I was recently reading a story in the CBS News Archives about an Ohio couple who were the adoptive parents of eleven special needs children ranging in age from 14 to 1. Some of the disabilities of the children included autism and fetal alcohol syndrome. Apparently, this couple had been keeping the children in cages at night. The cages were reported to be homemade, constructed of wood and chicken wire, and were approximately three feet by six feet wide… but the exact dimensions are in dispute. There was no bedding in the cages, and some had locks or were blocked off by furniture. Authorities said that the whole place reeked of urine.
People who knew the family reported that the children had always appeared to be well-dressed, and had good behavior and manners. They were seen playing outside happily as most children do. There were no obvious signs of physical abuse, but neighbors said they often heard the children crying at night. The children did not attend public school, but were homeschooled by their adoptive parents.
When authorities came on the scene, they noted that most of the cages were empty, but a few still had children in them. They also observed that one of the cages had its wire partially pried off, as if a child were desperately trying to get out.
The couple explained during a custody hearing that the children were kept in cages “for their own protection–from themselves and each other.” Since the children had no other obvious signs of abuse or malnourishment, the fate of this couple was uncertain. Prosecutors in Ohio had to decide whether to press charges, and what those charges may be.
So many questions came to my mind as I read this story. First, I wonder whether couples should be allowed to adopt special needs children in such high numbers without frequent scrutiny from social workers? Raising eleven average children would be challenging by itself. But caring for eleven special needs children is a monumental task. Who was checking in with this family, to follow-up after the adoptions? Was this couple expert at hiding the caged-in truth, or was nobody visiting the home, anyway? Were adoption agencies only too happy to give away kids with disabilities, so nobody even bothered to investigate the home?
Children Without Voices
It would seem to me that special needs children should require an even greater amount of care in adoption placement. These kids are so vulnerable that they are potential “victims without a voice.” I’ll bet that there are many other special needs children in this country (and all over the world) who are suffering from various forms of abuse and neglect. Who is looking in on these kids?
I’d like to add that I do know there are many fabulous parents out there who have extended their hearts, homes, and unconditional love to adopt children with special needs. It takes very extraordinary individuals to give love to a child that, right from the start, will have differences and challenges. I applaud these noble parents.
Freedom and Pain
I was pleased to read that these eleven children have now been placed in foster homes, and are free from their wooden pens. However, they were confused and heartbroken at the loss of their parents and adoptive siblings. They had never known any other existence or lifestyle than the one these parents provided them with. The system certainly failed these kids.
Make sure you tuck your children warmly into bed tonight, and give them a great big hug and a kiss.
Kristyn Crow is the author of this blog. Visit her website by clicking here. Some links on this blog may have been generated by outside sources are not necessarily endorsed by Kristyn Crow.