When a child dies, the parents are responsible for their burial or cremation. But, sometimes those parents turn their backs, leaving their little one's remains behind, unclaimed. A non-profit is making sure that no longer happens in Kern County. It's called Garden of Innocence. The program claims the remains of unidentified or abandoned children. Instead of just being cremated and interred, they give them a name, a funeral, and a proper place to rest in peace.
At historic Union Cemetery, the non-profit founder, Elissa Davey, walks with General Manager Dave Hepburn to the future site of Kern County's own Garden of Innocence.
"I feel that no child should leave this Earth without somebody that cared. Even if their life was short we'd make sure they are given the honor they deserve," said Davey.
Davey started the non-profit 13 years ago, and the program has spread to 17 other counties in California, counting Kern. The program claims remains of children ages 20 weeks to 8 years, left abandoned at hospitals or worse.
"In the trash, in the sewer, along the road, just thrown away," said Davey.
Urns are donated, many handmade by community wood-workers. Blankets and small toys are also donated and placed with the child's remains. The urns are passed around during a non-denominational ceremony and given a loving touch in case the child never got one. And, a community member who requests to, gives each child a name.
"Every human being deserves a name instead of "Doe" or a tag with a number on it. And, the community can get involved in doing that, and we attach that name in our database to the original family name if we know it or the abandonment site so if anyone ever comes back," said Davey.
Hepburn takes Davey to the 500 square foot area in the southeast corner, Union Cemetery is donating. He says it is large enough for 100 child grave sites.
"We're in the business of caring for, and so we felt it matched up real good with what we are doing here," said Hepburn of the donation.
The site is still in its beginning stage, as were the children who will now be honored here at their final resting place.
"Those babies deserve something better than just, they deserve their own, you might say, their own bed," said Juanita Medina who will be the director of Kern County's Garden of Innocence.
The Kern County Coroner's office says it doesn't keep track of the number of unidentified or abandoned children remains. If you would would like to donate to Garden of Innocence, go to www.gardenofinnocence.org.