MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The murder of 9-year-old Alejandro Ripley sent shock waves through South Florida.

His own mother, Patrcia Ripley, is currently in jail, charged with his murder.

Investigators say she attempted to drown him two different times. The second time proved fatal.

In light of this, organizations like the Friendship Circle want parents to know there is help available to hopefully prevent another tragedy.

“The special needs community feels very heartbroken,” said Rabbi Yossi Harlig, fighting back tears. “It’s very painful, and they want to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

He is the director of Friendship Circle Miami, an organization that helps children with special needs.

While he did not know Alejandro personally, the news hit a chord.

“You feel like you’re all part of the same family. You identify with each other. You understand each other. I felt right away that we need to do something,” he explained.

The Friendship Circle held a vigil in Alejandro’s honor.  They now want to provide a safe space, not just for the children, but also the parents.

Rabbi Harlig is calling it the Lifeline Project.

“One of the big things I see is being the emotional support for the families, so that they can have an outlet – someone to call, that they can talk to and get advice on where to go,” said Rabbi Harlig.

He suggests reaching out to loved ones who have children with special needs. He also says if parents need help, they need to be open and honest.

“If you need support, get out there,” he said. “People want to help you. People want to be there for you. People care about you. You just have to reach out.”

If you think someone may be struggling, he suggests asking questions like:

Are you feeling overwhelmed?

Have you had thoughts of hurting yourself or your child?

If they say yes, there are several resources:

  • You can call 211 First Call for Help
  • JAFCO Children’s Ability Center 24-hour support line at (954) 319-6715
  • Friendship Circle of Miami (305) 234-5654
  • Friendship Circle of Broward (954) 445-8936

Karli Barnett

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