As I write this, the news is on fire with the story of Torry Hansen “returning” her seven-year-old adopted son to his birth country of Russia via one-way airline ticket. As the adoptive mom of a mentally ill child (albeit domestically), I’m interested in the story. But I’d rather blog today about the Westcotts.
The Westcotts live in Oklahoma and adopted a nine-year-old boy from foster care who was so violent and dangerous he set their home on fire, leaving a note that said, “I’m sorry you had to die.” They’ve found knives and lighters hidden in his room. He’s killed small animals. He rages violently out of control. He has been in a long-term psychiatric treatment facility for a year, but he will be released to their custody soon, and the Westcotts are terrified. They want to dissolve their adoption. Their son has been diagnosed with reactive attachment disorder, PTSD, and major depressive disorder.
When the Westcotts read the DCFS documentation on their son pre-adoption, he was described as “well-behaved,” with “no difficulties with attachments and knows right from wrong,” who “(does) not demonstrate any significant behavioral problems which would be considered abnormal for a child his age.” Additionally, the boy’s foster mother says she contacted DCFS to tell them of his violent tendencies before he was placed for adoption.
So what are the Westcotts to do? They are trying to dissolve their adoption but in Oklahoma, as in most other states, it’s simply legally impossible without suing DCFS. They can’t refuse to pick up their child from treatment without risking being charged with felony child abandonment. If they receive an adoption subsidy (and I don’t know if they do), the Oklahoma adoption subsidy for an emotionally disturbed child is about $575 a month – a far cry from what long-term residential treatment would cost if the Westcotts paid out of pocket. Yet if their son had remained in foster care, the state would place him in therapeutic care or a residential treatment facility with no issues. Oklahoma has one state-run psychiatric facility for children and adolescents and, if Oklahoma is like most other states, the facility is probably full of children who have their treatment paid for my state Medicaid – wards of the state (note: I could find no statistics on the percentage of the population that is in DCFS custody).
The Westcott’s child needs more help than they can financially (if not emotionally) provide. It seems to me that, if the State of Oklahoma’s goal is really to preserve the adoption, they would extend Medicaid to this child so that he can remain in intensive treatment as long as needed. I’d like to extend an invitation to the Westcotts to join other parents who understand their situation at both the CABF Adoption Support Group and at The Village Project parental support group. I feel for them, as well as for their child. This is a wicked road to hoe for any parent. I hope the state helps keep this family together with the support and services they need.