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Concerned About Unconventional Mental Health Interventions?
Alternative Psychotherapies: Evaluating Unconventional Mental Health Treatments

Friday, August 10, 2018

Torturing Kids for Fun and Profit (or Non-Profit)

Ten years ago I was involved in the trial of Sylvia Jovanna Vasquez, an adoptive mother in Santa Barbara who had been found to keep some of her adopted children in cages with buckets as sanitation. Vasquez claimed to have been given this idea by a book by Nancy Thomas, given to her by her adoption caseworker—and although Thomas does not exactly say that, it’s true that she implies that restraint and seclusion are suitable ways to treat adopted children if the mother is dissatisfied with them. I will always remember from that trial the day that sheriff’s officers brought the cages on a truck to the underground parking lot of the courthouse, and judge and all went to examine them. The judge actually crawled inside one of the cages, and when he came out it was evident that he had formed a whole new view of what had happened to the children. Vasquez was convicted and given a short jail term—she had bargained for assurance of this in exchange for her telling what she had done and why.

Other caged kids cases have occurred, almost always with adopted children, and usually with those who have been labeled as “RAD”—a term that actually means Reactive Attachment Disorder, but is used by proponents of some alternative therapies to indicate disruptive and aggressive behavior as well as lack of affection for the adoptive parent. The reasoning (if I may call it such) behind caging these children is two-fold: first, that the children are dangerous, and cages protect them from themselves and protect others from them; second, that such children are suffering from disorders of attachment that are corrected by displays of adult power and authority. (I am just reporting the news here, so please don’t assume that I agree with these views.)

I was hoping that we had come to a lull with respect to child-caging, but a new case (pointed out by my invaluable colleague Linda Rosa) shows that this is not the case. In Farmington, MO, a couple have been arrested and charged with several counts of endangering the welfare of a child and of second-degree kidnapping after caging four adopted children between the ages of 6 and 12. You can read more about this at these links:                                                                                     
The adoptive mother, Laura Cheatham, was said to have adopted the children together with her ex-husband, who seems not to have been her co-torturer, a man called Daryl Head. Cheatham, who had worked for the Missouri corrections department, ordered child-size prison uniforms for the kids, and she and Head constructed and used cell-like boxes, closed with plywood and screws, in which the children had no light, water, or toilet access.

These are horrible events, but to my way of thinking the last straw in this case was the effort by Cheatham and Head to present themselves as “researchers” and managers of a related non-profit organization—identities that would carry social and financial benefits as well as enabling the pair to pass on their cruel practices to others who might be impressed by their claims of status. With unheard-of brass, chutzpah, cheek, and arrogance, these two are said to have obtained non-profit corporation status for their organization RADDLE (Reactive Attachment Disorder - Developing Attachment Through Love and Empathy). (As this word actually describes an unattractive, splotchy complexion, I can only assume that they didn’t know what it meant.) According to the press report, the RADDLE mission statement included references to “data collection” and “research”, which neither party would seem to have been competent to do, and which no IRB would ever have approved in any case, although I don’t suppose they knew what an IRB was.

However, on the Missouri attorney general’s page listing 501c3 organizations, I do not see any mention of RADDLE or the organization’s full name. Could it be that Cheatham and Head went through some of the motions of organizing a non-profit, but did not actually finish the job? And did anyone make charitable contributions to the supposed non-profit RADDLE, I wonder?  

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