The Travesty Behind Travis
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In March, 2011, standing alone in a Galveston court room, a young father received his punishment for performing a sexual act on his 3 month old son before crushing his crying infant's skull. Travis Mullis, 24 year old adult abused adoptee, was ordered to death.
At the time of court ruling, his still-living "forever" adoptive mom was living in sunny warm Florida. She wanted nothing to do with him and the case.
Travis was described as an unfeeling monster. District Attorney Donna Cameron told the jury, "There is no medication, there is no treatment for the evil that he is."
As I read articles about this case, and Travis Mullis, himself, and his own adoption-story, I thought about what this woman was telling herself and her jury. "There is no medication; there is no treatment for the evil that he is".
That evil she is referring to is not a person or a characteristic trait; that evil is the by product of a care-system so bad, so fraught with self-interest, corruption, oversight and negligence, its problems and unresolved issues have been linked to similar problems found in the US prison system.
As most parents (and educators) already know, a child does as he or she sees; this mimicking is part of the learning process. Since studies show children that grow up around domestic violence repeat the behavior, it's my strong belief that an adoptive parent's style of teaching, disciplining, and relating to others, (especially during times of stress), is the most critical teaching example adopted children will learn in a new adoption agency assigned family/home environment. In fact, some might argue infant abuse is linked to early experience, not genetics, making adoptive parenting the most specialized type of parenting there is.
Here's some bad news for every adoption agency out there collecting application fees from PAPs: not every applicant eager to adopt is capable of being a specialized child educator, mentor, teacher, nurse, cook and all-round "parent" to an adoptable child. ALL adoptable children have "special needs". Some adopted children have more complex (medical/psychological) needs than others, but as a whole, if the child is adoptable, that child has already been traumatized. No child can be adopted without more trauma and stress; no child can be adopted and have no after-effects.
Throughout the trial of Travis, much attention and blame for his unlovable and unlikable behavior went to his biological mother. Before reporters skimmed the grim details that go with an unsafe, unhealthy grossly dysfunctional adoptive couple that may or may not have been "home-studied", pre-screened and given social-service approval, before details about life with a pedophile adoptive dad, (who, according to some reports, raped Travis from the time he as was three until he turned six), an image of the evil monster-making source of origin emerges: a birth mother with morbid obesity, diabetes and lung disease is the first mental picture readers get, when learning about Travis and all the tragic events that took place in his life.
Some of the descriptions of the birth-mother, who died 10 months after her son's birth, were quite brutal, showing just how biased people can be when describing the origins of an adopted child who became less than ideal.
In one news-article, reporters quoted his own defense attorney as saying:
His mother was obese, smoked four packs of cigarettes a day, drank numerous cups of coffee, and was smoking the day before Mullis was born, Bourque said. His mother's unhealthy habits contributed to Mullis' need to for an operation soon after birth, he said.
A physician testifying on behalf of Travis said:
His mother's obesity, lung disease, diabetes, four-pack-a-day cigarette habit and other health factors gave her such low blood oxygen levels that Mullis' developing brain and body were oxygen- starved before he was born,
According to his medical expertise, the low oxygen levels and diabetes "affected his brain and set him up for emotional problems". In addition, hospital records and medical testimony suggested during the recovery period following a much needed operation, soon after birth, Travis' mother refused to touch him.
Mullis' mother failed to provide the contact needed to form a bond between mother and child. Without that bond, children can't learn to form relationships or learn to love
A mental picture develops: even the defense-team of an abusive adoptee wants a jury of "peers" to see the accused abuser came from a love-less loser.
This is the image that newspaper reporters present, before disclosing the detail that Travis was adopted by a pedophile.
What was adopted life for Travis like? What parenting-styles did he observe and mimic? How was Travis taught to treat others, and what did he learn to do when he himself felt stressed or triggered?
Mathew Jonathan Mendel, a clinical psychologist who studied Travis before the trial, testified:
Mullis experienced three major traumas early in life, including five abandonments, early childhood surgeries and sexual abuse by his adoptive father, Gary Mullis, who was his only positive adult role model.
Imagine the luck: as an adopted child, the only positive adult role model chosen for you by an adoption service is a pedophile. For Travis, the only way to connect with another human is through sex.
