You hear sad cases of child abuse in the news all the time. But in a bizarre and sad twist on the standard abuse case, an 11-year-old boy has been arrested this week and charged with beating his own disabled mom to the point where she had to be hospitalized.
It sounds like this poor woman, who has battled breast and skin cancers, just can't catch a break. And yet, I can't help feeling badly for her little boy. He might be responsible for beating his mom with an electric cord, but from the sound of it, he's just a little kid who has been failed by the system for far too long.
According to the cops who took the 11-year-old into custody and charged him with elder abuse and assault with a deadly weapon, the boy hasn't had a normal childhood. He lives alone with his 51-year-old mother who never leaves the house, and he is her primary caregiver. This 11-year-old cooks. He cleans. He does laundry.
Would it really be a surprise if this kid snapped?
We already known that people who are providing the primary care for a sick loved one are at a higher risk of depression, often see their own health decline, and are often unable to handle the mounting stress. Now try putting all that on the shoulders of a little boy, a kid whose own body is dealing with the changes that come with hitting the tween years. He's likely struggling with anger over the loss of his childhood, coupled with the feelings of helplessness that kids naturally feel when they're trying to buck their parents' rules as they grow up.
He should have been getting help all along. Unfortunately, it's taken an extreme situation -- his arrest, his mom's hospitalization -- to finally get what he so desperately needed: attention from the authorities.
Kids being forced to provide care for ailing parents is an under-reported but serious problem in this country. According to one study of high school drop-outs, as much as 22 percent were leaving school because they had to help care for a family member.
It's a situation that needs to be addressed, to be fixed, to give kids their childhoods back, and to prevent situations like this.
I don't excuse a boy allegedly beating his mom with an electrical cord. But I can't help thinking he's been punished enough. What he needs now is help.
What do you think should be done with this boy now?
Image via Public Domain Photos/Flickr