A photo that breaks one's heart

Look at this photo for a moment.

A loving mother and father who obviously adore their young son. The boy is adopted and has special needs and the parents seem very proud of him.

Now read the story behind the photo.

I find this so sad. What would drive such a couple (if indeed they did it) to murder this poor child in cold blood? The story reports that he had bowel issues and difficulty containing urine and I’m sure that must be difficult to deal with but if the pressure was too great couldn’t they just return the child? I find this really difficult to understand.

Perhaps they didn’t want to disrupt the adoption knowing that a lot of people would judge them for doing that. When everyone thought that poor boy had died accidentally, they were getting a lot of sympathy and donations instead of negative judgements.

Personally, though, I agree that if people can’t handle a child’s needs then I would much rather see them just admit it and place the child with someone else than do something like this. :frowning:

Support for caretakers in this country is shit. The social safety net for the disabled is shit. A certain number of people are going to break under the stress.

Holy crap - did you really just say that?

People are NOT library books, no you can’t “just return them”!

What do you think adoption is? Adoption means you are just as legally and morally responsible for that child as if he was your biological child born from your body. It’s not a glorified baby-sitting service where people can give the kid back when they’re tired of dealing with the kid.

That said - yes, they SHOULD have either sought help, or surrendered the child to an agency that would see that he was cared for. Problem is the societal pressure to never, ever admit that a parent is struggling to care for a child, for whatever reason - which is part of how caretakers are treated like shit in this country. It’s why things like respite care are critical. Granted, I don’t know the full story here, but I have to wonder how these people got to the point of murder.

According to an articlelinked in the one quoted above, the couple had adopted their son six or seven years ago. This wasn’t a matter of going through the process, which makes it that much worse.

Also, the mother is expecting. This is not going to end well for anyone.

Aside from the difficulty of “returning” an adopted child, I would think that the couple wouldn’t want to be judged. (People might think things like “How could they give up their child?”) Had they not gotten caught, people would be sad for their horrible fate and treat them sympathetically.

Brevity may not be the soul of wit but of misunderstanding. The phrasing was infelicitous.

I certainly didn’t mean that children were like library books, simply that they should have gone back to the adoption agency and told them they weren’t coping and if they kept the child they feared for the consequences. There surely has to be some mechanism for that and it was to such a mechanism that I was referring.

Perhaps sadly in some cases, it is NOT easy to terminate parental responsibility in the US.

You can divorce your spouse, but there isn’t a mechanism to “divorce” your kid.

Whether the kid is yours by birth or by adoption you basically have two choices:

1) Abandon the kid. This can actually work, but it’s going to screw up retaining any other children you may have (remember, mom in this scenario is pregnant) and may also open you up to legal penalties. The state might well come after you for financial support even if you’re no longer allowed to see the kid.

2) Lengthy court process with no guarantee of success. You could try to find some sort of agency to take the kid on and surrender rights to that agency… but that’s going to be harder to find. It’s a lot harder to surrender custody of a kid out of infancy, much less one nearly grown. Virtually no chance of a kid that age and disabled being adopted.

Oh, of course, there’s murder the kid but of course that’s not legal or moral.

The legal system in the US is currently set up to try reunite families - it ignores that some families shouldn’t be reunited. Even if the parents abandoned the kid the authorities will try to locate the parents and get them to re-assume responsibility for the kid. I don’t think there’s a good answer for some of these situations.

Thank you, Broomstick, that’s really informative. I’m not up to speed on the adoption process.

You’re welcome.

Another part of the problem is the notion that “love conquers all” and parents are going to somehow be able to cope with whatever is thrown at them. The last is paired with the notion that if the parents can’t cope with [insert whatever disability/disaster/etc] that they are incompetent to care for children at all, all of which discourages overwhelmed parents from seeking help in at least some cases.

No, love does NOT conquer all.

Due to the jacked-up means of delivering health care in this country, a disabled child can financially break all but the wealthiest families.

