Food Abuse Part I: Starvation

By on 5-24-2012 in Abuse in adoption, Abuse in foster care, Food Abuse, Washington

Food Abuse Part I: Starvation
Rally has been working on addressing the issue of food abuse after numerous cases of starvation in adoptive/foster placements came to light in Washington state (we now refer to this as the starvation state). Officials there became so alarmed they formed a working group to address it.
REFORM Talk would like to add some information and commentary about this serious and disturbing issue from the perspective of those who have had their ears to the ground in the adoption community for years. We don’t claim to have all of the answers, but do have some educated theories on the subject. We will discuss the issue of food abuse in two parts, the first addressing the most serious aspect, when children die from starvation.  Parents in this piece refers to either foster or adoptive.In looking at this, we have to acknowledge that both the child and parents have normal desires. Children need for their needs to be met and adults want order and healthy functioning in their homes. Neither are unreasonable.
The major theme we have seen play out in food abuse cases is a forced-control/punishment parenting approach to dealing with normal family integration issues or real mental health issues. In order for the child to learn self-control and self-discipline, their basic needs need to be met as well as their past traumas dealt with. When traumatized children are placed with underprepared families who do not have this understanding, the result is a downward spiral of children not getting their needs met followed by the child’s natural reaction to that—exhibiting behaviors that are on a scale of anywhere from annoying to deceitful to destructive to dangerous. When a child does not automatically fold into the existing family culture the adults become frantic to establish order and control in the home.What we see happening in case after case are parents who have preconceived false notions about how and when a child will integrate into their family and home life. They lack skills and the ability to meet the child’s needs at the child’s level of trauma and fear. They lack resources and support to accomplish this as well, and the newly placed child also suffers as do all other children already in the home. The child who is afraid and traumatized is expected to settle in and quickly adapt to the new and foreign home life. They are expected to be happy that they now live with a family. This ludicrous expectation is regularly propagated by the adoption industry and foster community.
The child may react to their new environment in different ways, but most seek to maintain some control over their fears, uncertainty, new and unfamiliar dynamics, and environment. Sometimes in very chaotic, unregulated and, yes, violent ways. The parents in turn seek to end this behavior and establish compliance for house rules and established family dynamics. In the world of ‘therapeutic parenting’ this is called achieving compliance.
In these types of families, compliance is achieved by taking away things of value and restricting the child’s world in order to force obedience. Unfortunately, if a child has a fighting spirit (as many survivors do) this doesn’t work and the downward spiral begins. The parent takes away a privilege or something the child enjoys with the understanding that the child may have this back once they comply with the parent’s request or demand. When the child does not comply, they take something else away. When this doesn’t work, parents without a skill set to reevaluate their strategy begin to look for the most basic need a child has to be withheld for compliance. For all humans, this is food. And here is where situations become deadly. A child may comply temporarily out of sheer hunger and the parent learns that this works in the short term. But the parents expectations for total compliance and integration into their family life are far beyond what a traumatized child is capable of simply willing themselves to do. The parent has realized they’ve found a tool to control the child and that is to withhold a very basic necessity. The child acts out, so parents withhold more food. In extreme yet not uncommon cases, this proves deadly with children so traumatized they cannot will themselves to comply and parents so desperate for control they use the one thing that has worked in this dysfunctional dance. Sadly, children die as a result.
Washington state needs to look no further than their own screening process for potential parents, the preplacement education they provide, and post-placement monitoring and resources for the child and family. Placing traumatized children in poorly equipped families can be disastrous.
Up next, Food Abuse Part 2: When force feeding is used as punishment

