"It's devastating, it's sickening and it makes me angry because I feel like it could have been prevented."
When you know that one small change in your decision could have changed someone's story entirely, or worse, saved a life, you live each day with that regret at the back of your mind. When Eva Hernandez heard that her great-grandson had died a mysterious death, she was devastated to think that maybe she could have done something differently.
“I dropped to the ground, I fell on my knees, I told them don’t tell me, I don’t want to hear it, I don’t want to hear it,” Eva told CBS2/KCAL9. But she was forced to accept that the little boy, Noah Cuatro, who was just 4 years old, had lost his life under suspicious circumstances while in the care of his own birth parents.
Noah Cuatro had been in and out of foster care several times, but it was Eva, his great-grandmother who stepped in, gave him a home for years, and made sure that he never felt the absence of his parents. Noah was taken away from his mother at birth and found his way to his great-grandmother's arms when he was about 3 months old. Later, when he was 9 months, the court decided that Noah should be united with his birth parents. However, he had to be rescued from the care of his parents once again because he was neglected and suffered malnutrition.
When Eva was asked by a social worker whether she would take Noah in once again, she was ready and said, “They told me he could’ve died so would I be willing to take him in? I said 'yes, I’ll take him, bring him.'”
She gave him two years of great care, “He was happy and thriving.” But November 2018, Noah was uprooted from his great-grandmother's house once again even though he begged her not to let his birth parents take him.
“I told the social workers, ‘Please, he doesn’t want to leave. He wants to stay here. He begged me,’" Eva told KTLA. “He would hold on to me and say, ‘Don’t send me back, grandma.’ I don’t know. I couldn’t do anything. I just had to send him back.”
There was no choice in the matter and Noah was forced to go. Eva also says that his birth mother didn't even allow her to visit the boy until three months ago, and that turned out to be the very last time Eva saw Noah. “He was not the same little boy anymore," Hernandez said. "He looked so sad and withdrawn."
During one visit, Eva could see how much the little boy had changed and that he desperately wanted to tell his great grandma something but couldn't bring himself to because his mother was staring at him. “He didn’t have the chance. She was just looking at him, and he wouldn’t say anything,” Eva said. “He would say, ‘Grandma,’ then he would just shut down. I kept saying, ‘What’s wrong? Tell me baby,’ and he wouldn’t say it.”
That was when Eva decided to file a complaint with the county's Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). She hoped that the social workers would pay the family a visit without informing them, but later on Eva found out that Noah's birth parents were informed and they didn't find anything unusual in the house.
“If they would have taken him out of there, he would still be here,” Eva said, adding "the kids don't have a voice."
Later, she found out that his parents had taken little Noah to the hospital and said that their son drowned in a swimming pool at their Palmdale apartment complex; on Saturday, he was pronounced dead. However, further investigation was carried out and the medical staff found that the boy's body suffered trauma that did not match the parents' story of him drowning. “They could’ve helped him, they could’ve done something, anything to get him out of there,” Eva said.
Now, Eva is left grieving for the little boy, questioning what she could have done to save his great-grandson from whatever tragic death he suffered. “My heart just aches for that baby, it hurts me so bad. I get angry because why did they give him back?” Eva said.
Even others who've crossed paths with the boy are devastated that this happened to Noah. "He was such a joy," remembers Michelle Thompson, who runs the foster home where Noah once stayed, as reported by Eyewitness News. "He had this crazy wild brown hair and he was so joyful." She went on to say, "It's devastating, it's sickening and it makes me angry because I feel like it could have been prevented."
All she can hope for now is that further investigation would bring out the truth about what happened to Noah, even though nothing would bring the joyful young boy back. Eva said, “I wish he could still be here, and he’s not,”