Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Washington State Notes Spike in Starvation of Adopted Children

A commenter mentioned this report in the comments to the Right/Wrong reasons to adopt post, so I thought I'd move it "above the fold," for more potential discussion:
An alleged child starvation case near Longview is one of more than a dozen cases -- including one death -- that have state officials reviewing how adopted children are placed and treated.

The number of abuse cases is small compared to all adoptions. But a string of high- profile child starvation cases last year -- including one from May accusing Jeffrey and Rebecca Trebilcock of starving their five adopted children at their Bunker Hill-area home in Cowlitz County -- has state officials alarmed.

"Starting in the beginning of 2011 we started seeing a cluster effect of these types of cases," said Mary Meinig, director of the state's Family and Children's Ombudsman office, who included a section about adoption abuse in her annual report, released last week.

* * *

Officials are concerned at the severity of these cases, the apparent spike in them and that so many seem to involve adopted children. The adoption cases are particularly concerning because screening by the state or private adoption agencies should catch unfit parents before children are placed.

Dr. Frances Chalmers, a Mount Vernon pediatrician who consults with DSHS, began to get a "nagging feeling" that something was up and started tracking starvation cases herself. Meinig started doing the same, finding 15 adoption or guardianship cases since 2009 that involved starvation or severe abuse. Eleven of those cases were in 2011.
The Governor has appointed a study group to consider these cases and the following questions:
•Are neglect and abuse -- including withholding food -- on the rise and are they more prevalent in adoptive homes?
•Did a rapid increase in adoptions let some unfit parents slip through the cracks?
•Does the adoption process itself need to be reworked?
•Does age, race or gender play a role in abuse of adopted children?
I think the article does a good job of offering appropriate caveats that correlation doesn't equal causation, of fleshing out the statistics in this small pool of cases, and of explaining the complex issues the study group will be examining.  So read the whole thing.


Jen said...

I can't tell you how much I appreciate you drawing attention to this terrible crisis going on within adoptive homes in Washington State. It is very sad. So glad the Governor is willing to address these preventable tragedies.

Momma C said...

I would be interested to see too if the children involved are all international or domestic adoptees, if they are all children adopted at an older age and/or if they are children of color. There has been some speculation in at least one case the child was adopted from Ethiopia not as a daughter, but as a servant.

Anonymous said...

There was a similar case in New Jersey several years ago:

New Jersey Couple Charged With Starving 4 Adopted Sons

Of note:

"Also living in the Jackson house were two girls, ages 5 and 12, whom the couple had also adopted from the foster-care system; a foster daughter, 10, whom they were planning to adopt; and two of the couple's adult biological children -- a son and a daughter."

"None of the children other than the four boys appeared to be malnourished, Sarubbi said. The family had received a stipend of as much as $28,000 a year from the state to take care of the adopted children and their foster daughter, investigators said. That stipend was reduced when the oldest boy turned 18."

I wonder how much of the problem is due to these "multiple adopters" and the money factor? Personally, I do not think any state should allow one family to adopt more than 1-2 children from foster care. Of course, this is a completely different scenario than parents who choose to adopt privately, not through the foster care system, where the adoptive parent must pay to adopt the child and care for the child and where there is no financial incentive from the state to adopt a child.

Anonymous said...

There's a nut in every basket. And Im sure you can find any adult situation of abuse if you look for it. However, I really am concerned about the latest way China is dishing out matches, with SN being the new normal, and now SF (Special Focus) being considered even faster for PAPs. Not everyone is equipped to handle SN, and especially SF children, and for those waiting years upon years, Im sure it seems appealing. And Ive also heard that China is rewarding the agencies who place more SF children, with more portfolios of children who have minor SNs. So, agencies might not be preparing PAPs as adequately as necessary because of the "cookie" they get for placing more SF children. Many of us saw Russia's IA program stopped before our very eyes because they were promoting children with FAS, and older child adoption with probable attachment disorders, and the APs were ill equipped to handle the children.
But then, as I stated earlier, this could be a very slick person who would be abusing their bio child or a pet for that matter, if they did not adopt.
I've heard of more abuse through foster care than adoption, both domestic and IA combined.