REFORM Puzzle Piece


  1. Those who write for this blog have somehow decided that anyone adopting anywhere is just as much of an idiot as everyone else adopting. I am not. I’m happy – perfectly happy – to engage in intelligent debate and explain how no…I don’t expect my future son to leap for joy at the arrival in his wonderful “american home”, no, I DON’T ‘collect children’, yes, I recognize some of the abuses in the adoption system and despise them…however I also realize that sometimes it is necessary to participate in a process that, while imperfect, does at least as much good as it sometimes harms (this is an old philosophical argument, btw.) no, I didn’t go out with the sole intent of ‘saving a child’, no I didn’t enter the process of adoption expecting strangers to completely and totally fund my adoption, no I didn’t enter the process without a backup plan….yes, I DO think it’s possible to presrve birth culture (and important), no, I DON’T believe adoption is THE solution; rather *A* solution to problems that will likely take decades to fix…no, I DIDN’T go find some sympathetic social worker to do a home study and I find those who do personally reprehensible…no, I’m not out “child collecting”…I believe and accept that my future son will come home traumatized, and that traditional disciplinary measures will not work with him, in large part because of how children are impacted by institutions vs biological children at home (attachment, ‘prewiring’, and biology all play roles)…and it all goes on. See, the problem is, this blog runs off and chases after the really easy cases (the lady who got donations for her entire adoption, a person who actively talks about ‘seeking waivers’ to be in a particular program, someone adopting five special needs children at once) and then decides we’re all crap. And when you shoot too far and too high and miss, you lose credibility. Stick to the easy cases; the blatant ones, the ones most mainstream folks can embrace, and you’ll be heard. Choosing a family with an existing special needs child (experience) training, intelligence,reasonable expectations, a healthy dose of fear, and most of their funds intact is a very poor example of ‘adoption abuse’.

    And do yourselves a favor and use names for comments. When you resort to scare tactics, going so far as to insert fake entries into people’s address books so that your ‘message’ can be ‘heard’, few listen because it is propagated by unsavory means. You have some legitimate points. Don’t sully them with terroristic tactics.

    • I will first respond to your comment here and then your blog that a few others have also found.

      First of all to address most lines in your response, this post was not directed to you, but to the general public. Schizophrenic much? Obviously we hit a chord since you feel the need to defend yourself.

      You clearly have not read our How Could You? archive that tracks abuse cases as this is what we are referring to when we say what we see happening. You also do not seem to have read the post which states up front that the state of Washington has formed a task force on this subject. Since you haven’t read my blog,I will clarify it for you–they ONLY formed the task force because the *international adoptees* that have been recently abused/killed there were the final straw-specifically Hana Williams(murdered) and her often forgotten fellow adoptee that was adopted into the same family ,Immanuel, in an unrelated two at once adoption from Ethiopia. The other case that prompted this government investigation that we are following is the Trebilcock case that involves three Haitian adoptees and two adoptees from US foster care.There are many others in our archive that involve food abuse.

      You say “Those who write for this blog have somehow decided that anyone adopting anywhere is just as much of an idiot as everyone else adopting” You do realize that we are adoptive parents,right?

      You say “I recognize some of the abuses in the adoption system and despise them…” It is too bad that you do not want to recognize ALL of the abuses in the adoption system. That is why we are here.

      You say “, the problem is, this blog runs off and chases after the really easy cases (the lady who got donations for her entire adoption, a person who actively talks about ‘seeking waivers’ to be in a particular program, someone adopting five special needs children at once) and then decides we’re all crap.” Thanks! We needed a laugh this morning. Our blog covers the HARD cases that no one wants to touch and seeks to find solutions. This particular post is a prime example. Food abuse is not an “easy” thing to discuss and it is not just one “case”. You wouldn’t know that, though, since you haven’t read much on my blog. “decides we are all crap”? You need some self-esteem lessons. We discuss risks here. Adopting 5 at once is HIGH on the risk list.

      You say”And when you shoot too far and too high and miss, you lose credibility” Well the governments and 6 continents of people that read my blog would disagree.

      Seriously, we don’t know what the heck you are saying here “Choosing a family with an existing special needs child (experience) training, intelligence,reasonable expectations, a healthy dose of fear, and most of their funds intact is a very poor example of ‘adoption abuse’”

      Again no clue on what you are saying here “And do yourselves a favor and use names for comments. When you resort to scare tactics, going so far as to insert fake entries into people’s address books so that your ‘message’ can be ‘heard’, few listen because it is propagated by unsavory means. You have some legitimate points. Don’t sully them with terroristic tactics” We allow anyone to comment here as long as they don’t post racial slurs or curse words etc. I have no idea what a “fake entry into people’s address books” means. Again MANY have listened and continue to listen. We don’t care if you listen or not.

      • Now for your bizarre blog post. Again, you do realize that we are part of the adoption community, right? Do you realize that adoptees are the most important part of the adoption community and that includes those abused WHILE IN the adoption community? I don’t think you do as your post is all about YOU and defending your personal actions.

        You comment that children die in orphanages of starvation? What does that have to do with ADOPTIVE PARENTS STARVING kids? Are you saying it doesn’t matter WHERE they starve?

