There’s a reason people like me are needed throughout the US — people willing to adopt an older “special-needs” child as opposed to a more-or-less fresh-from-the-package infant.
Special needs is an unfortunate term to use, though, because of the ramifications associated with the phrase special education. The latter generally refers to pullout educational programs intended for developmentally-disadvantaged students, kids with diagnosable organic conditions that put them behind their peers, usually both academically and socially, and generally permanently. A much less polite term for such kids is retarded.
Special needs kids, though, in the adoption world, are basically kids old enough to remember a time before they came to live with their adoptive parent/s (with everything that implies). There’s often no other condition they have than this, but it’s enough to cause them to be defined as special-needs placements.
They almost certainly have psychological and emotional issues, yes; but these are not organic and likely can be overcome with a mix of therapy, possibly some short-term meds, and a consistent, stable and loving home life.
Where do these kids come from? Generally they’re taken from homes that are simply unsuitable for them. For instance, the young children of Jessica Botzko, who kept her sons locked into a two-by-two-foot dog cage when they misbehaved, and who may have used shock collars on them as well. She was sentenced to just below the maximum (5 years) this week for her crimes.
Jessica Botzko, 28, apologized before the sentencing, saying that her time spent in jail the past six months “has really opened my eyes to the pain I was my causing children.”
I haven’t followed the case that closely — I didn’t have the stomach for it — but I gather that Ms. Botzko is actually getting the idea that she did something wrong, and that the state of Ohio made the right decision in placing her children elsewhere and in putting her in prison. To me, this feels a lot like progress.
This might not be the case with another mother, Chytoria Graham, who used her four-week-old son as a weapon in a fight with her boyfriend, swinging the boy like a club. The infant’s skull was fractured as a result. Her response to her conviction was not one of regret or reflection; it reads a lot more like self-pity. She “fell into the fetal position“1 and then, apparently, into histrionics.
“Oh my God,” Graham cried. “Oh my God, Oh my God. No, no, no.”
Yes, yes, yes.2 She faces a mandatory minimum five years in prison for her actions. Hopefully she’ll have some time to think about what she did, why it was wrong, and maybe even change her life to the point that it won’t happen again.
Of course, given the way prison facility quality has been steadily declining in the US, that might be a forlorn hope.
But it’s not just kids being victimized; sometimes they plan to make victims of others as well. Ms. Graham hails from Pennsylvania; so does the as-yet-unnamed 14-year-old boy who was busily accumulating a weapons cache in his home, apparently intent on perpetrating some level of violence.
The weapons included a 9mm assault rifle that the teenager’s mother had recently bought for him, Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr. said. Prosecutors are reviewing her actions.
Police also found about 30 air-powered guns, plus swords, knives, hand grenades, a bomb-making book, videos of the 1999 Columbine attack in Colorado and violence-filled notebooks, Castor said. The weapons were plainly visible in the boy’s bedroom, Castor said.
This one is actually a bit harder for me to understand than the previous two stories, which have to do mostly with extremely poor responses to stressful situations in arguably-unbalanced adults.
But I find it extremely difficult to believe that either of the boy’s parents could have been so oblivious that the idea he was assembling a stack of “plainly visible” weapons, along with what is presumably a high-powered semiautomatic rifle, didn’t register as at least a small warning sign that maybe the kid had some issues.
I’m sure that parenting is fraught with all sorts of potential pitfalls. Being overprotective or domineering is no better than being lax and disconnected. Finding that center and walking it all the time will be, without doubt, impossible; I’m sure there’ll be things I overlook and I’m sure I’ll find myself being too authoritative from time to time.
But you can be pretty damn sure that if Yoshi ever asks me to buy him a semiautomatic assault-style rifle, my answer will be absolute, definite and unchanging. There is no rational reason for a civilian adult to have such a weapon. To put one into the hands of a child is not only senseless, but approaching indefensible.
1. It’s tempting to make a snide comment on her choice of positions, but I won’t.
2. I realize I sound a bit callous here. I am. She was drunk, and she used her own month-old child as a weapon in a brawl. It’s hard for me to work up a hell of a lot of sympathy for her right now.
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