ADOPTION LIMITS MAY BE SET

Date: 1992-12-11
Source: newsbank.com

ADOPTION LIMITS MAY BE SET

December 11, 1992
Julia Helgason
Dayton Daily News
       
The deaths since Sept. 21 of four adopted children from one family have raised questions about the wisdom of placing multiple children with multiple handicaps in one home.

Isaac Palmer, director of the Montgomery County Children Services Board, said it's time to look at the system. "Since publicity has brought the issue to the forefront, it behooves us as a system to re-examine ourselves and to adopt a policy that's in the best interest of children," he said.

Palmer also said he "would hate to be part of a system that stifles the humanitarian instincts" of couples like Timothy and Kathleen Carroll.

Before the deaths of four of their children, the Cedarville couple cared for seven handicapped children and two children without disabilities.

Though there is no restriction under the law, Palmer said his office would not have put so many special-needs children with one couple. The agency's policy restricts the number to two or three, depending on the severity of the handicaps, he said.

Carol Dokes of Huber Heights is a single mother with four children. Two have cerebral palsy, and two are not handicapped.

"Two so-called 'normal' kids do not create as much challenge as two special-needs children," Dokes said. "Special-needs children have more illnesses, more injuries, more appointments of all kinds. They're more stressful and more tiring. You have to have a break sometime. You have to have have a time to relax and regroup."

As far as six or more special-needs children, "It would be insane to do that without regular times for respite," she said. "We all have our limitations, and we have to recognize them."

Sue Jay of Tipp City has a handicapped 9-year-old and a non-handicapped son who is 15.

"I may use my son to baby-sit while I run to the grocery store, but I don't think it's fair to ask any child to watch one with severe handicaps for any extended period of time," Jay said.

The Carrolls had left their non-disabled 16-year-old son in charge when 6-year-old Hannah got into the chlorine bleach that led to her death. Hannah, who had Down syndrome, died of pneumonia-like symptoms after accidentally ingesting bleach.

Then 3-week-old Chloe, born without a brain, died Oct. 19 in the care of a Columbus adoption agency. Noah, 3, a crack baby with a partial brain, died Nov. 15 at home. Mollie, 3, apparently died in her sleep sometime Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.

Dr. Craig Horn, the Carrolls' pediatrician, said Hannah's death was probably the only one of the four that could have been prevented.

"We know the first rule of parenting is to put all harmful substances out of the reach of children," he said. "The Carrolls made a mistake."

All parents make mistakes, he said, but most don't end in tragedy.

When tragedy does strike, the authorities don't usually persecute the parents, Horn said.

"They are allowed to grieve in private, and nobody comes and takes away their other children," he said. "That's the difference here."

Chloe's death would have been impossible to prevent, he said, and Noah had such severe problems that his death was no surprise.

Horn said he would not have foreseen Mollie's death. Could it have been prevented? Horn said he doesn't think so.

"There was no way to monitor Mollie," he said. "She would have gotten tangled up in wires and could have hurt herself with them. And intercom monitors don't prevent silent death that happens during sleep."

Horn acknowledged that the Carrolls might have overburdened themselves with so many sick children.

"Certainly, they worked long, hard hours," he said, "but that was by choice. These were their children, their ministry and their joy."

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