Especially as parents age, but even before then, dealing with a disabled child, especially a grown one, can be physically taxing or even hazardous for the parents (Think about a small, frail, 80 year old mother trying to get a six foot tall but paralyzed son in and out of a wheelchair on her own - yes, there are mechanical lifts to assist with that, but they cost money and if it breaks you still have to take care of the person).

As parents and child age, but the child is stuck at a level that that will require significant on-going care for life, you then have the problem of whose responsible after the parents are gone, which is yet another source of stress.
One anecdote from my extended family - I have a nephew who suffered a severe brain injury after he was a fully independent adult. The immediate assumption of the legal and social systems was that his parents would instantly take over as his guardians again, AND would take over all his debts and costs even though he’d been out of the house and self-supporting for a number of years at that point. Even though everyone concerned thought that that was NOT in nephew’s best interests* it took years to transfer guardianship of him to a trust. That’s without a foster care system attempting to “re-unite” the family.

  • His parents are divorced. His father is quite elderly. The sister in question was impoverished and barely able to take care of herself, much less anyone else. I mean, she was couch-surfing until someone bought her a used car, then she lived out of the car for nearly a year - and she’s supposed to take care of someone with an acute brain injury needing round the clock supervision and rehab? And pay his bills? Fortunately things have improved for everyone concerned, but still…

I have great empathy for caretakers in the US and cannot begin to imagine how difficult that must be. I would advocate for stronger supportive services for folks going through such a challenging experience.

That said, these parents can burn in hell.

(FWIW, I’ve heard of people surrendering their kids later in life after having adopted them for years. I’m not claiming it’s easy, and also I would like to punch those people in the face. But I guess it’s better than murder.)

Look, if parents decided they can’t deal with whatever a problem is I would far FAR rather they surrender the child than “punch them in the face”.

My Mom contacted a lawyer when I was sixteen to see if she could legally stop taking care of me. They didn’t receive her well, but it spawned a year-long ‘‘if you don’t behave perfectly from now on I’m going to throw you out of the house’’ campaign that ended with me walking out at seventeen (I had the able-bodied privilege to do so.) I spent most of my teen years getting shat on for being such a burden.

And as a student of social work, I am haunted by the case of Danieal Kelly, whose mother left her 13-year-old developmentally disabled daughter to rot with maggot-infested bedsores before she died of dehydration. My sympathies do not lie with the parents in these cases.

Well, no, I’m not sympathetic to those cases, either, but if there was less stigma on surrendering children AND an actual humane way to take care of such children we’d all be better off,

But that’s not the real world.

I should add - Danieal’s case was also the result of the negligence of the contracted social workers assigned to her case, who fraudulently reported their check-ins with the family when in fact they had not followed up. This buttresses your argument that caretaker support networks are shit.

The tragedy is that there is a world of progression between ‘‘hey, being a caretaker is stressing me out’’ and ‘‘let’s murder our child’’ and I suspect intervention at earlier points would prevent a lot more people from reaching that fatal extreme. I think we both agree on that point. I just have a special bitterness toward people who reject their children, because of my own life and because of what I have seen happen to others. The one thing kids need most, above all else, is unconditional acceptance. If you are not prepared to offer that to your child, you shouldn’t be a parent. That includes whether or not your kid is disabled, abused, behaviorally challenging, homosexual or trans, etc. etc.

Is it easy? I’m not a parent yet, but I’m going to guess hell no. I’m going to guess that sometimes it’s the hardest thing ever. But that’s what being a parent should be. I believe that because I didn’t have that, and I needed it.

Is that hypocritical? Today the parents who were considering placing their children for adoption with us didn’t show up to the agency. I’m not surprised that they changed their mind, but I found myself defending their choice to consider adoption today. I don’t view what they were considering as abandoning their children. I think the difference is whether they are doing what they view as best for the children vs. what is best for themselves. I don’t know. It’s been an emotional couple of weeks. (shit, for you too, Broomstick. hugs)

I haven’t seen Manchester by the Sea. How did they get an idea from a movie to do this?

