaper, The Review “there was never any indication she was involved in drugs.” He also made a point to note that Pasek has been a constant presence in the boy’s life
“Had I known (Pasek) was unreliable, I certainly wouldn’t have given her the child,” Juvenile/Probate Court Judge Thomas Baronzzi told The Review.
Whatever you think about the East Liverpool Police posting the photo, I am very grateful this child is going to be safe and with family. I hope and pray he can grow up in a loving, healthy situation and THRIVE, and I pray that he does. I also pray that Pasek and Acord can get help and conquer their addictions, and use their stories to inspire others to do the same.