Bernie and Diane Lierow have always had dreams of growing their family. When their five kids were all grown and had left home, the couple soon realized that they had a bit more love to offer to a child in need. They made the decision to adopt a daughter after their five sons moved out. But little did they know that their lives would be forever changed by a chance occurrence.
Bernie and Diane Lierow started to work side-by-side with an adoption organization not long after making the decision to adopt.
Although there were a number of children there, Diane couldn’t help but be drawn to a girl in a black and white photo who couldn’t attend.
”I just felt drawn to her,” Diane says.
The couple inquired about the girl, but the adoption agency gave them a stern warning.
“All they would say was ‘you definitely don’t want her’,” says dad Bernie.
”Eventually one of the ladies told my wife; ‘there’s something wrong with her, that girl isn’t suitable for adoption’”, Bernie says.
But the couple didn’t want to hear this, and sought out the child’s social worker. The social worker shared a story with them that broke Bernie and Diane’s hearts as they learned the horrific truth about the unbelievable pain the young girl had gone through.
Danielle Crockett was identified by many as “the girl in the window”.
In 2005 the police had received a call from a worried neighbor. The neighbor told them that there was something strange and terrible going on in the house next door.
She had noticed a girl staring out the window, longing for help.
Investigator Mark Holste and his partner got to the scene and were horrified by what they encountered.
“It was the most outrageous case of neglect I’ve ever seen,” says Holste.
“It sounded like you were walking on eggshells. You couldn’t take a step without crunching German cockroaches.”
Holste found Danielle alone at the edge of the house on a soiled matress. Her tiny room was the size of a wardrobe and was packed with filthy diapers.
Danielle could not talk or eat solid foods; she was covered head to toe in lice and fleas. She only weighed 46 pounds when Mark Holste discovered her.
“The mother’s statement was: ‘I’m doing the best I can,’” Holste said.
“I told her, ‘The best you can sucks!’”
The girl was left with the mental capacity of a baby, despite the fact that she was nearly 7 years old.
The doctor described her condition as “environmental autism”. Due to her conditions, she pulled back and was hesitant to become attached to others.
When Bernie and Diane Lierows looked at all of this in her reports, they were shocked and heartbroken.
”It made me cry just to read how she had been kept and the conditions that she had been found in,” Diane says.
With all of that said, it was definitely not a walk in the park when Danielle finally moved in with the couple.
“We didn’t know if she’d ever eat with a fork and a spoon,” Diane says.
“You start to think: I don’t know how far this child is going to go.”
With a ton of love and encouragement, however, Danielle began to make amazing progress!
Things that may seem small, such as brushing her teeth, washing her hands and going to the bathroom unaccompanied, were amazing breakthroughs for Danielle. She did it all thanks to the Lierows family’s strong support network and encouragement.
”She has already surpassed all the expectations the specialists had for her at the time she was found,” Diane told CBN in 2012.
“Small steps are big steps for someone who’s disabled,” Bernie explained in 2014.
“She’s learned to do things we never thought she would do.”
Speech is still a challenging area for Danielle, but she normally welcomes Bernie with a “Hey Dad”, and has even said “I love you” to her parents.
“She’s still aggressive around food”, Bernie told OWN in 2014..
But after Danielle’s shocking success so far, the family can see an amazing future for her and have high hopes for what she can achieve.
”If she could just be a part of the community it would be a big plus,” Bernie says.