A Q&A with William Ingaldson, Counsel for the ‘Hot Sauce’ Mom
Anchorage resident Jessica Beagley has been charged with misdemeanor child abuse for punishing her adopted 7-year-old son by squirting hot sauce into his mouth and forcing him into a cold shower. Here’s a recent LB post on the case.
Beagley videotaped the punishment and sent it to producers of the Dr. Phil show, which later aired the video on a November segment of the show called “mommy confessions.”
The prosecution of Beagley concluded Monday, and the jury has not yet rendered a verdict. In her closing argument, prosecutor Cynthia Franklin told the jury that Beagley abused the boy to get on national television and that the punishments were extreme and cruel, the Anchorage Daily News reports.
We interviewed William Ingaldson, Beagley’s lawyer, about the case and what prompted his client to resort to this method of discipline. Here’s an edited summary of the interview:
What potential punishment is your client facing?
Up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine. We told the prosecutors that if Jessica needs any classes on anger management control or parenting skills, she’d be willing to do that. But the prosecutor wants my client to go to jail.
What prompted her to use this kind of discipline?
Her son suffers from Reactive Attachment Disorder, a disorder caused by trauma or neglect in the early stages of a kid’s life. It usually involves kids who have been adopted at an older age. What happens is that children who have this have no ability to form attachments or empathize with other people. When adoptive parents try to treat children with love, these kids get anxious and push away. Normal types of discipline time outs or taking things away from kids don't work.
Isn’t there a better way that Jessica could have dealt with her son’s issues?
I think a cold shower can get your attention. I've heard from other parents who use hot sauce as a disciplinary method. I think it's better than washing your mouth out with soap. It's probably not as bad as some dads who take off their belt or use a stick to spank their kids. Is there a better method [than hot sauce and cold showers]? Sure, because that type of punishment doesnt work [on children who suffer Reactive Attachment Disorder.] It's common with parents of RAD kids to try escalating types of punishment to cure the behavior, but it only reinforces the behavior. Jessica didn’t understand that at the time.
Still, didn’t taping the punishment only exacerbate the problem?
If she staged this video by intentionally punishing her son, who did nothing wrong, just to get on the show that would be wrong, and she should be prosecuted. But that is not what happened. He had gotten into trouble at school and lied about it. She did send the tape in [to the Dr. Phil show,] but this was clearly done as a punishment.
Does Jessica feel any remorse or regret about this?
What she wants more than anything is to be a good mom. She feels remorse about the punishment, not because the punishment itself was necessarily outrageous, but because it didn't work. She feels grateful that these boys are getting professional help now, and she is putting effort into that. This is a nice family.
Does Jessica feel like she deserves any punishment for what she did?
I haven't asked her, but I don't think she deserves punishment. If she does then I think a vast majority of parents deserve equal punishment. The video is troubling to watch, but If you videotaped any child betting punished, it would be horrible to watch.
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As one who never really responded well to punishment, [punishment/pain... they were givens...pain was the expected outcome each time I did not please], I wonder how many Aparents, (who claim their adopted children do NOT respond to punishment), have considered the power of rewarding a child for good behavior?
I know for myself, rewards speak volumes... far more than pain, punishment, or deprivation ever could.
FWIW, I'm glad the Amother was found gulity of child abuse. Let is be a loud message for other APS who may think it's alright to use RAD as the excuse-du-jour to use painful punishments as the means to control their adopted children. [See: cases that include torture and forced confinement ]
First, do no harm
Of course William Ingaldson has to speak on behalf of Jessica Beagley and make her actions look benign, though he does this at the expense of the boy involved.
RAD is a serious label for a serious condition, which is often pinned on adoptees whenever they become the victim of parental abuse. All too often those that defend abusive adopters turn the table on the child and blame the victim for the deeds of the parents.
Attorneys are not licensed psychiatrists and therefore not in the position to make the RAD diagnosis. Doing so further harms Christopher Beagley, he is now for good "that-RAD-boy", and it is also a disservice to all other adoptees. For decades adoptees had to fend off the stigma of "bad-blood", now, thanks to people like Mr. Ingaldson we have to fight the stigma that all adoptees have RAD.
I think this case reveals that adoptees are far more often seen as problematic, even when their behaviour is not at all different from other children.
Apparently Christopher Beagleys "biggest crime" was getting into a pencil-fight at school, which to me seems like "normal" behaviour for a 7-year-old boy. However, when an adoptee breaks the rules it is immediately pathologized and given the RAD-label. To avoid being seen as troublesome, an adoptee almost has to be perfect, leading to all sorts of unhealthy patterns that may become problematic when reaching adulthood.
