CLEVELAND -- From the very beginning, Cleveland police told WKYC it was one of the worst cases of child abuse they had ever seen. A little boy, almost 4-years-old, starved and beaten so badly by his mother, his heart stopped in the ER at MetroHealth Medical Center.
He survived, but could this have been prevented?
The little boy's father, Victor Soler, is on a mission to stop child abuse after seeing what happened to his son.
"It has to stop, children are a gift from God," said Victor.
His son, Yaniel Rivera, didn't live with him but lived with the biological mother. Carla Rivera has since been sentenced to 19 years in prison for the violent child abuse.
Yaniel had a lacerated spleen, perforated bowel, cuts, bites and broken bones. He weighed 24 pounds and was dehydrated. He spent nearly eight weeks in the hospital.
GRAPHIC VIDEO: Watch Yaniel's Story
"I stayed with him waiting for him to open his eyes. When he did it was like he was born again," said Victor.
Victor tried reaching the mom to see his son,but says she kept moving and changing her number. He was not able to see Yaniel for about a year.
During that time, there was a case worker for the Department of Children and Family Services who visited the mother and her children. She was not there because of allegations of abuse, but because a child in the family had medical needs.
She was there just days before Yaniel ended up in the ER, "How could she not see it, he had bones showing in his face?"
We asked DCFS the same question, and they gave us this statement:
The case worker assigned to the Rivera case resigned April 28, 2014. Yaniel is a remarkable child – we're amazed at his strength and grateful that his recovery continues to go well. According to medical experts, the malnutrition which doctors later diagnosed is a condition that is not readily apparent to non-medical professionals. The perpetrator - his mother, who was sentenced to 19 years - was skilled at disguising and covering her crime; she fooled family members, neighbors and others who regularly came in contact with Yaniel. This case emphasizes the fact that we cannot do this job alone. We need the entire community to take a role in the very big job of keeping children safe.
Amazingly, Yaniel is doing very well now living with his father. He has speech and physical therapy every week, but it will take a long time to recover.
"He is my Superman," said Victor.
Follow WKYC's Kim Wheeler on Twitter: @KimWheelerWKYC