Dawn Brown kills Zander Brown and Zayden Brown, then kills herself: Would you have picked up the phone?

4:12 PM, Sep 24, 2012   |    comments
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Clearwater, Florida -- What happened with the Brown family in Clearwater is so awful, it leads a lot of us to ask the question... could something have been done to stop it?

Well, let me turn that into a different question -- one for you: 

If your neighbor or friend were struggling, with their kids in a tough situation, would you pick up the phone and do something? And if you did, what happens then?

Signs of a looming tragedy were here at the small home in Clearwater where Dawn Brown killed her sons Zander and Zayden, and then killed herself.

Friends and neighbors say they saw pieces of the puzzle: no electricity, trash all over, a mom racked by depression. But it looks like no one had picked up the phone to get them help in six years.

"We have been involved [with] this family one time in the past, and that was in 2006," said Terri Durdaller, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Children and Families.

"And the family did receive some community help through an organization to get some counseling."

See Also: How to talk to your children about the tragedy

Durdaller said DCF counts on the public to be its eyes and ears when it comes to finding families that need help.

"If they see something that just doesn't seem quite right -- that really seems like there could be issues -- we want them to call our hotline because we want to engage a family that may need help in services," Durdaller said.

If you call DCF with a concern, here's what happens:

Investigations always start within 72 hours, and if there's a threat of immediate harm, it's two hours or less.

Under Florida law, you cannot be sued for reporting a concern. And you can ask that your name be kept confidential, which means it would be shared only within the legal system and with school administrators.

Here are four sources you can call up to help your struggling neighbor or friend:

The Department of Children and Families
Call 800-96-ABUSE (800-962-2873) any time.
That starts an investigation that doesn't just lead to some kind of punishment -- it can lead families to help.

Power Company Funds
Call Progress Energy, TECO, or your power company.
Nearly all have charitable funds that'll help struggling families pay their electric bills for a time.

Your School District
Tell the principal.
If they hear about a struggling student, they can line families up with school social workers, psychologists, and counselors.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Call 911 or 211.
They'll transfer you right away to a crisis counselor. You can also call them directly at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255).

And if you don't know where to go for help, call 211. You'll be connected with an agency that can steer you toward groups that are out there and ready to lend a hand.

Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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