A talkative 9-year-old boy came to Helen Briggs on Valentine’s Day 2000. She was a foster mother with years of tough love and scores of troubled kids behind her. But she grew to love this boy. Within the year, she’d talked her husband into adopting him.
Now, six years later, Briggs and her husband, James, a maintenance worker for the city of Alexandria, are taking the highly unusual step of trying to unadopt him.
In 2003, when the boy was 12, he sexually molested a 6-year-old boy and a 2-year-old girl still in diapers. She said it was only then, as she waited outside the courtroom for his sexual battery hearing and caseworkers handed her his psychological profile, that she found out just how damaged the boy had been when he came into her life.
Briggs said she did not know he had lived in five foster homes since he was 16 months old. Nor that his alcohol- and drug-addicted biological parents had physically abused him, injuring his brain stem and impairing his ability to gauge the passage of time.
He’d been hospitalized seven times in psychiatric institutions and diagnosed as possibly psychotically bipolar. He’d thrown knives, kicked in walls, pulled out all his hair and threatened to kill himself. He’d heard voices telling him to do bad things. His confidential case file shows he most likely was sexually abused.
“I did not know any of that,” Briggs said, though Virginia policy states that caseworkers should provide “full, factual information” about a child to adoptive parents. “They just told me he was hyperactive.”
What would you do in this situation? Do you think she and her husband should stick it out, or should they be able to give the kid back to the state without moral judgment? This is some seriously deep sh*t.