Secrets of the Heart

January 23, 1995

A 17-year-old girl throws her newborn baby out a second-floor window and we struggle to understand why.

The law enforcement community concludes that she is a criminal and charges her with attempted first-degree murder and child abuse.

Others figure she must be mentally ill and demand a psychiatric evaluation. And still others say that she must have been terribly afraid to have kept her pregnancy hidden for nine months and then given birth, alone, in a bathtub.

The truth is, we cannot look inside the heart of Michelle Elizabeth Savage and know why she did it. Three teen-agers found her 6-pound, 4-ounce daughter lying on the ground at the Meade Village housing project scratched and bloodied but miraculously alive. The unnamed infant is hospitalized with a fractured skull.

Meanwhile, a 17-year-old boy who thinks he is the father said he would be willing to take the child if his paternity is proven. He lives with his mother who already cares for his 19-month-old son.

We hear all this and ask ourselves why it happens. Help was available. The schools have sex education and Meade High School, which the girl attends, offers classes and counseling to support pregnant teen-agers. It even has a day care center. But the girl's silence precluded any help.

And yet sometimes we cannot help even when we know of a need. For example, the volunteers who are trying to help Samala and Douglas Blake lead productive lives must be wondering what more they can do. The Sun has been following this Annapolis couple for months as they participate in an innovative program designed get young families off welfare. Yet, as staff writer Kris Antonelli reports, even after months of intense counseling, the Blakes still struggle to stay in school and go to work.

Does all of this mean we should give up and do nothing? Do we concede that orphanages are better than homes or that teen-age parents should be denied welfare? The only conclusion a humane society can draw is that there is no easy solution to the problems of our young and poor.

We must continue to try to help because occasionally we succeed. But we also must be prepared to fail at times because we can never foretell all the secrets of a heart.

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