Friday, April 13, 2012

Making Feral Children -Pt. 1

[Edit: I re-wrote this for clarity and less self-justifying anger - it just still sets me on fire...]
A few years ago, a dear Catholic man's heart was touched by the story of a feral child and shared it with me and a few other ideologically aggressive pundits on a forum. He wrote "this will make your heart weep."

About 12 sentences in the story, I was not weeping.

I was seething.

I wanted to find the mother of this child and impose on her the same life sentence she had subjected her daughter to.

You see, her daughter was found by Plant City police to be living in a modern-day oubliette - a dark hole to place something you want to be forgotten - filled with feces, cockroaches and trash. The girl herself was found curled up in a closet wearing diapers that were brimming over.

From the article:
Just before noon on July 13, 2005, a Plant City police car pulled up outside that shattered window. Two officers went into the house — and one stumbled back out.
Clutching his stomach, the rookie retched in the weeds.
Plant City Detective Mark Holste had been on the force for 18 years when he and his young partner were sent to the house on Old Sydney Road to stand by during a child abuse investigation. Someone had finally called the police.
They found a car parked outside. The driver's door was open and a woman was slumped over in her seat, sobbing. She was an investigator for the Florida Department of Children and Families.
"Unbelievable," she told Holste. "The worst I've ever seen."
The police officers walked through the front door, into a cramped living room.
"I've been in rooms with bodies rotting there for a week and it never stunk that bad," Holste said later. "There's just no way to describe it. Urine and feces — dog, cat and human excrement — smeared on the walls, mashed into the carpet. Everything dank and rotting."

The girl, named Danielle, was eight years old and could not even speak. No, kids - there was nothing wrong with her brain. She was not born damaged. She had become this way because of her mother's neglect. Her consistent hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly neglect.

She had become feral - a 'wild child.' Unable to socialize or communicate.

My 'Wild Childs'
I am not utterly unfamiliar with this horrific style of parenting (if you can call it that).

I lived and worked for one year in the inner city of Memphis, TN with neglected and abused children. I took a crash-course and made plenty of mistakes as I tried to help. I was completely and utterly unqualified.

The kids were 'wild' and it made me want to get tough on them - to straighten them out.

From a co-worker I learned that most normal developing children have thousands of hours of experiences with parents and siblings before grade school. 'At-risk' children get hundreds. It retards their growth intellectually, academically and socially. The girl in the story above probably has less than a hundred -in the nearly seven years of her life.

I have heard that grown men, locked up in dungeons for years, can lose their ability to write or speak. One pastor in communist Russia, after being locked up for six months in a pitch black cell said, "I could not even write my name!"

I remember reading that account, connecting it with the aforementioned factoid and realizing that my job - the one I was 'unqualified for' - was to give good experiences and personal time to wounded kids.

That was all.

TIME + EXPERIENCES = DEVELOPMENT
If you want damaged and abused kids to behave differently, you have to put in the time. Good times are best. Quiet times and play times and fun times and work times. Not more instructions, just more time and experiences.

I watched my 'squadron' of boys get better at school, at conflicts, at writing, at spelling, etc. - you name it - all because I got a small but significant revelation from God: these were not dumb kids. They were attention starved. So they needed someone to give them that - to say by example that they were valuable - and then, they could figure out how to get better at whatever they had to do.

I do not think my care and love alone made them better -but with others also pouring in their time also, it made these children see that they were indeed valuable -and then their parents could see the change in them so hopefully they too would change, and then all could see Christ's love.

"Love covers a multitude of sins," wrote the apostle Paul. It does. And when you keep in mind that the opposite of love is not hatred, but apathy, you begin to see that caring and loving is simply time-based, not performance-based.

So help me out by reading "The Girl In The Window" from 2008, and then the following update that shows how Danielle is improving: "Three Years Later, 'The Girl in the Window Learns to Connect'."

In the next post, I hope to show you how we Americans are heading down a similar path spiritually - or we are sending our kids there with our ungodly neglect.

May God grant you wisdom to simply give time to your child [or children] -who sees you as a gift from God.

Amen.

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