Protecting children

A horrific story out of Florida says that a mother killed her two teenage children, shooting them because they “mouthed off” to her.

The article is here.

As more information was published, it turns out that the daughter and mother were in counseling for problems between them because the mother felt that the daughter’s behavior had changed for the worse when she started in her current school. In counseling, presumably one on one, the daughter told the counselor of at least two incident in which the mother had been physically abusive. The counselor, as mandated by law, contacted the authorities and they became involved. This was in November of 2010. Authorities came to investigate and with the daughter’s report of being slapped several times on one occasion and of a previous incident that involved bleeding from the lip, the authorities decided not to pursue further investigation since there was no lasting damage. Several days later, the mother ran her car into the back of a trailer causing damage to both vehicles and both drivers. Before she could be tested for drugs or alcohol after the accident, she left the hospital. Further disclosures have the mother as having a drug and alcohol addiction and her own mother knew that she was depressed.

So I have a couple of questions:

1. Was there not a way to prevent her from buying the gun that she used to kill her children? She bought it only days before the shooting.

2. Was there not a way to assess just how much of a danger she could be to her children?

Or are we so hungry for freedom and self-determination that we will risk children’s lives rather than embarrass or hurt the feelings of their parents?

Most risk assessments are not geared to teenagers in upper middle class homes. They deal with infants and little children usually living in poverty, in single parent homes, or with parents who for one reason or another are not able to provide adequate care. But what about a child who lives in a middle class or more affluent home with college educated parents who are high achievers? Is it so difficult to believe that addictions and mental illness also exist in these homes?

I wish I had the answer as to how to assess the danger to kids. It would have to be an assessment that took into account things like drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, outbursts of emotional or physical abuse, threats, acting out behaviors, depression and rage. It would have to be an assessment model that is easy for the investigator to use. And, of course, the investigator would have to be able to detect inconsistencies that would point to deception.

I don’t have the answer, but when I think of these children and tens or hundreds of others who could have been protected, I know that we need to come up with something that works.

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  1. Such a sad sad story. What is the world coming to?

  2. The same gun laws that did not protect these children did not protect the victims in Arizona. There is supposed to be a 15 day waiting (cooling down) period between buying and getting a gun. But this mother would have used a knife and there are no “knife Laws”
    Was there no neighbor who cared enough to intervene?

    • Yes, my point is that the gun, of course, made killing the children a lot easier, but if the authorities had determined that the children were in danger, perhaps they could have been saved. Perhaps the children could have been put in a foster home or just as we have shelters for battered women, there could be a place for children in danger to go. In the case of these children, the father could have been called back from his assignment, the children could have been sent to their grandmother or other relative and most important, the mother could have been hospitalized until she was released by her physicians as safe. To the best of my knowledge, in most states people can be taken to the hospital as long as it is likely that they are a danger to self or others. In this case, it could have saved the two children and maybe even have saved the mother.