Travis was not an evil monster; he was a victim of an adoption system that is not doing enough to protect the most vulnerable of all children... those children put in-care, already harmed by parental neglect or abandonment and very poor treatment.
In court, it was revealed that the maternal-side of the family was "rampant with pedophilia". At ten months of age, Travis had an opportunity to leave the dysfunctional family circle. Instead, the maternal grandmother was able to take Travis, as her own, and then give Travis to her own son, a pedophile- who happened to be married. Something went seriously wrong with Travis' adoption plan.
As far as I'm concerned, adoption services should be doing more to ensure the adopted child they are placing is going to be put in a suitable home; one that is safe and not dysfunctional. It seems to me, thanks to adoption quotas and the demand for a shortened adoption process, more agencies/services are placing children where it is easy, not necessarily best for what's in a specific child's best interest. More than "family", adoptable children need suitable parents. The more cases PPL presents, the more one can see: There are too many dysfunctional people being approved to parent children with complex special needs.
Travis, with his adoption story, and all the aftermath that goes with it, represents a tragic case of UNSAFE child-placement and poor adoption service.
Adoption services need to do more than place children in a "forever home". Adoption services need to focus more on the needs of children who have experienced trauma; they need to prepare - and monitor - each prospective adoptive parent, accordingly. Adoption services need to help educate adoptive parents so they do not repeat pathological parenting. Adoption services, in the end, need to help reduce and limit the harms and consequences that come from negligent and abusive parenting, not create new abuse statistics and deepen already complex adoption issues.
The adoption service provider behind Travis Mullin's adoption story failed not only Travis, but it failed and hurt the many people Travis harmed and abused, himself.
If Travis was unable to feel empathy, compassion, or remorse for any of his actions, it's because that's what Travis was taught, by example, which in his case, was chosen for him, on his behalf, through an adoption service. As a "special needs adoption", none of Travis' core needs were met.
While few may feel little more than outraged disgust for Travis, we should all feel sick that adoption stories, and outcomes, like his exist. These ghastly adoption stories can have some of the most horrific examples of child abuse, proving what can get passed-down from one generation, to the next, matters, whether each person from each generation is genetically connected, or not.
The US adoption system is flawed. The US adoption industry is not putting the needs of traumatized children, first. Too many child abusers are approved to adopt, and post-placement monitoring is not being done like it should be done, for the sake of the already traumatized child.
What other example is needed to make changes in the adoption process? When will adoption services be held to a higher standard? What else needs to be exposed before radical adoption reform can become a reality?
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Alijah Mullis, Travis Mullis
Such a tragic story of generations of damaged people.
The state (children's services) had a chance provide a proper home for Travis, and yet placed him with a pedophile.
This says it all:
Unsuitable and dysfunctional adoptive parents are a huge problem
but how are we going to root out the bad ones? How about the ones with a religious agenda who want to "train up a child" or convert teens already rooted in another religious tradition to evangelical Christianity? Mention this because someone I really respect commented on a blog post that she'd automatically turn down all fanatically religious folks adopting for religious reasons and she was reminded that this would never be legal. Then there are the child dumpers who didn't get the product they wanted. Actually in some cases, when the children go to better parents after the disruption, you have to wonder which was the better course of action (probably the original idiots not adopting at all). And it goes on. You would think it would be easier to eliminate pedophilia. But how many generations back would you have to search, and would it be legal to do so when the home study focuses on one person or one couple? Do you eliminate on the basis of risk? I think it's a big sinkhole and it depresses me enormously.
Discrimination in Adoptionland is NOT a bad-thing
Very good questions; and I like that the all-too-often reality-check argument, ("that would be illegal if you did it") offered by rabid adopters - and their adoption lawyers - was included.
A few years ago, PPL featured various pieces focused on the home-study. We asked "what's in the home-study?", attention was given to the ease in which unfit PAP are able to PASS a home-study and we showcased why some foreign countries are asking that PAP receive a psych evaluation before approval to adopt is granted. I believe stricter standards and guidelines SHOULD be instituted by each adoption agency, but before changes can be made, for the sake and best interest of each adoptable child, I also believe more dialogue and discussion about unfit APs needs to be generated within the many pre-existing adoption circles found in Adoptionland.