        No clue where you get the idea that we think all PAPS are underprepared. We can tell you that the requirements to adopt do NOT prepare people and in the US at least, no one adopting a special needs child internationally is required by the federal government or Hague to do anything extra. Some states have extra requirements, but very few. You apparently don’t live in the US so you may not understand how disjointed state, federal and Hague rules and regulations really are and how that puts all adoptees at risk nor do you seem to care about risks to adoptees at all. It is all about YOU, YOUR qualifications and YOUR hopes, dreams, intelligence etc.

        As I states in the previous response, when we talk about “seeing” things, we are talking about the cases in our How Could You? archives.

        Again this post is specific to adoptive parent and foster parent food abuse, but you can’t help to bring in the unrelated topic of orphan care. That is a big issue and has DIFFERENT solutions than this issue.

        Sad that you think that we feel that “children should remain in their birth countries at all costs, period” You are so entrenched in yourself, that you can’t see the big picture of how adoption agencies have set up the corruption and continue it. In Ethiopia and Haiti, agencies have actually CREATED orphanages where children linger, are malnourished and have been sexually abused. Yes you read that right! The whole transition home system in Ethiopia where children are harvested into homes from villages and then were poorly treated by AMERICAN-RUN transition homes and many kids were sexually abused in these AMERICAN-CREATED and RUN homes is part of the problem. In Haiti, child sponsorship schemes have led to 100s of unlicensed orphanages often run by AMERICANS and the money goes to the orphanage workers, not the kids who are not taken care of. Orphanages for the most part are the safety net for the poor. You don’t seem to grasp that the issue is poverty and adoption does not cure poverty. Additionally most of those children in orphanages do not qualify for adoption, so they need real social services established *for the whole family.* You fail to recognize that INSTEAD of helping families, the adoption industry has been allowed to FIRST take kids and adopt the healthy ones out to foreign families.EVERY international adoption system has been established this way and they continue this way now in Ghana and Uganda.

        Photolistings are wholly unethical. Period. Children are not puppies and should not be displayed as such. It is a dignity and child rights issue that you clearly don’t get.

        You say “We like to write things as if we really care about children. And some of us probably do. But most of us despise adoption.” Stick it up your $%@! We are adoptive parents and love our children. We will continue speak the truth about the industry and risks for their sake. As for this “We actually don’t really like special needs children very much, and privately, in places we don’t talk about at parties, we can’t possibly fathom why anyone would willingly choose an undesirable child. ” and the rest of your self-absorbed BS

        $#%^ you! You have no idea what the special needs of our children are! Do you think that just *maybe* we HAVE special needs adopted children ourselves and are sickened by those APs who KILL them, pass them around like they are party favors in a disruption underground and STARVE them! It is sad that you don’t care or want to engage in anything constructive about PREVENTING this from happening and want to hide the bad things because it may “stain” the word ADOPTION which is a GOD to you.

        Apparently you don’t think having time to care for your children, monetary resources, training, post adoptive support will prevent bad things. Bad things that happen in adoption is all random to you and agencies have nothing to do with it.Adoption cures all. Foreign families with disabled children who can’t afford care DESERVE to have their rights terminated and children adopted internationally. How DARE they place them in the only safety net available.Uh huh. Keep drinking the Kool-aid. I feel sorry for you.

  2. The lovely response from an oh so charming PAP

  3. Perhaps the problem here that puts adoptive parents on the defensive is that you call them out specifically on your blog, dissect their words, villify them, speculate about and swear at them, without ever giving them a chance to defend themselves. Kindergarten 101 – if you have a problem with someone, take it up with them – don’t just talk about them negatively! It makes you look like a bully. And I don’t know what possible cause calling out specific families could serve, other than making people feel like crap. If your goal is to prevent abuses in adoption (a goal we all share) and protect children, perhaps you should spend a little more time blogging about that, and a little less time speculating on the lives of people you have never met because they happen to have something in common with someone who did something wrong.

    Oh, and before you go bragging about how many people in how many places read your blog… you might want to find out exactly how many of them are reading because it’s such a train wreck, they just can’t look away.

    Please. Do yourselves and the kids a favor and re-examine what your goals are and how best to achieve them. Because right now, the only goal you’re effectively achieving, is hurting good people.