I wish attorneys had to live by the ethical rule common in medical practice: "First, do no harm". It's one thing to defend his client, but doing so by harming a minor is in my opinion unethical behaviour and shouldn't be tolerated.
Labelled for life
Niels I agree with you, you mentioned:
" However, when an adoptee breaks the rules it is immediately pathologized and given the RAD-label. To avoid being seen as troublesome, an adoptee almost has to be perfect, leading to all sorts of unhealthy patterns that may become problematic when reaching adulthood."
As an AP I have witnessed that whatever behavior a biochild may do, it is seen as transitional as they will outgrow it or it is a normal kid thing.
BUT... if an adopted child were to do the SAME thing, the child is referred to as a problem child and suggestions are made to the parent to get help for the child.
The adopted child wears an "A" on their shirt as seen by many biased people. My advice to other parents is to protect your child from these biases.
AP supported theories
Unfortunately, if you go to a website/forum where adoptive parents are looking for parenting advice, they will find themselves in groups where RAD, and it's sister diagnosis, "Attachment Disorder", is the general agreed-upon label.
Child doesn't want to bond with new mommy; child has RAD.
Child wets the bed; child has RAD.
Child is difficult to control; child has RAD.
Child has experienced trauma; child has RAD. If it's not RAD, then it's an attachment disorder, according to knowledgeable posters.
Keep in mind, the vast majority of these forums are run by fellow AP's, not health professionals. And the 'RAD specialists'? From what I understand, most are AP's, too.
RAD, and the fear of RAD, sells like no other word within the adopting community. And the AP's who don't have good quality pediatricians are buying into it because when push comes to shove, their chosen adoption agency proves to be an unreliable resource for helpful guidance and instruction. These ill-prepared adopters are on their own to parent a child with many complex problems and special needs.
So.... thanks to AP's and quack opportunistic therapists who believe they have more answers than most, RAD and Attachment Disorder has become the popular generic label for any adoptee exhibiting any unwanted behavior that may or may not be trauma-based and adoption-related. In fact, in some forums, RAD is spreading like wild-fire, making certain "specialists" highly praised gurus, despite the severe lacking of scientific study and professional credentials. It is with the "experienced" instruction and suggestion from AP parenting instructors that children "with RAD" will get treated like dogs to help curb their unwanted behaviors. [Can't wait to see the result of said therapy (which includes collaring and crating) in 20 years...]
Let's look at this parenting instruction from the adoptee's POV: the older adoptee stumbles upon a forum where adopters ask other adopters how to parent. The adoptee who knows how to read learns the type of "discipline" treatments an adoptee receives from his enlightened APs are coming from a thread or two found on an adoption forum. Should that adoptee cross-reference this information to abuse cases presented on PPL, the adoptee will see over and over again, the defending parents in the abuse cases claim they did not know what else to do.
Is this what adoptive parenting has come to? Only severe extreme (painful or humiliating) treatments will do? On what basis is this bias made?
The suggestions offered by other adoptive parents are over-the-top insane and abusive, and they very much remind me the sort of "treatments" given to those who were sent to live in asylums and institutions. Yet this trend in parenting continues within the adoption community. This type of parenting instruction needs to stop, and the spread of the negative adoption label needs to be regulated somehow.
This hot-sauce case is not just about extreme behaviors and reactions; this case is about an issue that is on-going in Adoptionland. The rush to fulfill an adoption dream is done irresponsibly. Parents are not prepared for children who have endured profound loss and trauma, they are not properly informed about the child's history and exposure to toxins, or type abusive situation(s) the child had to endure; the APs are not properly educated about the effects of trauma on learning and communication and the support systems provided through their adoption agencies are insufficient.
If one were to review AP blogs or adoption forums, one would think there is an epidemic of RAD affecting all older adopted children. The truth is, RAD is not the problem. Poor oversight and lack of regulation is the ill that's putting adopters and children who are adopted at risk.
If cases like this don't remind members within the adoption community child placement/adoption reform is a must, I don't know what will.
Speaking as someone who is
Speaking as someone who is incredibly frustrated and outraged at the coercive, punitive parenting seen in these cases I think there are a couple of other points to make.
1-I don't think these AP's are really and truly trying to help the kids or that they believe the child will somehow overcome their problems/issues with severe parenting. I think they are acting out their own anger and other issues on the child. Period.
