Ferguson abuse case raises alarms

Date: 2009-12-06

Vonda Ferguson sentenced to 65 years in prison for child abuse

By Valerie Lough

Vonda Ferguson, the adoptive mother convicted last month on 32 counts of child-abuse-related charges, is scheduled for sentencing today, Dec. 7.

The case in which five adopted children were found to have suffered severe abuse over a period of four years brings to the forefront questions of why officials didn’t, or couldn’t, intervene sooner.

Public agencies exercise no more oversight of adopted children than they do biological children, said Cathy Appel, deputy director Family & Children Services of Clark County.

“Once (the children) are adopted, those parents have the same rights as birth parents,” she said. “Once an adoption is finalized, the supervision of the agency (that placed the child) ends.”

Couples who apply for adoption undergo a “comprehensive and extensive” process that includes several hours of home visits, criminal background checks, personal references and classroom training, Appel said.

Vonda Ferguson was convicted Nov. 20 on 32 counts of child endangering, felonious assault and rape.

Her husband, James, was convicted last year on similar charges and sentenced to 65 years in prison.

They were accused of using extreme forms of punishment on their children — hitting them with hammers and belts until they bled, forcing them to eat excrement and burning them with irons — between 2000 and 2004.

The children were taken out of the home in 2004 and the couple gave up custody of them in 2005.

Appel said that public agencies such as hers cannot take action in cases of child abuse until something is reported, and that standard applies to adoptive families.

“We can’t just go back into a home unless there is a report made to us,” she said. “It’s difficult in any situation to know what goes on in a family behind closed doors.”


Post-Placement Procedures

Behold the little detail that sends shivers down my spine:

“Once (the children) are adopted, those parents have the same rights as birth parents,” she said. “Once an adoption is finalized, the supervision of the agency (that placed the child) ends.”

Rights of the parents is one thing.... what about the rights of the children, do they change?  What sort of rights do children have before and AFTER agency placement?

Do we, or do we not ,have a right to safety?

According to one formal statement made by a DHS representative, not all children are seen or treated the same, especially if the child(ren) happens to be adopted.  

Because the children were adopted, DHS says it's up to the parents to reach out to DHS if they need help. DHS says they make monthly visits to foster families, not adopted families.  [From:  Neighbor Of Owasso Couple Accused Of Child Abuse Voices Concern ]

Because children are placed in a so-called prescreened agency-approved home, it's assumed no harm will come to that child.  How many times has this assumption been proven to be very wrong?

How many times does a victim of post-placement abuse have to read comments like, "You can't know the things people hide"' or "...current procedures are robust and are in line with all statutory regulations and national standards." ?

How many fostered and adopted children have to be collected and added to our abuse case pages before someone realizes current policies and proceedures must change for the future health, safety and well-being of children, especially for the fostered and adopted?!

How many more children need to be abused post-placement before the need for safety is taken far more seriously?


I agree with you. The response from officials always points at the comprehensive and extensive pre-adoption process, while each abuse case is testimony of a failure to properly screen prospective adopters.

Pound Pup Legacy