When I was in social work, I saw lots of elderly parents trying to take care of developmentally disabled adults children. It was unfortunate, but they felt they were abandoning their children in they moved them into group homes of semi-independent systems of some kind. The hard part was even if the “child” didn’t require a lot of physical care, they would eventually have to move into some kind of assisted living when their parents died. And then they always associated the new living situation with the death of their parents. Even when parents do care, and care well for their disabled children to early adulthood, they should move into some kind of independence from their parents some time between age 18 and 25. But parents experience a lot of pressure and feelings of guilt and shame if they don’t keep their disabled adult children at home.

People do get pushed to the breaking point by this ridiculous expectation. I was very glad that we got people to accept respite care and other sorts of help.

Spice Weasel I think part of the problem is when people get in over their head, get overwhelmed, and can no longer handle the situation. I doubt the people in the OP intended to reach that state when they adopted their son, but what happens when someone thinks they can handle a given situation but down the road it becomes apparent they can’t? You can’t always know in advance how things will work out.

Yes, recent weeks have been shit.

This does tie in somewhat with the situation I faced with my husband. I was getting a LOT of pressure from a particular social worker to care for him at home (I’m sure discharging him to home was a lot easier for her than trying to help me find some alternative). I’m talking intense pressure, up to and including telling a terminally ill man that of course you can go home if that’s what you want and making him promises that couldn’t be kept. Well, I’m stubborn as hell, AND I knew from past experience caring for the dying what I could and couldn’t do, AND I have very little reliable help available here… and finally I called her boss and said I can no longer work with this person, she harms more than she helps, and gave very specific instances of what was wrong with this working relationship. And I got a different social worker who I actually could work with. However, not everyone is going to be able to stand up for themselves in those circumstances. What if I hadn’t had any experience caring for seriously ill people at home before? What if I had a half dozen family members agreeing with this woman telling him to take him home? What if I had no notion I could protest what this woman was doing?

If I had caved into her, in that final month, I probably would have had to call an ambulance for my husband within 24-48 hours, and at best he’d be cycling between home and hospital, and I know that after a few rounds of that Adult Protective Services might get involved because, holy cow, this guy is bouncing back and forth here and that’s just not right, and things could get ugly.

Yes, it was hard as hell admitting I could no longer take care of him at home, especially since we both wanted him to be home, but I also knew that trying to care for him at home was not in anyone’s best interests. In the end, the ONLY way to keep him comfortable and non-delirious was as an inpatient, in a hospital bed. If I hadn’t been able to admit that… well, it would have been pretty awful. Yet I still had Evil Social Worker, the health insurance company, and a doctor INSISTING that I could have taken care of him at home. (Fortunately, I had other people on my side advocating for him and me) The doctor I mentioned was trying to guilt trip me before I told him to get lost, we were going to have the oncologist run things, not him.

When even medical people and social workers are leaning on people to take the ill/dying/severely disabled home despite the caretaker protesting the situation wasn’t safe or tolerable, and you add in either socially isolated people, or families that also lean on the caretaker to take the person home, and so on, then you get situations with overburdened caretakers with inadequate resources, inadequate help, and overwhelming stress and exhaustion… and you get tragedies.

So yeah, the situation with my husband was different than parents with a severely disabled child… but it was also different because my situation was time-limited, too. For parents of kids that will never be independent there is NO end in sight. Ever. It’s endless. It’s a life sentence with no parole. Is it a wonder that some of them get desperate?

The article already spoiled it unfortunately, because it’s an amazingly devastating scene. You know that Casey Affleck is divorced and just functional enough to exist but you don’t know why. Gradually they reveal he was a dad of three little kids (one is a baby) and goes to the store after making a fire to warm up the house. He doesn’t remember if he put the screen up. He returns to the house completely engulfed in flame and his wife being held back by the firefighters, screaming “my kids are in there!” But the furnace has exploded and no one can go back in. It’s horrific and you just can’t imgaine such a thing. He explains it all to the cops and they say OK, he is free to go. “I can go?” He can’t comprehend that he isn’t being punished because of course he thinks he should be. So he spends the rest of the time in mourning/self-blame/devastation. Such a good movie! And without the Hollywood ending, which makes it even better.

I think she meant that while she can sympathize with how hard it was for the parents, she still wants to punch THEM in the face.