CARROLL CASE NOT EXACTLY ONE OF A KIND

Date: 1994-11-30

CARROLL CASE NOT EXACTLY ONE OF A KIND

MARTIN GOTTLIEB
November 30, 1994
Dayton Daily News

There's a case out in Oregon that has fascinating parallels with the Carroll case in Greene County. In Oregon, a couple started small and eventually adopted more than 70 children, most of them apparently with special needs.

Diane and Dennis Nason received widespread attention and praise before the whole thing went too far and fell apart. They adopted children with physical deformities, Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy and all manner of problems. They received help from private financial benefactors who were impressed with their idealism. The family was feted on national television even as things were falling apart.

This story was told by ABC's Turning Point program last week. It featured a clip from a 1988 ABC program calling The Home Show, in which Diane Nason was named the show's first annual "Mother of the Year." Some 60 of her children were present.

By that time, the Nasons were well known, at least in their section of Oregon. They had had disputes with the public-school system, and they had set up their own education system, ranging from preschool through high school.

The Greene County Carrolls, too, abjure the public schools. Religious reasons appear to be at work; they belong to a church in which many parents engage in home schooling.

Kathleen and Timothy Carroll have adopted 10 children, most of them with very serious problems. Four died in a year under mysterious circumstances. The story has been playing out for a year and a half in the legal system in cases involving not only punishment for the deaths but custody of the remaining children. The Carrolls have pleaded guilty to neglect in one case. One of their children has been tried and found not guilty of criminal charges in the same case.

Theories about what caused the four Carroll deaths vary. Coincidence is one possibility, especially because of the extreme vulnerability of the children. Or maybe the Carrolls simply became overburdened and lost control. Or maybe it was murder. Or maybe it was some combination.

The Oregon case involves deaths, too. In 1985, two children died of illnesses before being taken to a hospital. The Nasons now face manslaughter charges.

Some children - not all - who lived with the Nasons say physical abuse became common and sexual relations occurred between teen-agers. The children seem to be the Nasons' chief accusers.

In the Carroll situation, although some of the children appear devoted to the family, one small child with communication difficulties is reported to have made serious charges against the teen-age boy who was tried in one case. And another older child turned against the family before the deaths started happening.

At one stage, the Nasons briefly became fugitives - an amazing drop from TV-star status - fleeing to Canada. Now they are essentially stripped of their adoptive children.

The Carrolls still have two of their children and are fighting to get two more back.

The judicial system should not be judged too harshly for failing to make clear exactly what happened in the Carroll household. People who have followed the case closely have conflicting theories not only about who did what, but about what forces were at work in the way of human relationships.

Looking at other similar situations is one way to get a clue. To what degree some syndrome connects the Carrolls and Nasons probably should be left an open question at this stage.

Perhaps all that's known for sure is that when you start adopting large numbers of special-needs children, you're asking for more trouble than is obvious. The mixture of special needs can become explosive, and something can go terribly wrong.

But even if nothing does, the children who arrive with terrible emotional disorders - resulting from earlier abuse or whatever - will likely continue to have those disorders and might turn against you, even if you have done nothing wrong.

Some conclusions seem pretty safe: You have to know when to stop. And if you don't stop yourself, somebody needs to stop you.

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