Difficult questions remain in boy's death
© St. Petersburg Times, published October 8, 2000
Just a thought.
A few years back when I wanted to work as a volunteer with adult mentally ill patients, I had to go through an extensive interview process and background check complete with fingerprinting.
When a young colleague, who was so uptight-straight he squeaked when he walked, applied to be a big brother in the Big Brother/Big Sisters program, he went through local, state and federal background checks, reference interviews, personal interviews about everything including his opinions on what constituted appropriate sexual behavior between adults and had to jump through several other screening hoops.
A friend of mine who used to adopt out stray and abandoned cats insisted on a home visit and interview with all persons who lived in the house before she would hand over a cat.
But apparently much less, in some instances, is necessary to place a disabled 3-year-old in the custody of an unemployed, disabled 25-year-old with an alleged history of starting fights and brandishing a handgun, and an alleged history of post-traumatic stress from having been beaten when he was a child and who -- very shortly after the placement -- gets charged with murder for punishing the kid for soiling himself by wrapping him up so tightly in a blanket that he dies.
Let's be clear, James Curtis is only accused, not convicted of the Sept. 25 murder of Alex Boucher, and the allegations about his prior conduct haven't been fully investigated or confirmed yet.
And that's the problem.
My colleague had to do everything but stand on his head to take a kid to a ballgame on a Saturday afternoon, and I went through a lot to be able to push a wheelchair around Sunken Gardens (back before it was completely sunk), but apparently full custody and adoption, at least to the Connecticut Division of Children, Youth and Families, don't require the same kind of scrutiny.
Some agencies do their job and do follow extensive screening guidelines in placing children for foster care and adoption, and I know that the foster and adoptive parents who have gone through that process must be as aghast as I am about what happened to Alex.
That, as with the other agencies referred to above, is the way things are supposed to be.
And I'm not completely faulting the Connecticut agency.
Wait. Yes, I am.
They screwed up and, in an extremely refreshing move in such cases, at least admitted it.
There are some deeper issues to be examined.
Is there, as many people in the social services field will tell you, a tendency for some states to be a little more lenient when they can make their problems those of another state?
Do we all look away, guiltily, but away nonetheless, because the finding of foster or adoptive parents to take care of mentally or physically disabled children is so difficult that we will allow reduced standards in some cases?
What moral and spiritual mutations have taken place in our social milieu that has let each generation breed successively more prospective foster and adoptive parents who will settle for nothing other than a "perfect" child? And how much more likely does that make cases like Alex Boucher's?
(Side issue: Has any child in history every grown up to be perfect, and has the correct number of fingers, toes and connecting brain synapses ever been a true indictor of perfection?)
I don't have the answers to these questions.
But I'm bothered that I haven't heard them asked, much less shouted.
I want really badly to believe that this case was a horribly coincidental aberration and that nothing like it will ever happen again.
I really do.
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