December 6th, 2007
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As soon as I heard the news regarding the teen shooter, I wondered to myself if he’d either been a foster child or been adopted as an older child. I quickly tried to blow off that thought as paranoia on my part, having lived so long with children described like him. Yet reading these words today on a CNN site sent chills up my spine.

“Todd Landry, director of the Nebraska Division of Family and Children’s Services, described for reporters the laundry list of residential treatment centers and group and foster homes where Robert Hawkins spent much of his teen years, because of his behavioral and psychiatric problems.

He also had two psychiatric hospitalizations, and has been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, mood disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and parent-child relationship problems,” Landry said.


Hawkins was a ward of the state from September 17, 2002, through August 24, 2006. Parental rights were never severed, authorities said.

Among the problems cited in the records were his involvement in a fight and substance abuse problems.

Nebraska court records show a Hawkins with a matching age had a juvenile criminal history including charges of alcohol and drug use, disorderly conduct and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He is listed in the records as living with a foster parent.”

This aptly describes some of my more violent children. I’ve often stressed to mental health workers these same behaviors that I saw on a regular basis were obviously indicators of severe problems. Because the funding is not readily available, the mental health workers dismiss kids from programs all too often before they are ready to live in society. Or they say the child is too disturbed for their facility or program and then the child is sent back to his or her family.

Last night I heard a DEA agent on the news bemoan the fact that all the friends of this guy “knew he was troubled and did nothing.”

What should they have done? He suggested that the police should have been called. In my experience that would only have resulted in a friendly reminder to the kid to, “act right, son.” There’s likely no way that this could have been prevented.

I don’t know what the answers are. I have absolutely no idea but I know that something does need to be done. The lack of residential mental health facilities for adults has resulted in a severely disturbed homeless population in every big city.

“He also had two psychiatric hospitalizations, and has been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, mood disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and parent-child relationship problems,” Landry said.

I have three sons like this. One is in jail, one is in a psychiatric facility, and one is at an outdoor therapeutic wilderness camp. The one in jail threatened to murder a guard this week. I lived with him for years and now looking back, I don’t know how we all got through those years.

I’d do anything possible on earth to get them help that would heal them but there seems to be none available. I am as frustrated as my sons are, they don’t want to be like this but it is what it is. It is so unbearably sad.

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9 Responses to “Severe Emotional Problems in Older Adopted Children and Foster Children”

  1. U.F.O. says:

    It’s a shame that even just one law abiding citizen didn’t have a carry permit in this situation. The last thing most people would EVER want to do is shoot someone…..however, some people like Hawkins and the Virginia Tech crazy just need shooting. You can’t outlaw insanity. Personal protection is a right.


  2. lmg1567 says:

    Good post Cindy. Before I adopted and heard all of the horror stories of traumatized kids, I would hear all of the comments made by acquaintances/neighbors of these very disturbed individuals (like the above-mentioned person in this story) and think, “Why didn’t someone do something? Why not get him/her some help?” I was so naive then. I thought that if someone had a mental health problem, like any other kind of medical issue, you just go to a doctor and receive the help you need. That is BS in this world. Having tried to navigate the mental health world with my kiddos all diagnosed with ADHD, RAD, FASD, OCD I’ve realized that if you’re looking for medication, you’ll probably find it – it probably won’t actually help – but you’ll keep refilling those prescriptions every month in the hope that someday it will click. As for actual psychiatric help? Doesn’t exist for the majority of kids/adults and I have no clue what the solution will be. It’s so easy to sit back and speculate how this person should have/could have/would have done what needed to be done. Who exactly is qualified to help anymore? Our experience has thus far been limited to people who don’t think the situation is that bad, or people who just can’t figure my kids out, or my favorite, the people that think those baby steps will totally solve the problem. I personally resent having to be so structured ALL the time. I have days where I don’t feel good and just want to sleep in or lay on the couch and read and recuperate and that only causes chaos. I am offended that the experts think I need step-by-step instructions on how to parent these traumatized kids. Live in my shoes for a week and then tell me you have the answer.

  3. Chromesthesia says:

    Yes, it’s all about people having guns so they can just shoot a shooter before he shoots more people.
    But what if in the heat of the moment the person misses and hits an innocent person? Then you have two people blasting away with guns making things twice as dangerous.
    What needs to happen is we need to REFORM THE FOSTER CARE SYSTEM. This system needs to be streamlined, starting with not moving these kids so much that they don’t get any stability. You can just read Becoming Attached and see how not attaching to a primary care giver (not necessarily a mother, but anyone who will take that role) can damage a child, or being passed from one place to another. It depresses me that you have to paint a picture of children as ticking timebombs before people even consider taking action.
    More guns won’t help. Looking out for these children in the system will. But what can you do for all the children who are already in the system first hurt by biological parents, then hurt by the system? You’d think they’d WANT to help these kids and give them what they need. Why isn’t foster care reform even on the political platforms?

  4. Amen Img! Heaven forbid I should get sick. The whole world would come crashing down.

    Also thank heaven that we have a supportive case worker who thinks we do a pretty darned good job of providing the structure. He never gives us stupid suggestions. He does usually make us laugh though.

    There is no real help out there, because there’s no silver bullet, no magic pill. These children have to want the help to avail themselves of it…IF help is available. My children are so uninvested in their own lives, that they wouldn’t take help if it bit them.

    Oh but they LOVE their unhealthy behaviors. They cling to them like treasure, no matter how much it hurts them. It breaks my heart, and makes me rip roaring mad, all at the same time.

  5. lmg1567 says:

    scrapsbynobody – That is exactly it!! The kids cling to these unhealthy behaviors like a lifeline, no matter how much it hurts them. I often ask one or another of my kids, “well, how is that working out for you?” and the answer I consistently get is, “not good” (my most-hated answer – I didn’t ask how it’s NOT going, I want an adjective that tells me how it IS). I realized awhile back that my 13 yo RAD/FASD child is perfectly content with his life – and all that goes with it. I’ve been taking him to a new counselor for over 6 mos now and he’s said about 7-8 words total in that time to the therapist. I want to just quit going SO…. bad – I have so many other things I could be doing for another child or myself with that time – but I’m afraid to stop going completely because at this point, I’m just covering my own butt in case he does get into some major trouble or we have a PS complaint because of his crazy lying. How pathetic is that?? I have yet to find a single thing that’s really made a difference and believe me, it was my mission in life for a decade or more. I don’t have any answers but I get irritated at people who try to simplify everything into, “it’s the parents’ fault for not doing x, y or z. please….if it were only that easy.

  6. Cindy Bodie says:

    Y’all’s comments are awesome and echoes of my life. This frustration is what I hear over and over from all of us.

  7. Chromesthesia says:

    I want to do something…

  8. John says:

    IMG, you hit the nail on the head. There aren’t any silver bullets, but if we let structure slip, there is a real opportunity for some bad excitement. It gets old being Mr. predicatble, but that is what works. John

  9. Having the copys/Sheriff come doesn’t always hurt, either. My son HAS benefitted from contact with these men and has occasionally gotten control as a result. However, nothing just “fixes” them–that’s the thing you show better than any of us! People not in the trenches can’t “get” this. I, too, heard the story and wondered like you did about the shooter’s past.

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