Thursday, May 29, 2008

An Adopted Child's Nightmare

Lynn Paddock is a name that might be familiar to those of us who live in the Raleigh, NC area. She is an adoptive mother who lived in Johnston County and is on trial for first-degree murder in the death of her four-year old adoptive son, Sean. Her trial is ongoing right now in Smithfield, NC and each of her surviving adoptive children have been called to testify against her. They have now all been placed in other foster care by social services.

From the accounts given in the testimony, Lynn Paddock is a monster. There are stories told by the children of extremely harsh punishments such as beatings with a plastic pipe or hose, being forced to eat their own feces for soiling their clothes, being forced to miss numerous meals for minor infractions at the table, and many other extreme measures. Read the testimony yesterday from some of the children in this Raleigh News and Observer article:

Her little boy Sean was found dead by EMS responders. It was determined that he suffocated after being so tightly wrapped in a blanket that he was unable to breathe. According to the charges, this tight wrapping in a blanket was another disciplinary method used by Lynn Paddock to keep the little boy from waking up in the night and roaming around the house. Essentially, it was a restraint. The autopsy revealed a host of bruises and other former wounds to his little body. When the other children were examined they were also determined to have other previous wounds.

The entire episode is much to long for me to recount here. It has played out for several months in the Raleigh newspaper. But, it has all been very troubling to me. First, one of the most troubling aspects of this case is that Lynn Paddock seems to be a follower of Rev. Michael Pearl, a Tennessee pastor who has written books and conducted seminars advocating such extreme disciplinary methods. Just do a Google search for his name and you can find out all you need to know about him. Paddock is not the first of his disciples to face the justice system.

A second thing that bothers me about the Lynn Paddock case is that she is an adoptive parent and so are my wife and I. It troubles me that a child (children in her case) who was in a really bad situation with his birth parents, was placed in a worse situation that ultimately led to his death. What a tragic, tragic story.

Someone dropped the ball in the adoption/social services involvement here. The Children's Home Society of North Carolina (which actually helped us with a part of our international adoption) was responsible for Sean's placement. This is a fine organization that has done really good work for decades in North Carolina on behalf of children. I don't think the entire organization should be blamed, although there is a lawsuit in the works against them. But, someone clearly dropped the ball in this case and subsequently created a nightmare for these children that ultimately ended up with in Lynn Paddock's chamber of horrors.

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