Cristian Fernandez is the youngest person ever to be charged as an adult in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is 12 years old.  There seems little doubt that Cristian killed his brother, David, age 2, via blunt force trauma to the skull.  Police say Cristian shoved David into a bookcase.  Before you say, “if he acts like an adult, charge him like an adult,” let’s consider some additional facts.

Cristian’s mother, Biannela Susana, was 12 years old herself when she had Cristian.  Twelve years old!  She left Cristian babysitting his younger brother.  Cristian called her after the incident and she returned home.  A forensic examination of the computer in the family home indicated searches for “The Mayo Clinic” and “children with concussions” while she delayed seeking medical attention.  She also apparently searched You Tube, downloaded music, and looked at screen savers.  From 11 a.m. until after 3 p.m., she did not seek medical attention for her dying child.  Physicians stated that little David could have been saved if he had received medical attention sooner.  Ms. Susana has also been charged, but with lesser crimes than her 12 year old son.

What on earth was going on in this extended family that a 12 year old child gave birth and kept custody of her son?    What kind of parenting skills can we expect from a child who has a child? How can we hold a 12 year old more culpable of David’s death than the 25 year old who surfed the Internet while her child was dying instead of calling 911?

The reason that the law considers adulthood to begin at 18 (and 21 for consuming alcohol) is because the brain is still forming prior to that age.   Juveniles in general have difficulty in controlling impulses and in seeing the long-rang consequences of their behavior.  Effective parenting helps children learn to channel their impulses appropriately until brain development and emotional development link with chronological age to bring about maturity.

Judging by Ms. Susana’s age when she gave birth and her own behavior after finding David so severely injured, Cristian’s upbringing has been devoid of appropriate parenting.   She also apparently has other children in the house who have now been taken from her by the state of Florida.  Ms. Susana has had at least a total of four children by age 25.  Her failure to understand how to use birth control is possibly the least heinous thing going on in this household.  We can’t judge Cristian by how WE were raised, but by how HE was raised.

Has justice in our country now come to incarcerating 12 year olds for life who never had a change for a normal existence?    We can’t do a better job of protecting children than this in our society?

Those are my questions.  I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Learn more about this story here: