Crime, Punishment, and the Undervalued Lives of Adopted Children

“If the court can think of no better conclusion than abuse of adopted children as “an act of charity gone awry,” clearly it has failed to acknowledge the humanity of these children. Adoption is not charity. Adoptees are not charity cases. The rights of these children have been violated and the court’s response is morally bankrupt at very best.” – Amanda H.L. Transue Woolston

Light of Day Stories

Imagine you are the mother or father of a 5-year-old little boy and a 1-year-old baby girl. For complicated reasons, you must put the children in the care of others. In this case, the children will be sent to live with a lawyer and his college-educated wife who live in a big house with a nice yard for kids. Good people.

About 6 months after your children have been with this couple, your baby daughter is diagnosed with retinal hemorrhaging, brain injuries, and fractures of the skull and femur. Baby girl’s leg apparently was broken for about 3 months before the couple sought medical help. Your little boy is hospitalized because of a body temperature of 93.6, an infection, possible hypothermia, and malnourishment. In fact, the boy had lost about 10 pounds, or about a third of his body weight, at the time he was admitted to the hospital. Both…

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One response to “Crime, Punishment, and the Undervalued Lives of Adopted Children

  1. Allow me to preface my remarks with the statement that people like these are why the phrase “to hang by the neck until you are dead” is in the lexicon and, if it were up to me, that’s exactly what they would do.

    That being said, I think that asserting that adopted childrens’ lives are “undervalued” is a mischaracterization. Consider the perpetrators:

    “…a lawyer and his college-educated wife who live in a big house with a nice yard for kids…”

    “… he was a state prosecutor; she a stay-at-home mom…”

    And they are white. Hmmmm…. White, well-to-do people connected with the criminal justice system? Who pleaded no contest? Are we to be astonished that they got off easy? The judge’s idiot statements about “an act of charity gone awry” and that the Barbours acted “without malice” sound to me like pathetic attempts at putting a good face on letting two hoodlums get away with it. Too bad there’s no law against a judge being a fool.

    The unfortunate fact of the matter is that our justice system doesn’t work as well as we could wish. Career criminals with lengthy records of violent offenses are routinely set at liberty because the prisons are overcrowded or because they managed to convince a too-credulous parole board that they’ve been rehabilitated or because well-intentioned people think that every convict is Jean Valjean instead of Richard Allen Davis (the career criminal who murdered Polly Klaas in 1993). I suggest that, in this case, it’s an example of the “one of us” mentality: the judge looked at a wealthy, educated, white couple (one of whom worked in the criminal justice system!) and saw himself in a way that he WOULDN’T have done had they been poor, uneducated, and minority. The childrens’ status as adoptees might even have swayed him TOWARDS the parents.

    I further suggest that the children suffered not because they were seen as “adopted”, but rather because they were seen as the Barbours’ children. I’m not an expert on child custody laws, but I believe I’m correct in saying that the courts and DSS are loathe to take a child out of his home without VERY solid evidence of abuse / neglect as they have a duty not only to protect the child but also the rights of the parents / guardians to raise their children as they see fit*, don’t want to traumatize a child who HASN’T been abused (false alarm), and also don’t want the negative publicity that comes from snatching a child from a good though possibly strict home. Now, it sounds to me like DSS dropped the ball… or possibly nobody filed a complaint. They can’t act if they don’t know. It would be of great interest to known more about the post-placement activities though, based on my own experiences, the agency could very well be ignorant that children had been placed with brutes; apparently, the Barbours wasted no time in abusing the children, something a six-month visit wouldn’t have been able to detect.

    Again, I deplore this crime – and it IS a crime – and would very much like to see the culprits on a gallows. But I really think it’s a stretch to say that the children suffered and the parents are getting off easy just because the children were adopted.


    (*) For example: To provide for services for the protection of juveniles by means that respect both the right to family autonomy and the juveniles’ needs for safety, continuity, and permanence…

    North Carolina General Statutes, Chapter 7B-100(3)


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