I had seen the social media posts by a teacher friend of mine who works for Dayton Public Schools. She was devastated at the death of a student at the school she worked at – Horace Mann Elementary, a 10 year old named Takoda Collins, at the hands of his father.
What makes this situation all the more heart breaking is the repeated reports and calls by teachers and Takoda’s mother to both Child and Family Services and the Dayton Police. The child’s father, who had custody of him, had removed Takoda from school where there was no oversight into his well being, severely abused him, resulting in Takoda’s death, shortly before his 11th birthday.
I read the entire article, tears pouring from my eyes. As a former Court-Appointed Special Advocate/Guardian ad Litem for the local Juvenile Court here in Montgomery County, Ohio where I live, I wished there was something I could do. At times like these, one feels powerless.
I had seen the call-to-action on social media that was repeated in the newspaper: “Dayton Public School Employees have begun a letter writing campaign, calling for a change in law, to protect certain students who are withdrawn from school.”
I have hope that legislators will act, but deep down I was thinking what others were probably thinking: it’s too late for Takoda. Why weren’t these safety measures already in place? Certainly, parents have been claiming kids have been home schooled for years in order to stay out of the sights of concerned teachers and administration.
I also recognize we can’t legislate safety for everybody. When somebody chooses to abuse, they will find a way. How can we stop someone that is bound and determined to hurt a child?
My memory takes me back to the mid- 90’s when I went through my first CASA training and a case that was discussed wherein a child’s mother dunked her daughter’s head into the toilet repeatedly until she drowned.
The visual has never left me and I think that was the day any naivete about parents left me for good.
Parents do kill their children. Sure, it’s rare; however, what is even more disconcerting about it is are the people who are also living in the house or are close to the family that know what is going on and choose to do nothing to protect the child.
There were two women in the same house where Takoda was murdered.
Make no mistake: Parents can and do hurt their children. And there are people who will stand by and do nothing.
However, removing children from biological parents is not always the answer, especially when that increases their risk for other abuses.
Before one gets to be adopted, a child has already experienced the trauma of parental separation (and usually other traumas).
Once placed into an adoptive home, you hope and pray that the adoptive family is a good fit for the child.
Will the personalities click or clash? Will the parents be child-centered or self-centered? Will the parents be protectors at all costs?
One would hope but there is no guarantee.
Did the parents gets solid training and understanding how parenting an adopted child is different in many ways to parenting a biological child? Did parents receive counseling for infertility if applicable?
Do parents understand the importance of the genetic connection to birth family?
Adoptive families are not immune to the same stresses and strains that biological families experience.
When people learn you were adopted at birth, they sometimes think about worst-case-scenarios like Takoda’s and tell you that you may have dodged a bullet in your birth family.
They don't necessarily assume that your mother really wanted you but did not have the financial means to raise you at that time in her life.
People will tell you that had you not been adopted, “you could have . .. ..(fill in the blank) . . .. “ended up in a dumpster” . . . .”been aborted” . . . and they usually won’t say it, but everybody knows that the worst thing that can happen had you not been adopted is, one of your family members murders you (this thought becomes more real when you learn that your conception was the result of incest, an affair, or was scandalous in your birth family).
Imagine being Adoptee Becky Babcock and learning your biological mother is Diane Downs.
What slippery slope that can lead to is an assumption that being adopted “saved you from all the fates". In some cases, it very well could have. But in other cases, being adopted could have hand-delivered you into abuse and neglect.
Sexual molesters are in all kinds of families: yes, even adoptive ones. The parents receive a home study; however, the extended family of the adoptive family does not.
Adoption cannot protect you from being sexually molested and in fact, it can increase your risk by the simple fact you are likely living in a household with a non-biological male.(Note: sexual molestation rates are low in adoptive homes according to statistics, but I do wonder if the stats are accurate because many cases go unreported).
An adoption decree does not protect you from coaches, teachers, neighbors, step-parents, and friends of your adopted siblings who have access to you. An adoption decree does not protect you from narcissistic parents. Adoption does not protect you from divorce, poverty, and tragedy.
Being adopted is a band-aid for whatever was going on in the biological family at the time you were born or removed. Plain and simple – it’s a permanent solution to a (usually) temporary problem.
It’s true some families are so broken and toxic that no amount of intervention would get them to a place of being able to parent. It’s also true that removal of a child, foster care and adoption in no way guarantees a safe, loving home.
Adoption can give a child a second chance for a loving home.
Adoption can provide safety from unsafe people (by legally severing their rights) and it can provide unconditional love when done right.
We don’t know if removal, foster care and possible adoption would have helped Takoda. We don't know if there were other family members who could have taken over parenting.
We only know that an intervention to save his life failed and that is heartbreaking.
Adoptees can’t really know if being raised by our biological families would have been a better outcome for us because it is a life we didn’t get an opportunity to live.
We can guess, make assumptions and fantasize, but it's always from the sidelines and in hindsight.
We only know the path that we traveled. And I am thankful to be here to tell the tales.
There are no easy answers, but we, as a community, must take protecting all children seriously. We cannot wait around for somebody else to take action. We must continue to make noise, call authorities, write letters, post on social media and train everyone who works with children on the signs of abuse and neglect.
Red flags are exactly that. And they require action on our part. We as a society failed Takoda.
We have to do better.