CINCINNATI (AP) — When an Ohio couple recently gave child welfare officials a 9-year-old boy they raised from infancy, prosecutors said they committed a crime. People within the adoption community say giving up a child after so much time is rare and undermines the lifelong commitment that adopted children require.
"Parenthood is supposed to be forever — not until there are issues," said Sixto Cancel, a 21-year-old Virginia Commonwealth University junior who is also an advocate for adopted and fostered children.
The suburban Cincinnati parents indicted on misdemeanor counts of nonsupport allegedly left the boy with children's services after saying he was displaying aggressive behavior and earlier threatened the family with a knife. Cleveland Cox, 49, and his 52-year-old wife, Lisa, are due in court Wednesday. Neither they nor their attorney, Anthony Vannoy, immediately returned calls for comment.
Adolfo Olivas, an attorney appointed by the court to protect the boy's interests, has said the emotionally hurt and confused child is now receiving help that the parents should have gotten for him.
Cancel believes it was up to the parents to get help for their son, even if he didn't want it.
Cancel, of Richmond, Va., said he experienced abuse and never found a good fit, moving from a troubled adoptive home to foster care homes.
As an adoptee, "you need reassurance that you are not alone," he said.
Christopher Hehn, of Greenwood, Ind., said adoptees crave stability. Hehn, 27, was shuffled from foster home to foster home before a social worker adopted him at age 12.
"When the going got tough, it was out the door for me," Hehn said. "But when I was adopted, my mother said it was forever, no matter what. She stuck it out, and I was finally able to trust again."
Greg and Robin Smith, of New Richmond in Clermont County, became adoptive parents in a ceremony last week, adopting four siblings — ages 5 to 12 — who they cared for as foster children for over three years.
Robin Smith acknowledged some anger and other issues among the children, stemming from their experiences before coming to the Smiths.
"But you just can't give up on children, not matter how hard the situation is," she said.
Two biological brothers adopted this month by the Rev. Edward Byers and wife Darnette, of Cincinnati, say they know the 9-year-old must feel depressed and lonely.
"I know what it's like to move from house to house," said the youngest brother, 14-year-old Tyshawn. "But I would tell him to stay in there and not give up"
Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser has declined to provide more details on the charges against the Coxes, but he said there are legal consequences to what he called "reckless" abandonment.
National adoption advocates say failed adoptions or dissolutions are rare in cases where the child has been raised from infancy. They said such discord seems to occur more often with youths adopted at an older age.
But Kathleen Strottman, executive director of the Washington-based Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, said that while there seems to be less trauma in children placed with adoptive parents as infants, emotional and behavioral issues can surface long after adoption.
Strottman said she was concerned about the wellbeing of the Ohio child, but she also worried that the threat of criminal prosecution could discourage adoptive parents from seeking help.
"I'm hoping that ultimately there was a good cause for this prosecution," she said. "What everyone wants is a child protection system that first and always stays focused on the needs of the child."