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Children deserve protection

Abdi Mohamud cried out for help. Eain Brooks kept his pain a secret.

Abdi told 911 operators it was a “matter of life and death.” Eain told his grandmother he couldn’t say why he was bruised and burned.

Abdi, 10, pleaded for police to “please come very fast.” Eain, 5, never had the chance.

Both boys are gone – their futures stolen, their smiles forever frozen in pictures, their short lives overshadowed by their brutal deaths.

Both, according to family, were under the watch of Erie County Child Protective Services.

Both leave behind a flood of questions about what went wrong and why their deaths weren’t prevented.

Eain’s death last week is terrifying on its own, but the echoes of Abdi’s death – reports of bruises, calls to officials, visits from case workers – are haunting.

Police say Eain was beaten to death in his West Side home by his mother’s boyfriend, Matthew W. Kuzdzal. Relatives say they tried time and time again to get little Eain, with the sweet smile and buzz-cut Mohawk, removed from the home.

By the time they arrived at Women and Children’s Hospital last week, it was too late. Paul Henry, Eain’s great uncle, described how he watched his nephew go from “brain dead to off life support to being pronounced dead.”

“I still can’t get it out of my head, and I probably never will until the day I die,” Henry told reporters as family prepared to bury the kindergartner.

Nobody should see a boy suffer at the hands of a monster. But that’s exactly what we saw last year when Abdi Mohamud, bound and gagged, was bludgeoned to death with a rolling pin by his stepfather, Ali-Mohamed Mohamud, who is now serving a sentence of 25 years to life.

Abdi’s death – and persistent reporting by The News’ Lou Michel – uncovered troubling questions about the way the county’s Child Protective Services follows up on reports of child abuse. A report by the state Office of Children and Family Services that looked at 110 randomly selected cases found strong investigations in the first few days, but poor follow up, creating “a lack of depth and thoroughness in the investigations.”

County Executive Mark Poloncarz has proposed creating a seven-member team in Child Protective Services to address a growing number of allegations of abuse. He warned earlier this monththat, without more staff, “there is risk that allegations and complaints involving children will experience delays in investigation due to the current and growing caseload of CPS staff.”

Just a week later, a young boy whose extended family said they called CPS over and over was dead. Rachel Hart, his grandmother, described a young boy too terrified to tell why he was bruised.

“Whether it’s the whole department that’s at fault or one person, I don’t know, but somebody needs to answer to this,” Henry told reporters last week. “And not just for Eain, for every child out there.”

The facts surrounding the death of Eain Brooks are still trickling out, and they might take months or years to surface. We can’t wait that long to find out what went wrong. Children’s lives depend on the answers.