Such dialogue has been started, but it's been shaky and shady, often protecting the adopters belief that essentially, an AP can do no wrong.
I once read a blog-piece about parental-fitness, and what makes a "suitable" family for a child. The piece started-off well.
The author continued to say 'mis-fits' are found in ALL families, even birth-families, making it all good in the whole Adoption family-making Neighborhood.
I found myself nodding in agreement until I read the part that claimed these misfits found in families are "a beautiful act of God which take sinful people and uses little (often hurting) children to show very clearly where the real, deep, core, darkest corner of our hidden heart issues are."
I agree that today's abusive adoption stories allow us to see the hidden issues most over-looked by the adoption community. Is this a beautiful act? I'm not so sure. It worries me, that in adoption, much is being attributed to the divine, while many are forgetting the man-made (sinful?) elements that make adoption what it has become.
When we look at facts on the ground, all acts involved in adoptive child-placement are in the hands of social workers, doctors, neighbor's testimonies, and of course, adoption lawyers. Where is the "divine" in programs that promote a mother to relinquish and abandon her baby, so another (with money) can have a child? [See: Gladney's Brave Love Project, (which gives 'campus' tours to middle school students and targets young women - who are facing an unplanned pregnancy - and encourages them to consider the choice of adoption)] Is pimping for infants for lucrative infant adoption programs, what God had in mind when He Chose Mary to experience an 'unplanned pregnancy'? I would hope not!
<deep heavy depressed sigh>
I really wish adoption services provided through our legal system would keep religious rhetoric out of laws created so children may be free from the costly harms that go with extreme forms of child abuse.
But that's another speech.
I am afraid we are living in a world where far too many people looking at and into adoption show some of the danger-signs of unfit-AP material:
This is a very scary group of people. In fact, many of these unfit-to-parent people end-up becoming abusive first-parents, thanks to environment/biology. The the end-result is, those unfortunate children living in grossly dysfunctional homes often become part of our very poorly run care-system. The rest go on undetected, free to choose whether or not they will marry, procreate/or adopt, and pass their own learned pathological parenting onto the next generation.
Adoption, as a social service, may be creating new families, one legal battle at a time, but I believe our collection of abuse cases help raise the flag that says not much is being done to break the cycle of family dysfunction found in Modern America. Between biased home-studies written for the benefit of an adoption agency that hand-picks/approves it's social-workers and very lame (spelled: limited) parent-education classes for prospective parents who may have come from broken/dysfunctional homes/families, themselves, far too many adoptees are being sent to live in a house that has more deep dark disturbing core issues than Dante's Inferno, itself.
Pro-adoption advocates need to be reminded: Adoption is a choice; it is an option -- the adoption process should be able to discriminate who is fit and who is unfit to parent a child with many complex needs. Filling-out adoption-related applications and paper-work should NOT provide the absolute entitled guarantee that any and every applicant without a criminal record must, by law, receive a child.
In addition, the notion that adoptive parents have an endless right to privacy is one I'd like to argue.
Adoption, in many cases, is subsidized by the state government. This fact changes whether or not a person has the right to be free from on-going state-investigation, and if payments/tax-breaks ought to be granted to adoptive parents, I believe the government has the right to monitor family-issues like domestic violence and pedophilia/child porn. After all, if delinquincey is associated with various forms of abuse, shouldn't families created through the government ought to be abuse/dysfunctional-free?
Perhaps more importantly, from a fiscal/cost POV, there is the matter of squandered state-money. If state funds are sent for the sake of a fostered/adopted child, the government ought to have the unquestioned right to ensure those monies are not being squandered and wasted, while a child is suffering... or worse, dead. After all, most who choose to 'train-up' their child are not "criminals" per se, however, I don't think individuals who support and promote the torturing of children should be entertained by social workers working on behalf of a child's best-interest, and I certainly don't think such people should be entitled to government funded financial supplements. [See: abuse cases where the AP's got paid to abuse.]
Fitness of an PAP MUST be checked and re-checked, and monitored; adoptable children need to be protected from harm, otherwise why bother with child protective services in the first-place?
ALL adoptable children have