Nanny 911 5/9/05 23 special needs children?!?

Did anyone watch this show last night? The family had 23 adopted sons- all with special needs. Even the father was in a wheelchair. Something about the situation really rubbed me the wrong way. It was like they were hoarding children the way some people hoard pets. The mother struck me as someone who was walking a line between normal and munchausen’s syndrome by proxy. I know she didn’t make the kids disabled, but she seemed really cocky about the fact that she cared for all these special needs boys- as if no one else could.
I’m not saying that having adopted or foster children is bad, but 23, and a disabled husband too? There’s no way those kids are getting the attention they deserve. What do you think?

The show’s website with bios is at It’s episode 16.
Warning: there are embedded screaming children sounds in the website.

I saw the last 5 minutes (waiting for “24” to start). I kind of wondered the same thing, but I guess you have to ask: is there a better alternative available?

The system seemed to work for them, even though it was too dependent on the mother. With the nannies finally getting the boys to take more responsibility for cleaning up after themselves and doing the dishes, it can work better.

True, Mom was on her feet all day, but Dad seemed to be a full-time lovegiver. I don’t see a point in questioning their life decisions - the boys they’ve taken in are in a better situation by far for it. I don’t think it’s fair to accuse them of martyrdom. My only question is what they use for income.

I thought the exact same thing. I thought it was just me, that I watch too many animal-cop shows… Good to see I wasn’t the only one who got that vibe from the show.

Same here - I saw that and thought how if the kids were cats, the local SPCA would be all over them for hoarding and take all but two or three to the shelter.

If the logic is that you can’t provide proper care for more than three cats, how can you provide proper care for 23 attention and resource-absorbing children?

And how do they afford it? This part brings to mind an episode of Futurama where Bender takes on a gaggle of orphans, blinded by the monthly government payments, and shocked that he actually has to feed and care for them. Are these people receiving some huge amount of grant money? Their food and utility bills must be otheworldly. (They wash every load of clothes twice?!)

Most states provide a stipend to you if you take on foster kids. I assume there might be an added amount for a special needs kid.

They said several times that all the boys were adopted, not foster cases. Also, they said they have 32 sons, “only” 23 of whom are still at home with them.

The father said he became quadriplegic because of a diving accident, but perhaps there’s still some insurance settlement annuity involved.

Maybe no one else would. Special needs children are by definition hard to place.

The parents seemed to genuinely care for the boys and were able to provide for them.

The mother ran a fairly tight ship, given the circumstances.

There was no discernable filth. This wasn’t some horror show.

Despite their disabilities, the boys seemed to care for each other and the parents, with a couple of exceptions, and the older one really brought them around when the nannies were alone with them.

I think you have to be crazy to do something like that, but it seemed to work. I doubt many of those boys would have found more caring homes.

Did they name them all Dave?

I didn’t see the show, but it does sound creepily Mia Farrow-y.

More info from their hometown paper

I haven’t seen the episode in question, but I wonder why folks are questioning the motives of the parents instead of praising them for truly demonstrating what compassion and caring is really about.

I could never take on a resonsibility like theirs, and I salute them for having the strength to do so.

I personally just got a feeling of “something’s not right here” when I watched the show. I feel toward the parents kind of like I do towards people who adopt pets:

Someone adopts one or two, maybe three, pets from the shelter: they’re good, compassionate people.

Someone adopts 23 pets from the shelter: why do they feel so compelled to do this over and over again?

I also got the feeling from the mother that she derives her identity almost entirely from taking care of so many special-needs kids. I don’t think that pigeonholing yourself into one role (however noble) like that is terribly healthy.

I also got a bit of a control-freak vibe from the mom. She talked about how she couldn’t give up control enough to leave her kids with someone else for a few days. My mom (who only had two non-special-needs kids) was like this, and it’s a big part of why we didn’t get along when I lived at home.

Anyhoo, that’s my rambling attempt to describe why I was uneasy with the family situation on this show.

60 Minutes did a story on them last year. They didn’t find anything particularly scandalous. The family gets by on charitable donations and government grant money. Personally, I don’t see them as any less functional than most families - a little odd, perhaps, but what family isn’t?