2-Having been around many children who have lived in institutions I don't agree that many behaviors are truly the same as any other child who may have been raised from infancy (adopted, fostered or bio) in an environment that is even slightly normal. These kids have suffered loss, trauma, malnourishment, often abuse, neglect and then once whisked off into a new and unfamiliar family, language and culture where they experience confusion and further trauma. How anyone expects them to behave like any other child is beyond me. I don't think it has anything to do with adoption, more that the past traumas have impacted the child in negative ways and so their behavior, emotional health and processing is not likely to be within normal limits, at least not in the near future. The idea that you can take a child from such experiences and place them into a nuclear family and all will be great is the biggest lie still being sold by the adoption industry (well, maybe next to the one about all of the kids being real orphans without families).
IF there truly are honest and caring social workers out there, they should not be approving any family clinging to those lies to adopt institutionalized or children with abuse backgrounds.
Depends on the supposed "ailment", too
Agreed. There are as many differences as there are similarities, but this story just came to me: Survivor: MIT grad student remembers "ex-gay" therapy"I’m ruined," Sam says today. "I cannot get rid of the shock" when he hugs a man, when he shakes a man’s hand and feels attached to the electrodes once more. "I’ve gotten used to the pain."
During the months of therapy, Sam was kept in his bedroom "24/7." His parents told his younger sister that Sam had murdered someone, and they were hiding him from the police. Sam says he was "sequestered" to protect his parents’ reputation at the mission.
As for the physical side of his therapy, Sam says of his parents, "they knew what was going on. They said they were going to do whatever it took to save my soul. They wanted me to go to heaven with them."
Though it's not adopition/foster/care-related, I quote this at length to illustrate what parents of nonconforming children will do to them. The mentality is identical: you are to be molded into whatever I say you are. Deviate in any way, and you will be punished and made to wish you were dead.
Because kids in care are fostered and adopted, because kids are gay, because they are vulnerable with disabilities and supposed advocates telling them they should be grateful for their treatment, they easily become walking targets for parental aggressions. It's only really been in the past year or so that much public understanding of the harm these pseudoscientific "diagnoses" that require equally pseudoscientific treatments has started to percolate. It has elicited campaigns like "it gets better".
For young Sam, and a lot of others like me, it got way worse before it got better. And even then, it didn't turn out to be so hot. Adopted kids who get murdered, maimed, damaged by totalitarian parents...their it gets better campaign is coming. But like the 20 years of documentation like the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's stats on gaybashing (yes, I am one of their stats), "it gets better" didn't just pop up on youtube one day. Even with the stats, pr campaigns, educational drives, and such, there is still a prevailing view that young men like Sam got what was coming to him, being put in the hospital by his father, then subjected to pseudo-medicalized torture.
Anonymous mentioned the coercive and punitive nature of these so-called "therapies" applied to children. I see a parallel with RAD and holding therapy, and reparative therapy (which do have historical ties), being applied to vulnerable, isolated young adults who do not outgrow whatever behavior bugs the parents. The overlap, of course, is those authoritarian, totalitarian APs who have already been primed for these pretexts to inflict violence on children. I won't mention what religion has the most sects that do it, since it kinda goes without saying at this point.
I see a theme, as well. In most of the abuse situations we present, most are the result of the child not responsing well to parental instruction, whether the instruction/request is reasonable or not.
This makes me wonder how many AP's take the time to consider the adopted child's pre-adopted experience, before choosing a corrective approach, which all too often involves a measure of painful punishment.
Marcus Bachmann pretty much laid out the pathology
LGBTs hit the roof over this, but imo totally missed the mark. The implications are even worse than just his antigay mentality. Marcus Bachmann was talking about children in general and gay children in particular.
This is the foster parent of 23. I don't think that's a coincidence, at all.
Lest any sensitive types are lurking, I'm not suggesting the Bachmanns abused their foster kids. But it doesn't surprise me in the least that a whackjob, homeschooling Christian foster parent has this attitude towards children, that they are barbarians to be disciplined.
They are straight out of frickin kink.com.
Something needs to be said about the religious motives behind those who a) adopt/foster by the double-digits and b) literally try to beat the devil out of young spawn. WHY these types of adoptions are allowed to continue show me just how dangerous the adoption industry is and always has been.
One last word about the gay-beatings, the pure evil is seen in the victory behind a good blood shed. That's a look in the eyes few can ever forget. In some circles, that particular look - the one found in the eyes of the person who attacks another - is seen as deranged psychopathy. For the less than lucky adoptee, that look can be sen in the new (the improved?) mom and dad.
The very worst part? These attackers are praised by their peers.
Is it any wonder so many children from said families loose all faith in God?