The word "abandonment" conjures up images of a child left in the middle of nowhere, without food or clothing, a child whose family didn't care about them. So why has an Ohio mom, who took her 9-year-old son to child services, to a place where he would be cared for, just pleaded guilty to attempted child abandonment?
Lisa Cox and husband Cleveland made national news last fall when they were accused of trying to "give back" the son they adopted when he was just an infant. But the situation is much more complicated than that. The couple took their son to Butler County Children’s Services after they say he grabbed a knife and threatened to kill them.
The case quickly became a lightning rod for adoption folks, who cited the horrors of treating a child like a good that can be returned to the store.
As someone who has a number of adopted relatives whom I love quite dearly, I see their point. Adoption is for life. You don't just give kids back. I feel for this little boy, oh, I feel for him.
And yet, I feel for his parents too. I'm a mother of an 8-year-old by birth. If she pulled a knife on me and threatened to kill me, I would be terrified and not know what to do. I can't say I'd take her to child services, but it would be awfully tempting ... enough so that I have sympathy for these parents.
To me, the Coxes' case is less about adoption and more about the lack of resources for parents with troubled kids.
When you are afraid of your child, where is it that you go? Do you know?
You could talk to your child's school psychologist, get some referrals? But what if your health insurance doesn't cover such things (mine doesn't)? And what if that just isn't helping?
Where do you get immediate relief?
Maybe it's because I'm a journalist and blogger who often writes about the horrors done to children by parents who DIDN'T reach out for help, that I sympathize with parents who opted to take their child to a safe place, who reached out for help.
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Was their decision perfect? Of course not!
But if you can't seek help from child services, where can you turn? Isn't that what the department is there for? To help parents with their kids? To take care of kids?
The trouble with taking parents like this to court is that it tells parents not to ask for help. It makes some of the more horrid options sound more ... legitimate.
Charges against Cleveland Cox were dismissed by prosecutors who said action against him would "jeopardize his employment and the livelihood of his family." Lisa Cox, meanwhile, was forced to plead guilty to the charge of "attempted abandonment."
She won't face prison time, but still, the charge stands.
The family is going through counseling, and hopefully they will get back on the right track. But couldn't child services just suggested counseling to begin with? Helped this family instead of making their desperate actions into a criminal case?
Maybe if there was more help for parents, this poor family never would have gone down this road to begin with ...
Have you ever felt tempted to do what the Coxes did? What happened?
Image via Grzegorz Lobinski/Flickr