Many months ago, Polimom wrote a post that wondered whether one could identify a future danger to society, and if so, what could be done about them. At the time, I was writing about a boy who could have lived next door to any of us… but how many kids like this do you suppose there are out there in the world? (WaPo)
A talkative 9-year-old boy came to Helen Briggs on Valentine’s Day 2000. She was a foster mother with years of tough love and scores of troubled kids behind her. But she grew to love this boy. Within the year, she’d talked her husband into adopting him.
Now, six years later, Briggs and her husband, James, a maintenance worker for the city of Alexandria, are taking the highly unusual step of trying to unadopt him.
In 2003, when the boy was 12, he sexually molested a 6-year-old boy and a 2-year-old girl still in diapers. She said it was only then, as she waited outside the courtroom for his sexual battery hearing and caseworkers handed her his psychological profile, that she found out just how damaged the boy had been when he came into her life.
Damaged scarcely begins to cover it:
He’d been hospitalized seven times in psychiatric institutions and diagnosed as possibly psychotically bipolar. He’d thrown knives, kicked in walls, pulled out all his hair and threatened to kill himself. He’d heard voices telling him to do bad things. His confidential case file shows he most likely was sexually abused.
Polimom has so many problems with this story, it’s hard to know where to start.
There are the legal aspects:
The court has allowed her to relinquish custody, and so he’s technically back in foster care. Briggs is also asking to relinquish her parental rights, saying that the state didn’t disclose his full history to her. Since he’s over the age of 14, though,he must give consent… and this boy wants Briggs to be his “forever mom”.
Aside from the adoptive nature of the relationship (which, as I understand it, is as legally binding as having given birth), it’s interesting that there are different ages of consent for legal issues — particularly in light of recent discussions surrounding the Foley matter. Why would they differ? And what is gained by forcing the relationship (besides $ for the state for his care)?
Then there are the social aspects:
Just how many “badly damaged” kids are there like this in the various childrens’ agencies? I’d like to think that a boy like this is rare, and indeed, the level of danger he presents to society (and himself) is probably unusual at age 12 — but we read stories all the time about dangerous kids…. and even more stories about what those kids do once they’re grown.
Our entire system is set up to keep a child with its biological parents if at all possible, sometimes returning them again and again to dysfunctional, abusive homes… yet it’s obvious that there are people who simply should not be parents, or even have children. What weight, if any, should we give to society’s right to be safe, to balance against a right to have children?
And finally, there are the personal aspects:
Just last week, Polimom wrote to the State of Texas, requesting information about foster care. We have a big house, sufficient time and resources, and loads of love to share.
We also have AC.
Polimom, DH, and AC have talked about this a number of times; we want to welcome children into our home — to give them structure, consistency, and opportunities. However, this story makes clear that there are very real risks, to lives and to hearts.
First, she wanted him home after he had completed his sex offender treatment. But then psychologists deemed him a “sexual predator.” That meant Briggs could no longer be a foster parent, which she considers her job. Nor could she allow her three grandchildren in her house. Nor could she keep a little girl she had cared for since the day she was born.
She had to choose.
“You don’t want to throw somebody away,” she said. “But sometimes you have to.”
That last line hit me hard…