    • Katie look I have a name!: I have approved both your message and Jennifer’s because I am incredibly generous and your stupidity has amused my readers. If you think that I am not going to respond to someone who tells me to F off, calls me a terrorist and proceeds to tell me how I feel, you are dead wrong. She posted her post calling me those things first (but please note that I don’t go on other people’s personal blogs and post) and before you quote Kindergarten 101, you also just called my blog a train wreck.You can’t even keep your own rule for a few lines. I don’t care if you think I am a bully but I do care about this topic so unless you are going to post something about this topic I will not be so generous as to post anything else from you.

      Last time I say this: Don’t you wag your finger at me telling what topics I can and can’t post about. It is a free country. As Crabbina likes to say, if you don’t want people reading your blogs, PASSWORD PROTECT. Otherwise, the whole world (who loves to send me blogs like this) is watching.

      • Clearly, you misread my entire comment. You’re right. I did call your blog a train wreck. But I didn’t go create my own blog, pull entire posts out of your blog, pick them apart, and comment on what a train wreck they are and what a terrible person you are, so that my buddies could slap me on the back and congratulate me on sticking it to another one of those lunatics. I said it to your face. Which is what you’re too coward to do for the people you “use as examples”.

        • Katie, you are absolutely unreachable if you think we post anything here to get “slaps” on our backs with our “buddies”. We post everything here to make others aware of what is going on…and it isn’t good. Bizarrely, you also seem to think that we are the only ones on Earth that find these blogs offense, dangerous, and yes sometimes nutty.

          You love the phrase “train wreck”-I have no idea why you keep using that.

          All blogs posted show grave risks and also how agencies-homestudy and placement-don’t assess risk either. We will be making that even more evident in the future for those of you who just don’t get it.

  4. To our readers: I wrote the above post and it is about Food Abuse and parents who starve their children. That’s it. I did not mention orphanages, I did not mention APs/foster parents who don’t starve their kids, nor did I say anything in this piece about child collecting. I did not tackle the enormous issue of adoption or foster care nor did I call out any specific APs (except perhaps those you can Google and see starved children to death). Again, this series is about Food Abuse and nothing more. If readers are not interested in this issue, you are free to not read about it. There are people who are concerned about this subject as multiple cases in the past few years have surfaced where this happened in the US and children died. This post is for them, highlighting a serious problem and we offer our theory on why and how it may be occurring. If anyone would like to add information or insight that relates to the subject at hand, please do.

    • Great post on an important serious topic.
      It’s encouraging that WA has decided to examine this awful and scarily common issue.

      If the report has recommendations, I sure hope someone sends them to NJ, which in recent years has had similarly awful APs starving their kids in plain sight. (I’m still baffled that none of the folks that encountered the emaciated kids out and about in the community called child protective services :

  5. Jennifer (and Katie), this is Crabbina (and I like my name just the way it is) – maybe you ought to heed your own words of wisdom: “Learn to do good.”

    We posted an entry about Food Issues because it’s an important topic that is rarely discussed on adoption forums. Children suffer and sometimes die because their adoptive parents need help and don’t know where to get it.

    If you don’t like it, I have two words for you: Tough s**t.

    If you think you can do better, I have two words for you: Go ahead.

    I don’t know why you assume that the three of us aren’t dealing with children who have serious issues. We all are. And it’s to help our own as well as the other voiceless children out there that we bother posting information that we think might be helpful.

    In other words, had you bothered to read the archives here, you’d understand that the purpose of this blog is to inform those who are open to the facts that international adoption is fraught with complicated problems that often hurt children. We highlight stories and situations that get little coverage elsewhere because most people don’t want to know the hard truths.

    And you, Jennifer, haven’t even adopted yet. What if you get to Bulgaria and realize you’ve been lied to? What if your child can’t get proper care in the USA? What if you have no access to resources he might need? What if you can’t pay for the only resources that are available to you in your area? If that happens–and of course we hope it doesn’t–I daresay you will regard this blog with a little more understanding. But maybe not.

    So, if you want to read the happy bunny blogs there are countless examples to find where you can stroke each others’ egos about your online begging-from-strongers oops I mean fundraising, and you can whine about those horrible big bad meanies like us who just ruin it for everyone! Why, you can practically see Satan smiling in rapture at the thought of all those lost souls!

    Yeah, well, Satan can kiss my hypocrite-detecting posterior and yours too while he’s at it.

    Feel free to pick this posting apart too–I give you full permission! Allow me, however to warn you that it will be an argument you will never win. Because you don’t have a clue about what really goes on in Bulgarian adoptions and you honestly don’t seem to care.