I couldn’t find a one-click link, but here’s my search page. Click the top result:

We have a somewhat similar family in my hometown. The parents have somewhere between 15 and 20 children IIRC, and all but one are special needs adoptions. The children attend public school in my former district.

I didn’t see this particular Nanny 911, but I did see the previews and got a similar vibe about the family that I know and the family on the show. It does seem a little odd, and I know that the children can’t possibly be getting enough attention, but it is certainly better than the alternative of having them continue in foster care.

[hijack]Their family cost the school district millions per year, because nearly every child needed a full-time aid to assist them through out their day, as well as special rooms for the braille machines, etc. I know that it’s selfish, but I’m not ashamed of myself when I think about how little money the rest of us got compared to these kids out of the school district budget.[/hijack]

  I'm not saying that they aren't compassionate or caring. I'm just saying that it struck me as a little odd to have ALL special needs children. Something just wasn't sitting right with me about that family situation. The mom did seem like her entire identity and existence revolved around being a mother to all these special needs boys. 
  If you read about animal hoarders, quite often a case comes up where a hoarder will have numerous sick and/or injured animals to care for, and seek them out from shelters specifically. This family reminded me of that. I know that's a terrible thing to say, but something in my gut told me that there was something off about that mother.

You know, maybe that’s true. Is that so bad? There are certainly worse things in life to devote your life to.

I saw the show. There was absolutely no mention of the ‘14 paid and volunteer’ assistants mentioned in the newspaper article, which strikes me as deliberately misleading. We were clearly meant to believe that this single woman, with the assistance of a paraplegic husband, cooked for and fed 25 people at each meal, did 25 loads of laundry, cleaned up, rode herd on the boys, delivered them to lessons and all…
As for the mother, I did get a bit of a feeling of pride from her, that SHE and ONLY SHE could take care of these boys, but the kids seemed more or less happy and thriving, and I certainly couldn’t take over her job.

All through the show, though, I kept wondering: why only boys??? Aren’t there disabled girls, too? Okay, when you’ve got 15 adopted boys, maybe it makes sense to only accept boys from then on…but what about the first two or three or four adoptions?

Any time I see a situation or person creating a situation that is so unbalanced between the sexes, little alarm bells start ringing.

Fox did the same thing! During the entire show I kept wondering how the hell the mother did it all and how they could afford it. And if they had 14 assistants did the nannies observe them too? If the only watched the mother do everything (most certainly not her normal routine!) then they got a very warped impression of the family!

I saw the 60 minutes show on this family, and I saw the Nanny show on them. First of all, these kids all came from pretty bad places like Russian orphanages and third world countries and stuff; the suburban middle-class atmosphere they are in now is a thousand times better than where they would be if they weren’t adopted by this family.

Why anyone would look down on the parents of this family for this enormous sacrifice is beyond me. The mother is protective and proud of her family; what mothers aren’t? Frankly her doubts about whether anyone could keep her kids in line were pretty well demonstrated when 3 trained professional “Super” Nannies tried to take her place and nearly got trampled.

And questioning why there are no girls?? You’ve got to be kidding me. You have 23 troubled and otherwise special needs boys living together and you want to throw in the added complication of girls into the mix?

I don’t, and never will have, the patience or energy to take care of a family remotely like this, and I don’t have any clue how the parents do it. But they do do it, the house is clean and the family loving, and why anyone would look down on them or speak porrly of the parents is beyond me.

Look, I’m not saying that they’re necessarily bad. My issue was that the mother seemed a little off to me. Why would you take on all these special needs cases when your husband is also disabled? Yes, they have volunteers to help with the kids, but I’m willing to bet that they didn’t have them when they started adopting. In my opinion, there is no way that one woman can give each special needs child the attention he so desperately needs. She is not a superwomen, and even though she has a staff to help with the kids, THEY ARE NOT PARENTS. It appears to me that she’s got a martyr complex and/or a collecter personality. Something in that situation just isn’t right. Kudos to her for adopting all these kids, but why so many? More children=more sympathy from outside.