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Abuse and power: is this Attachment Therapy?


I was reading an article/post written about the Hansen case featured in our Abuse After Child Placement pages [http://poundpuplegacy.org/node/14973], and I have a very difficult time accepting little mention of Attachment Therapists, and the problems with attachment therapy in these fatal cases.

For instance, in a piece called "Parents Go Free After Starving Adoptees", it mentions the "conviction" of the parents, but makes no mention of what happened to the therapists feeding this family "suggested treatments".

$35,000 College Fund Spares Parents Up to 30 Years in Prison

Utah Parents Accused of Starving Russian Adoptees

"Attachment Therapy" Parenting in Picture


A Utah couple who used AT parenting techniques, and as a result were accused of "one of the worst" cases of child abuse ever seen by local authorities, was able to strike a bargain with prosecutors and avoid jail completely (http://www.heraldextra.com/content/view/159441/3/).

Theresa and Reed Hansen had been accused of felony and misdemeanor charges for withholding food, sometimes for days at a time, from two of their three children adopted from Russia (http://www.commonplacesketchbook.com/childrenintherapy/victims/hansen.html), who were of pre-school age at the time. All three adoptees were removed from the home in 2002 and have thrived since in new adoptive homes.

The two adults were supposed to go to trial on January 10, delayed after almost four years of legal wrangling. In what had been
described by local law enforcement as one of the worst examples of child abuse they'd ever seen, the Hansens faced up to 30 years in
prison, if convicted. Instead, they reached a plea bargain with prosecutors. Mrs Hansen pled guilty to misdemeanor charges of
reckless endangerment, and received a one-year suspended jail sentence. Mr Hansen pled no-contest to misdemeanors for attempted reckless endangerment and received a six-month suspended jail sentence. Both will be on probation for two years, required only to  report their address to authorities every six months.

Teresa Hansen was on probation for early charges of beating one of her adoptees a year before. That probation will be extended to run
concurrently with the new probation.

No fines were levied, but the Hansens agreed to pay $35,000 to college funds for the two children, now aged 8 and 9. The total amount must be paid before the Hansens' probation can be terminated.

One of the new adoptive parents for the abused children correctly calls the penalties a "slap on the wrist." Even prosecutor Sherry Ragan called the deal "a tradeoff to get back the money," perhaps a reference to adoption subsidies possibly paid to the Hansens.

The only significant consequence of the guilty pleas is that the Hansens will never again be able to adopt. Unlike other parents found guilty of child endangerment, the Hansens are in no danger of having their biological children removed from their home. Authorities say the Hansens' biological children were treated better than the adopted ones were, and are in no perceptible danger. No mention was made of the Hansens "forfeiting" their right to raise children because of almost killing two of them. An argument similar to that was made by Ragan in pressing for prison time for Jenette Killpack.
(AT News, 16 Jan 2006)

The plea bargain also doesn't help deter other parents who are using, or contemplating using, AT parenting techniques. That effect had been made in giving jail time to Killpack.

Control over food is a common device used by parents involved with Attachment Therapy parenting techniques. AT "parenting specialists," such as Nancy Thomas, counsel that parents must pick their battles with their children and win them at all costs. Starvation, or near-starvation, is a clear risk with such parental strategies; it has been reported in several cases around the country, with Nancy Thomas AT parenting involved. (For instance, see http://www.commonplacesketchbook.com/childrenintherapy/victims/heiser.html)

Some of Nancy Thomas's books were reportedly found in the Hansen home. Business cards from the now-defunct Cascade Center for Family Growth were also found there.

Parents should avoid AT parenting techniques because of the relentless abuse they inflict and the high risk of injury and even death to the children subjected to them. The message sent in other high-profile cases, such Jenette Killpack's, is that society does not tolerate such treatment of children, and parents use AT at the risk of their freedoms and dissolution of their families. Unfortunately, the message from the Hansen plea bargain is almost exactly the opposite.

Teresa Hansen tearfully entered her pleas before the judge, declaring, "For the sake of my children, guilty." Under the circumstances, they might have been tears of joy and relief.


Edit Note:  The website, Advocates for Children in Therpay can be found here:  http://www.commonplacesketchbook.com/childrenintherapy/index.html, and the piece on Nancy Thomas can be found here:  http://www.commonplacesketchbook.com/childrenintherapy/proponents/thomas.html

According to Nancy Thomas's website, business is alive and thriving, so what does this say about a service that sells itself as putting parenting and child safety at a premium?

Just how much is a parent to blame for a child's injury, if the advice given to them comes from a "trained professional" working in a learn-and-pay-as-you-go-along industry?  Because Attachment Therapy is seen as a new form of treatment for "special needs", does this mean ethics and accountability no longer apply?

People who open-shop in the name of Attachment Therapy scare me, because as many of them mean well, many of them are not health-care professionals, or attending seminars/conferences where national medically approved certifications can be earned.

In cases of death or severe trauma/injury by association, shouldn't people like Nancy Thomas come with a warning label? 

by Kerry on Sunday, 24 August 2008