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Keeping Secrets, Part 1

9:27 PM, Sep 13, 2012   |    comments
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FLORIDA -- Thousands of children are adopted from foster care every year, but what happens when something goes wrong? First Coast News spoke with one family who just a year in to their foster adoption is now living apart because it's not safe for their family to live together.  

The McCabe's thought they were starting a family when they adopted two young boys from foster care, instead they say theirs was torn apart. The boy's faces are blurred because of their ages, and the nature of the crime.

Their mother says one of her adopted sons was sexually abusing the other for a year and it could have been prevented.

"That's it, him, he doesn't look like a predator," said Kelly McCabe.

She never expected her family to be perfect... she just wanted it to be forever.

Unable to have biological children, she and her husband decided to adopt from the foster care system.

Sure it was different, but she thought it would work for them.

But just months after adopting her two boys in Tampa, that picture perfect image was shattered.

"Shocking. And I just felt very let down. And how are we going to get through this," she said.

Track: Just 4 and 11 when she adopted them, her sons lived together in a foster care before they came in to her  forever family.

She calls them B-Man and J-Man for short

The two seemed to be close, until one day in the bath when her 4 year old wouldn't  stop crying.

He finally confided in her that J-Man, his 11 year old brother, had been sexually assaulting him since the day they moved in.

"In the beginning, it was hard to just get out of bed somedays. But you have to, you have two kids who  are depending on you, whose entire lives have been chaos," she said.

She and her husband wanted to lift them out of that chaos.

But as a victim of sexual assault in college, she made it clear to the adoption agency that she could not adopt any kids with deviant sexual behaviors. 

She repeatedly assured that J-Man had no problems, had never in trouble, and would be a perfect sibling for her 4 year old.

Turns out, that couldn't have been further from the truth.

"They took B-man, who has never been victimized in that way, at all, and put him in a room with a sex  offender. Who is my other son," she said.

Kelly's lawyer, Richard Filson, started petitioning the adoption agency for records, as J-Man continued to act out.

In Florida, foster care adoptions are handled through community based partners that contract with the department of children and families.

There's a different agency for each county.

In Jacksonville, it's Family Support Services, in Tampa, where Kelly filed her lawsuit, it's Camelot Community Care.

He says what he found what shocking.

"Record after record after record on J-Man, acting sexually inappropriately with kids, sexual  abuse. And it goes on from '05, month after month in '06," said Filson.

Kelly and her lawyer say they never saw one piece of paper that detailed the sexually explicit behavior he acted out other kids at school and in his foster home until they threatened a lawsuit.

"They didn't give in our disclosure packet, the safety plan, from the Sheriff's Office saying that he  could never be left alone with a child in a bedroom, or any room unsupervised. He never should have been adopted  by us, we had one bedroom for the boys," she said.

Since they're not safe together, Kelly and her husband now live apart.

She lives with B-Man almost an hour away, while her husband lives with J-Man and has him under constant supervision.

She understands that most people can't imagine their decision to keep both of their sons.

"What are we supposed to do? Just cut him out of it? Am I supposed to just not love him anymore," she said.

Not everyone makes Kelly's decision.

Over the past 5 years, 268 children have been returned to foster care after permanent adoptions in Florida.

While it's a very small percentage of the total number of adoptions that stick each year, for the kids and parents, that number is everything.

"It broke my heart. It ruined by life and it broke my heart," said Vicki Petty.

Petty adopted a little girl from foster care in 1985 after she found out she couldn't have anymore  children.

She says almost immediately her adopted daughter was abusing her young son.

"She would sneak in to his room, hide shards of glass in his drawers," she said.

A few years later she was sexually abusing him as well.  

"She was holding a knife to his throat when my mother caught them. He was 8 years old at that  point, she had a knife to his throat, forcing him to have sex," she said.

That day Petty petitioned to dissolve her adoption.

Both she and her estranged husband were charged with neglect and abandonment for giving up.

But she says keeping her little girl would have destroyed her.

"There are families out there that are being devastated as we speak. Absolutely devastated," she said.

Kelly McCabe's is one of them.

"It's torn our marriage apart," said McCabe.

No matter the consequence, Kelly says she's committed to keeping both of her boys, to always being their mother.

"If they were my biological kids, I couldn't send them anywhere. And that's the promise I made when I  adopted them, for better or worse, that's the promise I made," she said.

The McCabe's now have their oldest son in intensive therapy, and while they've made small strides, she says her entire definition of family has changed.

The adoption agency they used contracts with the Department of Children and Families, who stress that dissolved adoptions are a very small percentage of the total number that go through each year.

"The policy of DCF and the agencies that we contract with is to offer full disclosure of information about children to the parents who will be adopting them.  However, in many cases, children may not disclose information about any sexual abuse they may have suffered until several years later.  Additionally, children may not show signs of mental health issues for several years," said DCF Spokesman John Harrell.

The State Department of Children and Families checks in with the agencies they contract with regularly to ensure compliance.

"We emphasize that no adoption dissolution occurs the same year as the finalized adoption.  These dissolutions took place several years after the first adoption, in many cases when the children hit puberty and teenage years," said Harrell.




First Coast News

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