child abuse

Homeschool family charged with murder, torture, child abuse

Update: It looks like the DA has made the connection between the Schatz family’s method of discipline and a certain Christian ministry.

He said investigators are researching a possible connection to an Internet Web site set up by “fundamentalist Christian people” that recommends use of the same whip-like implement “as an appropriate tool for biblical chastisement … to train a child from infancy to make them a happier child and more obedient to God because they are obedient to the will of their parents,” said Ramsey.  DA links fundamentalist religious ‘training’ to Paradise girl’s death

I can only guess he’s talking about No Greater Joy by Michael and Debi Pearl, which I alluded to below.  At this time, I will only say I very much appreciate the DAs sensitivity in the matter.

He said it’s not clear at this point whether the Schatzes ever visited the Internet Web site in question, which Ramsey stressed “does not endorse hurting or beating a child,” nor is connected to any specific church.  From the research he has done, the district attorney pointed out that “even within the fundamentalist Christian community” parental use of corporal punishment “is subject to a great deal of debate.”  Ibid.

And back to the original entry.

An alleged abuse case leaves one adoptive child dead, another abused and seven other children in foster care.

The younger victim was not breathing at the time of discovery but was later revived with life support at Feather River Hospital. However, she died en route after being transferred to Sutter Memorial Hospital in Sacramento.

The 11-year-old is hospitalized at Sutter.

It isn’t the family’s first time in the news, either.  While adopting three of their children from Liberia, they were interviewed by a local television station and put up a time line of their adoption.

From the reports, they were a quiet family.  A Christian, secluded, invite-half-the -neighborhood-to-dinner, and “overall odd” sort of family.  Who homeschooled.

Paradise police Sgt. Steve Rowe confirmed Lydia was allegedly beaten for mispronouncing a word.  Paradise Post

Beaten until she went into cardiac arrest?  The instrument used for this “discipline” bears an eerie resemblance to another case, one of the first really controversial topics I ever blogged about.

Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey said the girls were allegedly beaten with a 15-inch-long piece of flexible plastic tubing commonly found in toilet tanks.

. . .

Ramsey said the remaining children have indicated that they sustained similar discipline with similar instruments. Ibid.

These stories always make me sick to my stomach.  Everyone has an interest in the interpretation of the story.  Homeschoolers want the abuse separated from education.  Christians want the religion separated from the parenting.  Those concerned about the whole child protective “industry” focus on the adopted children.  Those who have always thought homeschoolers a little odd take the chance to present homeschooling as a hiding place for abuse.  Pound Pup Legacy even goes through the effort of summarizing information on children who have died in custody or adoptive homes, noting whether the family was homeschooling and of a fundamentalist faith.  Because those are, of course, major risk factors for abuse.  They of course make no mention of education or religion where the families neither homeschool nor belong to a “fundamentalist faith.”  But in the middle of it all, a child is dead, and another appears to be in critical condition at an area hospital.

And likely, there isn’t much anyone could have done to prevent it.  I think maybe that is why we are so quick to judge, to think “how could this have happened?” to think “something should have been done.”  And from there, it isn’t far to “something must be done to prevent this in future.”  And we focus on all the superfluous, irrelevant, subjective details.

But “odd” doesn’t warrant strip searching children for evidence of bruising; “overly modest” isn’t something you call CPS about; “protective from the outside world” hardly constitutes probable cause in any sort of an investigation.  And the family was friendly and involved in the community enough to be inviting neighbors for dinner, pick fruit from their neighbors’ trees and clean their yards.  They were not completely locked away.

Just weird.

And well-behaved.

Not anything that would raise flags for even a mandated reporter.  After all, teachers somehow missed the fact a student was locked in a closet for over a year, and allowed out only to go to school.

I suppose that is why the public service announcements out here encourage you to call even if you only suspect something is amiss, with the reassurance that you can remain completely anonymous.  We don’t stop too much to think what that means for us as a society, turning neighbors into anonymous tipsters.  We just hope that CPS can sort it out, and that some child somewhere might be saved.

But the one thing that stood out to me in this story was that there was no prior history of child abuse, no list of previous CPS contacts.  Believe it or not, that seems to be the norm in child death cases, proving that even those most trained to work with abuse can still miss the signs.  Or perhaps even proving that there aren’t always signs to notice.